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5 Ways to Manage an Ineffective Boss

Posted on April 16, 2019 at 1:10 PM


If you work long enough, you will have one - a boss who just isn't getting their job done. Maybe they are overwhelmed or out of their league. Perhaps they got promoted too fast or missed manager training. Maybe they are just checked-out or lazy. Whatever the reason, the impact on you is the same - they are not providing you the coaching and support you need to be the best at your job. Here are 5 steps you can take to manage an ineffective boss.


1 - Assess the Situation - Understanding the root cause of your manager's dysfunction can help you assess what it means for your situation - especially how long it will last. If your boss is new to the role and just lacking experience or training, they may remain for a while and improve over time. Help them target their improvement to help you. If they have been in place for a long time, they may not be going anywhere soon, especially if some factor like nepotism is in play. Figure out how long you are willing to try to succeed with them and when you will start looking for new opportunities. If they look like they are getting "managed out," you may need to prepare for a replacement or reorganization quickly.


2 - Identify the Impact on You - A boss' job is to provide several services to their team members. They coach, direct, rally external support, check quality, bring technical expertise, and many other things to help their team members succeed. You need those things to help you get ahead, especially as you compete for promotions with peers who have good managers. Identify the help you are not getting from your manager. Talk with your peers to understand the support they get from their managers. Read leadership books and articles to help you see what good leadership looks like.


3 - Ask for Supplemental Help - Your boss may not have all the management skills you need, but they do have access to resources, authority, and relationships you don't. Ask your boss to help you get support elsewhere. If your boss isn't an effective external advocate for your team, ask for ways to get you more exposure outside your team. If you aren't learning required expertise from them, ask them to help you get training. If you aren't getting the coaching you need from them, ask them to pay for an executive coach for you. That might even set an example for them to follow.


4 - Help them Succeed - After you have addressed your own needs, think about ways you can help your manager succeed. If they view you as a good performer, ask how you can help. Maybe you can be a sounding board for them. If they ask for feedback, be ready to give them carefully crafted suggestions. As appropriate, offer to take some work or meetings off their plate to ease their burden. While helping them, that can also help you pick up some experience that builds your own resume. (Be careful with this, though, to make sure you get "extra credit" in your performance reviews and not a share of the blame for their mismanagement.) If you help your manager when they are down, you may be building a grateful ally - and great job reference - for life.


5 - Position Yourself for New Jobs - Realize that your situation may not improve and your ineffective manager may be there for longer than you want to wait. Or prepare yourself for a snap change from a reorganization or manager replacement. Either way, build and nurture your network now so it will produce new opportunities later when needed. And if one of the new opportunities you are interested in is your manager's job, tread carefully. Manage your personal brand so your good work is recognized and is not tied to the poor performance of your boss. But also make sure you are not seen to be undermining your boss to get their job.


If you haven't worked for an overwhelmed or checked-out manager yet, consider yourself lucky. Now you can also consider yourself warned and prepared.

Categories: Career Planning, Meeting Effectiveness, Executive Assistant Tips