How to Deal with an Incompetent Boss
How to Deal With a Lazy Boss
A lazy boss not only sets a bad example for their staff, but can get in the way of other people doing their jobs, which can be frustrating and increase stress and anxiety for everyone. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to interact with your boss that may improve their behavior and your work environment.
Evaluating Your Environment
Focus on yourself.Don't fall into a trap of matching laziness with laziness. Instead, always do your work effectively and efficiently, challenging yourself to do your very best. You'll set an example for your coworkers, your boss, and your job consistently well may have long-term payoffs, such as a promotion.
- You may be tempted to give your boss a taste of their own medicine and be equally lazy. This is rarely productive, as your boss is likely unaware that you are mirroring their behavior, instead seeing you as independently lazy.
Get to know your boss.Your boss may have reasons for their behavior that you're not aware of, or they might have personal issues impacting their work performance. Before you complain to HR, try to understand your boss, what makes them tick, what they care about, and what frustrates them.
- Just as you have an entire life outside of the workplace, so does your boss. You may not know that they have another full time job, or that they’re ill, or that they’re taking care of a colicky newborn. Getting to know your boss establishes a rapport and allows you to understand their position a bit better.
Learn the company structure.Get to know the layout of the company and learn the chain of command. While it is not the first or second best option, it is good to know who your boss's boss is, in case you need to escalate the issue.This step is for primarily for your information, because you want to try different approaches first. It is good information to have on hand if all else fails, though.
Read job descriptions.It might be that your boss is not lazy, but does not fully understand your work description, theirs, or your coworkers’. Similarly, work tends to trickle downward, and that’s especially true with a lazy boss. Read through all relevant job descriptions and if you find that you’re doing more than what you were hired to do, have a conversation with your boss about assigning tasks to the appropriate employee, which may be them.
- Often on-the-job responsibilities change much faster than job descriptions are updated.
- There is also sometimes a murky overlap among positions, leaving room for confusion about who is responsible for what.
Trying Different Approaches
Communicate with your boss.While the thought of talking to your boss about their performance may be intimidating, it is often the best route to take. Do so carefully, though. Don't rush into the conversation, consider what the issues really are, and stick to those issues only. Talk about behaviors rather than directly about your employer.
- Be respectful and constructive. Approach your boss with the right tone and with the intention of communicating well.
- If that doesn't work, and as a second resort, you might talk with your boss's boss, but understand most employers won't be happy that you talked with their boss.
- Lastly, you might need to go to Human Resources for resolution with the problem.
- Remember, you want to keep your job, so approach any of these conversations with a positive and professional attitude.
Make it about you.Giving a supervisor feedback can be uncomfortable, especially when it’s about a behavior of theirs, but it doesn’t have to be. Make your statements “I” rather than “you” oriented, which will help you avoid sounding critical. Also, it allows you to make suggestions regarding yourself or your team rather than telling your boss how to conduct themselves.
- For example, you could tell your boss, “I think that our team would be more productive if we each submitted a daily accountability sheet. I can set that up so that all of us could access it, if you’d like.” You’re not pointing fingers, and are offering a solution that will increase their accountability as well.
- You might also say, “I think that we could implement a buddy system on this project to ensure that everyone has an immediate resource available should they need it, which might help the project get done faster and better.” You’re focusing on actions and solutions with this statement, but also opening room for dialogue.
Make a list.Make a list of your boss’s behaviors that you find disruptive in the workplace, such as examples of their laziness -- note the date, time, and circumstances. You might even arrange the list from most to least disruptive. Come back to your list a few days later and focus on the top few items. If they really are as big of a deal as you originally thought, decide if they’re worth talking to your boss about.
Deal with it.Accept what you cannot change. You will likely decide that much of your list is not really a dealbreaker or something that you can productively bring up to your boss. You need to make a decision to accept those things (that doesn’t mean that you have to like them, though) or begin looking for another job. Think about the big picture.
Looking Out for Yourself
Make another list.This time, turn inward and focus on yourself rather than your boss. Write down every single thing that makes you happy about your job, no matter how big or how small. You might surprise yourself with all the entries on your list, and research has shown that improving your outlook improves your happiness, which only improves your outlook more.
- You might be grateful for your flexible schedule
- Perhaps you get paid vacation days, or holidays and weekends off
- You may enjoy the comradery among you and your colleagues
- Your job might not be too far from home making for a reasonable commute
Set goals for yourself.Independent of your boss’s vision, consider what professional goals you have for yourself. Make a list of your short and long-term goals and then prioritize everything in either order of achievability or order of importance to you. Take advantage of any opportunities to combine goals and then develop a plan of action.
- You might want a promotion in the next six months
- Or you might want a raise
- Perhaps you’d like to switch from morning to day shift
- You want to be designated a lead on the next big project
Prioritize your emotional health.Your self-esteem, stress level, and general happiness are important. If your boss’s laziness is impacting your job or emotional health, you need to take some sort of action, whether you decide talk with them or seek other employment. Don’t just “do nothing.” Remember, a job just isn’t the right fit if you have to sacrifice your emotional health to make it work.
- If appropriate, this also opens up a conversation to redefine your position and compensation.
Consider other employment options.If you have tried to resolve the issues with your boss and are still unhappy, you may need to consider that it’s time to find a new job. Begin networking, clean up your resume, and start actively looking for another position. This doesn’t mean defeat, or that something is wrong with your or even your boss. It just means that it’s time for you to move on.
Have realistic expectations.Just as you need to evaluate if the items on your list of bad boss behaviors are deal breakers and truly important, you need to evaluate your expectations of your boss, your workplace, and of yourself. This is especially important because it frames how you approach each day, which can have a dramatic impact on your emotional health.
Set boundaries.You know your job description and what your assigned responsibilities are. Working with others requires an open mind and flexibility, but your boundaries, once defined, are not up for discussion. If your boss’s laziness increases your work load, remind them tactfully and professionally that the extra responsibilities exceed the scope of your current position.
- Defining your boundaries allows your employer to reflect on their own actions. Perhaps they are unaware that they are underproductive.
Don’t get pushed around.You are likely upset by your boss’s lazy behavior because it impacts your work performance, or even ends up creating more work for you. Because they are your boss, you might feel that you have no choice but to accept that is how things are. Don’t be pushed around and don’t be a pushover. Be your own advocate in a cool, calm, and professional way.
- If you are feeling taken advantage of, for example, because your boss’s paperwork keeps piling up on your desk, try saying, “I’ve noticed that I’m now receiving all invoices for our suppliers, and since that isn’t part of my job description, I would like to route these to the appropriate personnel so that these are paid quickly and correctly.”s
- Be professional. Always present your concerns respectfully.
- Offer solutions to the problems on your list by listing specific remedies that your boss can do to improve the situation. If there are ways that you can help, suggest those too.
- Be sure that you have done everything in your power to help the situation before you speak to your boss or your boss’s boss. Anything that you have left out will serve as ammunition that your boss can use against you if he has to meet with his boss.
- You run the risk of your boss being offended that you raised concerns. Be prepared that the conversation might not go exactly as you plan.
- Never badmouth your boss to your peers. Always present your ideas professionally and privately to the individual that you are experiencing the problem with.
- Don't use email to communicate your objections. This meeting must be done privately and in person.
- Never ever suggest that your boss should be fired to anyone (especially to your boss' boss). That is someone else’s decision to make.
- Make a calculated risk that the work situation will improve if you make your problems known. If you don't truly feel that things will get better then it might be better if you don't do anything.
Video: How to Take Advantage of a Bad Boss - Jocko Willink
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