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6 Strategies for Dealing With an Incompetent Boss

frustrated employee leaning on a window from being worn out by her incompetent boss


Whether you’re a company’s newest employee or a tenured worker with multiple years under your belt, chances are you will have to deal with an incompetent manager at one point or another. Now, there is no rule stating that you must like all of your employees or managers. However, your boss or manager should never get in the way of your work performance. Regardless if it’s intentional negligence, narcissism, or just gross incompetence, your boss’s negative traits should not get the better of you. That’s why you need to know how to work with a less than ideal one. Here are six strategies that work when dealing with an incompetent boss:

1. Identify the Incompetence

Before you write your boss off as inept, you want to identify how your boss acts around the office and with others. You may not like your boss, but that does not necessarily mean they are incompetent.It just means they don’t posses leadership qualities. You cannot let your personal bias shape how you view the person in charge. For instance, ask yourself if you are jealous of their position of authority or if you are naturally resistant to those in charge.

Your assessment of your boss needs to be honest and cannot be unfairly predicated on personal ideologies. Collect all relevant information before making a final judgment. For instance, your boss could be under a lot of pressure, and you might be unaware of the level of responsibility on their shoulders. By taking time to understand your boss, you may come to reevaluate what you perceive as their incompetence. However, even if you conclude they are incompetent, they still deserve respect.

2. Ask for Help

Odds are, if you feel like your boss is an incompetent leader, others in the office feel the same way. Look to your peers both inside and outside the organization for advice. It is also okay to vent with others you can trust around the office. Sometimes we just need to say our piece to get some relief.

However, you are not going to make things better just by complaining, which is why you need someone you can trust to deliver some advice — especially from those who have worked directly with the person of interest. You can check to see if your point of view is warranted and get ideas on how to deal with the particular person. Conversely, you can talk with individuals outside of your organization to get different ideas on how to cope with an incompetent boss. 

3. Confront Your Boss but Be Professional

According to DDI research, 57% of employees quit their job because of their manager. If you love your job but hate your manager, you do not have to suffer in silence. Confronting your boss can be intimidating, especially for younger individuals who may have just started working at a company. However, you cannot expect your boss to retaliate against you if you speak up for yourself. 

Even though you may think your boss will simply disregard your dissatisfaction due to their higher position, you want to give your boss a chance to respond to the particular issues you have. If you approach them with genuine respect and a desire to make the workplace better, you could build a whole new level of trust and companionship that would otherwise remain in the dark. However, if the encounter is futile, you may want to voice your concerns with HR to see if there is anything they can do to help. 

4. Be the Better Person

Even if you disagree with your boss’s actions, do not let it influence your own decisions. Like it or not, you and your boss are part of a team in a larger organization and have to work together to help the bottom line. Far too often, people feel entitled and lose interest when they have to deal with an incompetent boss. 

While it may seem easier just to resent your boss and not care about your work, that only undermines your own integrity.  Likewise, even if you do not like your manager, you should not be starting rumors behind their back. What goes around comes around, and you do not want any gossip you start to come back to haunt you. Be the better person, and do not let your boss’s behavior interfere with your career development.

5. Focus on Positives

There is no doubt an incompetent boss can add to the stress of the workday. In fact, there are legitimate health risks employees face when they have to deal with bad bosses on a day-to-day basis, which is why you should focus on your emotional well-being while in the workplace. Fortunately, there are coping strategies to make an incompetent boss a little more tolerable

For instance, focus on the aspects of the job that make you happy. Many people love their job and the work they do, and a bad boss does not have to ruin that experience. You can either focus on your manager’s incompetence or on the people you enjoy working with. The latter option is certainly better for your mental health. However, if the negatives outweigh the positives, you may want to consider the final strategy. 

three employees chatting about their incompetent boss over coffee

6. Look for Employment Elsewhere 

If you tried everything else and still find your boss too unbearable, you may want to consider moving to a different role in your company or finding employment elsewhere. If you plan to move internally, do you research on the new position and see if management is a better fit for you. If you plan to move to a new organization, you need to know where to find job opportunities that fit your experience and expertise. At Lensa, we understand that not all bosses are the same, and you should not have to suffer at your job because of your manager. If considering an employment switch, look no further. On our website, there are thousands of new job opportunities posted throughout the U.S. every day. Regardless of your age, experience, and industry, we can help you find the right job opportunity for you!

Unveiling the Job Loyalty Mystery: How Long Do People Stay at Their Jobs?

This chart shows the average duration of years employees remain in their positions. The chart is interactive, so you can narrow it by industry and positions. It sheds light on the challenges an incompetent boss poses in different industries. As we explore the implications of these variations, we’ll uncover valuable insights and strategies to navigate the complexities of working under an ineffective leader.

Disclaimer: Data is available until April 2023

click on if you can't bear your incompetent boss anymore and want to look for a new job opportunity

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Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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