Is your boss clueless? Possibly crazy? Here’s what to do.
The “crazy” boss: Chances are good that sooner or later you’ll have one.
They come in two flavors: crazy genius and crazy incompetent. Crazy genius bosses are difficult to work with, even maddening, but in the end you may feel the effort was worth it. You can learn a lot from genius bosses, your skills and work ethic can grow, and their success can turn out to be your success.
The crazy incompetent boss is a different story. Your workdays are spent trying to figure out what that memo or email “really” meant, looking for ways to gracefully ignore directives that are just plain bad ideas, explaining things the boss should know already and mitigating the effects of his or her foibles and failings.
What to do? First, remind yourself that no situation lasts forever. Then, check out these coping tips.
Make sure you’re being fair. The boss is only human. The situation may not even be the boss’s fault — too often people are promoted to positions beyond their skills, experience and potential. Even though crazy incompetent bosses frequently don’t seem to be aware of their shortcomings, do try to have some compassion.
Accept that you’re going to have to “lead up.” It will probably be up to you to study your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, and then work to fill in the holes. You should not feel obligated to cover up actual mistakes, but you should make it a priority to do what’s best for the organization as well as what’s right. What’s good for your company is usually good for you, too.
Offer to take over some projects and tasks. Approach your boss in a friendly, face-saving fashion and say, “Hey, how about if I take the lead on X, Y and Z projects?” You were probably going to end up doing those things anyway.
Keep a written record. Note down deadlines missed, bad decisions made, policies flouted. Someday someone else may need to understand what’s been happening here. You’ll also need to protect yourself in case your own actions are ever called into question.
Meanwhile, take good care of your physical and mental health, find an outside person or mentor to vent to, and be on the lookout for a better job.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.