The incompetent manager

Does your boss struggle to make decisions, play favourites, destroy camaraderie or make inappropriate comments at the worst possible moment? Does he or she rely on your team to cover for them? And do they still have a job despite all their stuff ups?

We have all, at some point, worked for an incompetent boss, a total bozo who should never have gotten their job in the first place, let alone keep it. According to one survey, one in five workers regard their boss as totally incompetent. Another 13 per cent regarded the boss as “somewhat incompetent”. So one in three workers think their boss is an idiot.

The signs are pretty obvious. Fast Company identifies 10 tell tale signs that the boss is a complete fool. The first is a bias against action - they can’t make a decision to save themselves. Instead, they call for reports, and then more reports. Number two is their complete inability to tell staff what’s going on.  They are over sensitive and cleave to the rule book and are totally stuck on procedures. No flexibility there whatsoever. They also tend to choose the wrong people for certain jobs, usually picking the people who make them feel comfortable. They are ill at ease with ideas, they focus on small tasks, they can’t keep deadlines and they hate hiring ex-employees and welcoming them back. Also, they tend to be addicted to consultants and getting advice from outsiders. Oh yes, and they work very long hours. Not so much because they are industrious but more because they can’t delegate or prioritise.

According to one study, reported here, bosses who feel they are out of their depth are more likely to be bullies, demanding nothing but total compliance. The aggression kicks in when they feel they are in a high pressure position and not delivering.

UK writer Mark Buchanan says it’s case of the so-called “Peter principle” where a person is promoted to their own level of incompetence and stays there until they retire, or stuff up so badly that they are forced out.

Writing in the HR Daily Advisor Bob Weinstein says there are two things you can do about it. The first is to try to make the best out of a bad situation. The second is to go over the boss’s head and speak to their boss. That’s a risky thing to do, even if you have everything documented.

Of course, another way to look at it is that your incompetent boss is a text book example of bad boss behaviour. That teaches what not to do when you get promoted.

Jessica Stillman at BNet says your boss can’t be completely bad at everything. There would be certain things they would do well, other things would suck. She suggests working with what they can and can’t do. With the stuff they can’t do, you need to find a way to work around. She also suggests making more use of the boss’s direct reports. They are likely to be more competent because the manager is relying on them and using them to cover their backside.

Do any of these warning signs sound familiar? Do you work for an incompetent boss? How bad does it get? What are some of the worst things you’ve seen? How do you handle it?