IT Employment

Inept but self-assured: The nightmare boss or coworker

Ever had that co-worker or boss who makes up for a total lack of skill with a towering self-assurance? Here are a couple of ways to deal with it.

I would bet my life that we've all, at some point, encountered this person: A person who's staggeringly inept but audaciously self-assured. It's just one of life's little mysteries-how a person can be absolutely talentless but have so much confidence in him- or herself. And I'm not just talking about the Real Housewives of New York.

Sometimes these types of people drive me crazy, but sometimes I wish I had just a little bit of that despite-everything-pointing-to-the-contrary kind of confidence. But the question is: How do you deal with a person like this if he or she is your boss or coworker?

A friend of mine told me about his boss. He says that his boss is so inept that sometimes her decisions threaten the work the team is doing. But, as he said, "She's so crazily confident that I don't think she even knows what a threat she is to the quality of the work." In fact, he thinks the fact that she's an idiot protects her from being aware of the fact that, well, she's an idiot.

And, you know, I don't really know what to say. Sometimes the confidence is a front, a defensive mechanism that some people use to hide some kind of fear underneath. That doesn't make it any less of a pain. But in that case, you might be able to gently present other ways of doing things by couching suggestions in compliments, e.g., "I know you've probably already thought of this, but do you think we should do these tasks before rolling out this one?" Or you could present a choice of two possibilities that you know would both work. He or she would have to choose one, but still feel like the one in charge.

Some people are just so good at being self-assured that they are masters at disguising their flaws. It's a shame that it can work this way because it makes it that much harder for competent people to see the job done right.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

20 comments
code_slingerz
code_slingerz

Total poster child for the Dunning┬ľKruger effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect The man had absolutely know idea how little he knew. He was a "web developer". I used to carp about his lack of competence to a buddy and he quiped "What does he develop? Photos?" Years ago I showed him some jQuery/AJAX stuff and he glanced at it and said "That's nice." in a dismissive manner. He did the same with Firebug. And when Object Oriented Programming (OOP) became all the rage he dismissed it as "unnecessary" and never bothered to learn about it. He ended up getting canned for not being able to figure out how to use, you guessed it, OOP and jQuery/AJAX. He could not, for the life of him, figure out how modern web apps worked. Once he was forced to stepped out of his comfort zone he was about as useful as a sack of wet leather.

kjjerome
kjjerome

I meant to say, there is no future in being right if the boss is always wrong!

kjjerome
kjjerome

I have had a few bosses and there is a saying. There is no future if the boss is always wrong. You have to keep your mouth shut. Those that have that bravado without credentials don't take to subordinates schooling them. I was hoping that you had more input on the matter, i'll be watching though.

ke4lfg
ke4lfg

This article is silly bit of filler and of practically no use,. We already know the problem, there was no need for the writer to spend the entire article discussing the existence of this type worker. If the article is not going to offer any useful suggestions for dealing with the problem, why bother to write it?

OldGrayWolf
OldGrayWolf

Oh yeah, the worst part was that she owned the business, was extremely paranoid about anyone else 'knowing more' than she did or appearing too valuable to the company's success. To get rid of me, she tried to force me to perform functions that were in direct violation of state and federal law in this office, knowing me well enough to know I would refuse. Turned out that her most profitable account had told her that they did not want anyone but me handling their work. So, of course I quit and she did not have to fear another lawsuit, in my case wrongful discharge (my employee reviews were stellar). I did learn her reasoning later and to this day she does not know that account offered me their work, to set up my office in the location of my choice, etc. I was truly flattered, felt vindicated, etc., but respectfully declined. That business was way too cutthroat for me. I got a new and ultimately twice as good job with exceptional benefits the same day I packed my desk and walked out. Now I sincerely thank God frequently that I am no longer in the cube farm but am my own boss in my own (different) business.

Doogster
Doogster

I believe that the inability to admit mistakes or accept the possibility that their decision or viewpoint may not be the best way to go, or even valid, plays a big part in it. Unfortunately if you're unwilling or afraid to admit you're wrong (or even might be) you most certainly are headed for disaster in one form or another. Amazingly some continue to make blunders but still remain exactly where they are for a multitude of reasons. I can be frustrating or even maddening for everyone around them, or under them. It usually catches up with them at some point... far to late as far as everyone else is concerned.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Every comment I've seen here is going about this entirely the wrong way. These are the perfect people to help you out. You cover their back in a big way a few times and MAKE SURE THEY KNOW IT. When they realize you are a valuable ally then they are going to take care of you. If not, let them crash and burn. It's pretty simple. They're some of the easiest people to manipulate because of their huge egos. Get your emotions out of the game too. Be rational. It's a game, play it like one.

davebrass62
davebrass62

I believe that in the government sector that the superior "never hires someone more competent than him/herself" is actually a work rule. when my boss exerts self confidence it's more like baffling you with bull than admitting a lack of knowledge or understanding, while demonstrating he's still "the boss". I'm still trying figure out this part; is "never letting them see you sweat" just cause he's not bight enough about operations to know he should be sweating? When I look at my boss, I think General Custer.

morgan_flint
morgan_flint

Could be translated as "Ignorance is audacious"

kwickset
kwickset

A manager will never employ someone who is more competent than himself. When this manager gets promoted the chosen one will step up into his vacated position. The chosen one will do exactly the same and only employ someone less competent than him/herself. And so on and so on. Five or fewer promotions later you have a complete idiot in place.

os2hank
os2hank

I worked for someone like this at the state, he was a educated idiot!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

That those who know the least about a subject tend to think they know the most. I think one of these studies also associated this with intellectual capability. Given that the people who know the most usually also like prefer to actually do productive things, it's no surprise that those who know the least gravitate to management, an area where they don't have to do anything useful and can still get paid.

Dyalect
Dyalect

Pretending to know will keep you around much longer than admitting your a fool. Don't make any decisions, don't admit to any wrong doing or not knowing, use alot of big words, and power strutt. We've all worked for winners like this. Vendors will keep them up to date with all the latest tech. Translation - pay up. $$$

maj37
maj37

So we can all vent and feel a little better to start our day. Actually the author did offer one or two ideas on how to handle these people and some of the folks posting have offered additional ideas.

Imprecator
Imprecator

If an ignoramus like that is tolerated at a workplace, it means that HIS skills (most probably spining and sucking up) are more important than yours. So, he will be protected by management. Therefore, he can be wrong a million times and come out smelling like a rose. He doesn't need you and he knows it too.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I never knew about that study. That's very interesting!

kwickset
kwickset

And it is getting worse even with clients who always know more than I do even in a field in which I have practised for the last 30 years. It generally comes with the perception that if you have the position or acquired a new piece of equipment the skill, know how and experience is included in the acquisition. Australian managers are notorious for that.

maj37
maj37

Correct all he/she has to do is blame it on you and his/her hands are clean. "Well I told them to do blah, blah, blah, but they did bleh, bleh, bleh. So I have told them they better not do it again or I wil fire them."

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