How to deal with an incompetent boss

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers some helpful tips to one reader who is wondering how to deal with an incompetent boss.


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Struggling to work out how to deal with an incompetent boss? Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, helps out one reader who doesn’t rate her boss and thinks she could do a better job. If you’re also struggling with an incompetent boss, Mary’s tips might be able to help…

‘I don’t rate my boss and I could do a better job. How can I deal with my incompetent boss and should I make my move?’

‘My problem is that my boss is not good at her work. I know that I could do her job to a higher standard. She has been with the company for a long time, her ideas are out of date and she is uninspiring.

‘A couple of times, when I’ve been talking to our MD, I’ve sensed his frustration with her too. I also know he values me. Should I take some sort of action? I feel guilty because she is not a bad person. However, I know that if this carries on I will end up leaving.’

Mary’s tips on how to deal with an incompetent boss:

Before you take any action, I would encourage you to think about your next job interview, whether at this company or elsewhere. Most recruiters will ask why you want to leave your current job. The jobseekers’ website Indeed says: ‘Leaving your previous role on good terms with your supervisors shows the interviewer that you were a valuable employee and remained professional when leaving the company.’

In a world where most of us will have at least 12 different jobs, our working relationships provide not only continuity but connections to the next job. Whether you like it or not, at the moment you are part of a team. It sounds as if you may imagine a scenario in which the MD sacks your boss without warning and appoints you in her place. But remember, you will still be part of a team, just in a different role.

Google has done extensive research about what makes great teams and found it’s mostly to do with how team members interact with each other. You could try some Google tips with your boss. Ask her open questions, such as: ‘Is there anything I should be doing for you that I am not doing?’ or, ‘Is there anything I should be doing better or more often?’

One transparent thing would be to say: ‘One day, I would like to be in a job like yours. What do you suggest that I focus on to develop myself for that type of role?’ The habit of seeking feedback will stand you in good stead when you come into management yourself.

In essence, a good boss fosters a team where people feel valued as individuals, gives and receives feedback regularly and communicates with transparency. All of this becomes more important as you progress in your career, so if you’re looking to take action, I would start with those skills.

Mary Fenwick is a writer, speaker and executive coach; she’s also a mother, divorcee and widow. Got a question for Mary? Email, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line. For more about Mary’s work in leadership and team coaching, her Writing Back to Happiness programme and free resources, go to

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