Tech & Work

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.


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.

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