AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Boss Doesn’t Know What He’s Doing

Hi Bonita,

My boss has been with us for about a year and is the youngest person on our staff. He’s the director of our department and has never worked in our field before. It seems that maybe he was hired more to enact the directives of the governing body above him rather than to provide us staff with any [leadership] or direction because, in general, it seems like he has no idea what he’s doing. He is also very messy. If there is an issue or problem with one staff member, he will call an [all-staff] meeting and address the issue as though it applies to all of us, creating so much anxiety and stress. He has no idea how to work the computer programs that we have to use and attempts to give us tutorials, which will just have us all giggling under our breath.

I don’t respect this guy, and I am equally baffled by the people who hired him. How can I navigate the situation without making things harder for myself? I don’t like the stress that he brings to our department, and I’m starting to want to simply not attend the overly long and useless meetings that he calls regularly. Any advice you could give would be appreciated, but please don’t tell me to find a new job. This is the best job I can find in my field which pays me [a salary] that I can live on and is also eligible for student loan forgiveness.

Thank you!

Worker Bee Who’s Dealing With A Boss Baby

Hey there, Worker Bee,

If quitting isn’t an option, then you’re gonna have to become a pro chef when it comes to making lemons into lemonade. Since this guy is your boss—and obviously not a very good or effective one—it’s important to stay on his good side. In general, you don’t want him to have any idea that you don’t respect him and think he’s awful at his job. Be polite and professional and courteous, always. That doesn’t mean that you need to pretend to be friendly to the point of talking about your home life or socializing outside of work, but he should always be none the wiser to your disdain—which is perfectly justified, by the way. Your company chose poorly with this hire and it’s reflected in this guy’s performance and management style. Calling the entire staff into a meeting over a specific incident with a single worker is a super amateur move and betrays any professional assurances you were given by higher-ups when he was hired. Maybe he doesn’t have the guts or the skill to have a one-on-one interaction with a wayward worker, but he shouldn’t make the entire staff suffer a pointless meeting over that. And the technology training thing is just embarrassing. Why didn’t your job just get an IT technician or someone who knows what they’re doing to train you? (Probably because they’d have to pay that person, so they just make an unqualified manager try to do it instead.) I think there may be bigger management problems at your job than just a too-green supervisor trying to do too much.

The best thing you can do is to look like an excellent employee while you insulate yourself from this person as much as possible. If these meetings are optional, then I recommend you stop going, but be sure to have some vital work task to explain your absence. Focus on your own role at work and doing the job you were hired for, and do as great of a job as you can under such leadership. Be discreet about taking comfort with your coworkers via commiserating about the hand y’all were dealt, and certainly don’t do that on company email accounts or cell phones.  

And I know you said not to tell you to quit, but I want to gently remind you that there are tons of different state and government workplaces that offer competitive salaries and student loan forgiveness. There’s no way that your workplace is the only one. Slap on a smile and protect your neck, but you’d be silly not to keep your eyes open for better opportunities.

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