How to handle an inexperienced manager on a power trip

How to handle an inexperienced manager on a power trip

It’s the worst. He’s cocky, just got promoted over your department, and doesn’t know the first thing about the software that runs it. She plays “girl games,” with her subordinates, and complains she’s overworked because she is too controlling to delegate. Bad bosses. There is nothing that can make your work life miserable like an inexperienced manager.

The good news is, that these kinds of managers don’t last long. They usually shape up, or show their incompetence all on their own. But, the ride back to office normalcy may still be long and bumpy, as the unskilled boss painfully learns from their own mistakes. You can look for a new job, or you can stick it out. If you want to survive, here are a few tips to handling inexperienced and power hungry managers.

  1. Accept that they are the boss

    Part of the reason your boss is on a power trip, is that they are insecure in their own authority. It may hurt your pride a little bit that the new guy you helped train six months ago, took that supervisor position that you didn’t want. Now he’s arrogantly pressuring you to increase your numbers. Your instinct may be to engage in a power struggle.

    Instead, just accept it. By accepting that they are in fact—the boss, you neutralize yourself as a threat to them. You may even position yourself as an ally for when things start to go upside down—which they will if they are that inexperienced. At that point, you are in the perfect position to swoop in and show how much you can “save the sinking ship.”

  2. Make them do their job

    They earn more than you. Make them earn it. Treat them like their predecessor. If their job is to handle difficult clients, don’t do it for them. Transfer the call. They are earning the salary for it. If they want to be the boss, make them wear the pants.

  3. Check in frequently

    At intervals that make sense in your office, regularly check in with your boss. Let them know what tasks you have completed, and fill them in on the status of all your current projects.

    In particular tell them about any wins. Did you land that big sale? Let them know. Did you handle a tough client? Tell your boss about it. Did you navigate a sticky customer situation? Explain it to them.

    This will accomplish several things. First, you are acknowledging that they are the boss—which is important to their ego to know all their subordinates understand. Then, you are also telling them what an asset you are to the team.

    On the other hand, you are subtly letting them know, that there is a lot of work to be done in addition to their own workload. They can’t possibly control everything. The more your boss hears about what you are doing, and compares it to their own workload, they will realize they are going to have to loosen their grip. All the while, there you are, right in front of them, telling them how well you are handling your responsibilities. Well played.

  4. Stay out of the drama

    With inexperienced managers, as much as they say they don’t want it, drama follows them. This is especially true if they are proving to be incompetent or difficult to work for. There will be grumbling in the ranks, and discontent can lead to war. The most advantageous thing you can do, is to stay out of it.

    If your manager is just starting out, they likely really want to be a professional. They just don’t know how. They will respect someone they can see as a professional. Be the professional that stays out of the gossip—one that is “above it,” and just does their work. Doing so, will earn the boss’s respect and trust. Not only that, the bad boss will likely feel guilty and want follow your example—raising the professionalism of the whole department.

  5. Go to their boss

    Everyone’s got a boss. Your nightmare may be the head receptionist with only three month’s office experience. But there is someone above them that knows better. Likely, their boss is aware of the problems. They have seen little things. They have heard rumors. Going to their boss can have good results. It could lead to a very helpful “clear the air,” staff meeting.

    Or, it could lead to you understanding the situation better. It’s possible you don’t understand how much pressure the entire management team is under to get results. Your nightmare boss may actually mean well, paddling uphill trying to get the department up to standard. If everyone got on the same page as the micromanaging boss, you might make an excellent team, and stronger department.

    Finally, in some cases, going to their boss, could be a revelation. That smug, condescending, micromanaging boss that nauseates you, is actually coming from the top down. In this situation, there is only one thing to do.

  6. Look for another job

    If none of the above work, it’s time to look for work elsewhere. This is for several reasons. Many times, leaving a job where you are unhappy can be cathartic…for everyone. We get antsy when our professional aspirations aren’t being met. Perhaps it’s not really the boss that is bothering us. It is our own career, and we project it onto the boss. By correctly placing the frustration, we can see the real problem. It’s overall just time for a change.

    You may get the satisfaction of finding out that after you left, it was a wake-up call that something—or someone—wasn’t working out. But, this is rare and you will be long gone. Your emotional health is worth more than making a point. Only you can take care of yourself and your career.