Here's what to do when you’re smarter than your boss
We all want to work for a boss who makes us whisper to ourselves, “I want to become like you” because they’re so good at what they do. But what if you happen to report to someone who seems to be falling short of your expectations? Should you try stealing his crown or should you help him become better at your own expense?
What do you do when you’re smarter than your boss? Here are 4 tips.
1. Be aware of your self-bias first: are you really smarter than your boss?
It’s natural for many of us to be self-biased and think that we’re too good for our own bosses. Before you belittle your manager, can you confidently say that 9 out of your 10 colleagues will agree that both of you should switch positions now? Probably not.
Look at yourself in the mirror: are you better than your boss in all aspects of competency, or are you just good in one area? Fine, you’re the company’s marketing rock star but you don’t know how to lead people and he does. You’re the Excel spreadsheet master, but you don’t know how to turn data into business opportunities – and he does. In fact, you might be bragging about a skill that he doesn’t even feel threatened by. In the grand scheme of things, you’re simply someone helping him with a bigger project that he’s working on. And in most situations, your manager has a bigger desk because he offers something else that you don’t. Tell me honestly now, are you better than him? (READ: How I learned how to respect my boss)
2. Discover one thing you admire about your boss and focus on it.
Now that you’ve admitted that your boss has a redeeming quality, focus on learning it from him so you can be better at your craft. Wrap your daily routine around it. It could be his leadership skills, strategic acumen, connections, decisiveness, or simply likeability. In most cases, soft skills are what you can take away from any boss.
And if you can’t find a reason to admire from your boss, try getting a glimpse of his personal life and you might just discover a reason to. (READ: 'I hate my boss!': 5 tips to deal)
I’ve proven this trick effective many times for bosses I've hated, work-wise. For instance, your boss may be slow-moving with things at work, but he’s also the best dad in the world or spends personal time at the soup kitchen during weekends. When you learn how to appreciate the good despite the bad, you will likely be more forgiving in the short-run. Because in the meantime, patience and sympathy are what you need, right?
3. Keep on dancing even if you hate the music.
So you’re one of those poor unfortunate souls cursed with an incompetent boss. We get it, life is unfair, and you just want to throw a major fit. But do you really want to make this situation even worse? You can’t let this frustration demotivate you and push you to underperform. You still have a race to finish, right?
Remember, it’s easier to shine when the stars surrounding you lack luster. Take this opportunity to stand out and be seen by the management team as that employee who performs well despite your incompetent boss (hey, it’s not like other office folks don’t know the situation – of course they know!). Show that you are taking this professionally and that you can thrive anywhere regardless of where you’re thrown.
After all, even if you’re the one pulling the weight for the team, your boss' success remains to be your success. For as long you fight your way to get your own credit (yes, bad bosses also take credit for their people’s work), don’t worry about easily losing the spotlight. In today’s cutthroat war on talent, most organizations will fight to keep their rock stars from leaving. So continue dancing. Because as I’ve seen many times in my career, bad bosses eventually leave, get fired, or rotated somewhere else. It can be just a matter of time and patience for you to finally take over his stage.
4. Get mentors elsewhere and move towards self-learning.
Yes, it’s natural to feel frustrated when you look forward to learning from your boss, and you end up coaching him instead. When I fell into this situation myself, I looked for mentors in other departments. When no one was there to give me feedback about my performance, I proactively asked people for it. I asked teammates to honestly tell me what else can I do to be better. I left no stone unturned.
I listened to various management podcasts (Harvard Business Review and Freakonomics are some of my favorites). I watched dozens of YouTube videos of motivational speakers talking about the power of influence (TED Talks became my daily habit). I motivated myself. I didn't just quit, because I loved my job – and an incompetent boss shouldn't deprive me of that love. I couldn't let him take away that opportunity from me. I realized that it was possible to cope and survive even if I had a boss who needed me more than I needed him. It was during these very sickening moments of my career that pushed me to realize that I had to steer the wheel by myself to get to the right destination.
At the end of the day
Remember, it’s not the end of the world when you report to a boss who shortchanges your growth and development. As you read this, there are thousands of employees like you who have fallen into the same misfortune, but successfully refused to become a permanent statistic. Join them. Admit that the journey will be emotionally taxing but full of lessons as well. Take it one day at a time: help your boss to succeed, focus on what you can appreciate, and reach out for alternative sources of learning. No one else will take good care of your career, but you. I wish you the best of luck! – Rappler.com
Jonathan Yabut is the proud Filipino winner of the hit Asian reality TV show, The Apprentice Asia and is currently based in Kuala Lumpur as the managing director of his own marketing consultancy firm, The JY Ventures & Consultancy. Jonathan is Asia’s leading motivational speaker on topics involving leadership, development of Gen Y workers, and career management for Fortune 500 companies. He is also the author of Southeast Asia’s 2015 best-selling motivational book, From Grit to Great. Visit his official Facebook Fanpage here.