My Boss is Under-performing

January 20, 2020

My Boss is Under-performing

An under-performing boss can hurt your career. There are some things only your boss can do. She is the link between you and the rest of the company. She can damage your area’s reputation by making unwise decisions which in turn leads to less money and fewer staff (i.e. your job!)

What is under-performing?

An under-performing boss:

  • Takes a long time to make decisions
  • Changes her mind often
  • Can’t follow technical arguments well
  • Can’t get money for projects or has her budget cut
  • Losses work to other managers
  • Rarely meets with her boss or meets all the time

What it looks like

You: Lisa, I was just talking to Grant. He says that he’s been assigned the Parkinson project. But I’ve already started it.
Lisa, boss: He made some good points. I think he’s probably the best for it.
You: But I did a similar project in my last job. And I spent last week mapping out the strategy for this one.
Lisa: Oh, I’d forgotten that. And you’ve spent all that time?
You: I’m ready to roll it out.
Lisa: Oh, well then, maybe you should continue.

Makes banging your head against a wall seem preferable. And will she tell Grant of her change of mind? I bet not. So You have to carefully to avoid bad feelings between the two of you.

What to do

Does Lisa have a pattern of under-performing or is this a relatively new phenomenon? If the latter, it is conceivable she’s having personal problems or may herself have a difficult boss who has made her lose confidence. If either are possibilities, give her a little slack and see if things get back to normal.

If, however, this is the normal modus operandi, you need to realize that this is a problem only her boss can fix. If you notice any of the last three items from the list above, her boss might already be taking action.

But what do you do in the interim? It’s unlikely raising the problem with her will have any positive effect. Might make things worse. If she’s under pressure from her boss for better performance, she might react defensively to any suggestion of a problem and even take vengeance on you for noticing it.

I think the best you can do is to make clear You are competent even if she isn’t.

An example

Say you run into Lisa’s boss, Ken (or make sure you do).

Ken: Hey, how are things going? Don’t race into the I’m-so-great stuff. Let it evolve.
You: Just fine. I’m finishing up the Parkinson project. Be aware that Ken might be fishing.
Ken: Great. So Lisa’s got you working on that. Went well? DO NOT bad-mouth her.
You: Totally. In fact, I came up with a new [add technical stuff]. DO make brownie points.
Ken: Wow, sounds terrific. And Lisa was good with it? He’s really asking if she understood it. Lie.
You: Yeah, she was very pumped about it. Once you explained it to her in kindergarten words.

So, here’s the dilemma. On the one hand, Ken is fishing for dirt on Lisa. On the other, he may think you disloyal if you supply it. The best thing you can do is highlight your excellent skills while avoiding comments on her at all.

Next post: the passive-aggressive boss.

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