What Do You Do When You Believe Your Supervisor Is Incompetent?

by Lisa McQuerrey

Having an incompetent boss can make your work life miserable, and it also has the potential to derail your career and impact your long-term professional growth. However, finding a way to get along and work in conjunction with your inadequate manager can propel you forward into long-term career success.

Clarify Expectations

Make sure you understand exactly what your boss expects from you to ensure there is no miscommunication about roles and responsibilities. If your boss is not competent enough to provide you with this type of work direction, propose your own course of action and get his sign off. Often, incompetent people prefer that others make them look good without having to personally put much effort forth. In this case, it creates a win-win for you, as you'll be able to take control of your professional development without too much interference from your boss.

Help Your Boss

An incompetent boss isn't just a bad manager, he's probably not a very competent employee either. Sometimes people are promoted through the ranks for no other reason than they've been with the company for a long time. You can make your own life easier, as well as help your colleagues, if you offer suggestions to your boss for ways to improve the way he runs his department. Approach the boss in a professional manner and make suggestions rather than issue directives. Pointing out that he has poor management skills won't help you, but offering to take the lead and recommending processes or procedures can be beneficial to everyone.

Document Inadequacies

Keep track of the things your boss does that are inappropriate, unprofessional or altogether wrong. Having this information allows you to protect yourself in the event your boss attempts to reprimand you or criticize your work product, or you eventually have to take the situation to your boss’s superior. Be very specific. You’ll come across as mean if you go to your boss’s manager and say, “He doesn't know what he's talking about.” However, if you say he incorrectly tallied sales revenue projection goals and you have the documents to back up your claims, you'll build a stronger case.

Involve a Higher Authority

If your boss is so incompetent that he has the potential to damage your career, or he's doing things that put the company at financial or legal risk, it's time to take your concerns to a higher authority. Keep in mind that someone who is incompetent, yet remains in a management position, likely has the ear or the favor of someone in the upper ranks of the business. If you’re not comfortable going up the chain of command, take your concerns to human resources. Present your claim not as a judgment against your boss, but as a concern about how his incompetence negatively impacts the company.

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