Is Your Boss Dumber Than You? Read This 4-Step Solution

Dilbert boss

"My boss is a complete f*cktard. He can't even spell dichotomy!", is the sort of thing I hear all the time

It's a common problem. Being a mentor to so many cocky young hotshots has its fun moments, as you'd expect. But one issue that keeps cropping up for these whippersnappers is their outrage at having to play second fiddle to a manager whose skills may be more, ahem, based on legacy than on intellect.

"My boss is a complete f*cktard. He can't even spell dichotomy!", is the sort of thing I hear all the time in my weekly Starbucks sessions with my mentees.

My first advice is always to calm the hell down, you little shit. I know it's frustrating, but I encourage them to take a step back and look at the bigger picture before taking any rash action. This takes the form of 4 steps in the book I'm still in the process of writing:


1. Evaluate your own position

Great work on getting hired, you bigshot, with your impressive qualifications from top-notch daddy's-boy schools. They will buy you some respect, but not that much.

Have a think about how much real work you've demonstrated to the company so far, particularly to your boss's boss. Your Excel spreadsheets don't count, unless they have been adopted by an entire department. Presentations are far more effective.

Crucially, are you deemed a key player in their soulless corporate machine yet? Or are you a diva getting ahead of yourself, based on your 'talents'?


2. Evaluate your boss's position

If this guy really is as much use as a hedgehog in a condom factory, the chances are you're not the only one who's aware of this.

But is the guy able to cover the cracks in his abilities by obfuscating reality, blaming others for mistakes, hiding behind relationships -- i.e. generally being a slippery snake of a manager? Or is he a more straightforward character, generally well-meaning but out of his depth?

3. Decide on a course of action

Based upon the relative strength of your own position, and of your boss's position, let's think about what the outcomes are likely to be.

Scenario A: You're weak (your abilities are as yet unproven) and your idiot boss is strong (he plays golf with the VP).

You will come off second-best in any conflict, so either shut up or pack up. If you plan to stay at the company, you owe it to them (and to your future) to have some actual achievements under your belt.

Scenario B: You're strong (you've demonstrated what you can do) and your idiot boss is strong.

Time for you to do some networking and bide your time. Continue to show off your achievements to the VP and gradually undermine your boss's position by doing great work that he could never do himself. Never bad-mouth him to others though. Let his frustrations come to the surface and he will sow the seeds of his own downfall.

Scenario C: You're weak and your nice-but-dim boss is weak (let's say he's also relatively new to the company).

You guys need to stick together. With your brains and his likeability, you'll be stronger as a pair than working against each other.

Scenario D: You're strong and your nice-but-dim boss is weak.

You hold all the cards. Your boss will be looking to prove his abilities to his own superiors and will be dependent on you for this. It's your choice whether to play it nice and ensure he becomes one of your champions, maybe for years to come, or whether to stamp him out whilst he's weak in order to satisfy your own short-term ambitions.


4. Take action and stick with it

So you've decided which way it has to be. Now the challenge is to stick with that course of action until something major changes. Don't flip flop between strategies, or your downfall and/or depression will be assured. Either the boss needs to move aside, or you pack your bags, or maybe you guys become best buddies for life.


I remember a time, long before taking photos of your Starbucks croissant was compulsory, when I worked for an idiot boss. We both had a few goes at stabbing each other in the back, but we eventually realised that our skills were complementary. I was the writer of deadly, career-ending emails. He was the natural public speaker who could make clients cry. Together we were unstoppable.

We're still talking about getting our consultancy back together. But the guy's a cockwomble.



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