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Is Your Boss An Idiot?


Coping with office place ineptitude.

If you're like most people who think their boss is an idiot, you resolved two years ago to do something about it. Two years later, you're still trying to change your boss. So who's the idiot? This is tough love: The person who needs to change is you-know-who; it's the only person you have transformational power over.

Granted, it's easier said than done. First, you must decide how important your job is to you. If it's worth fighting for, ignore the accusations of kissing or sucking up. That's schoolyard stuff. You're an adult with mortgage payments, car payments, insurance payments, college tuition (past and present), the kids' shots and the dog's orthodontia to pay for. Next, decide who you're working for. The correct answer is: Put on your oxygen mask first, then help your neighbor.

Other than your significant other, your relationship with your boss is the most important and potentially life-altering adult relationship you have. Accept your boss for whatever he or she is. If your situation is truly untenable, quit and go where the grass is greener. But if you've moved numerous times only to find yourself working for yet another moron, invoke a permanent fix by changing your attitude.

Here are some boss types you might need to deal with and how best to deal with them:

- A God Boss's self-image is beyond your control. So, frame every comment and suggestion in terms of his or her omnipotence. Make it sound like things happen only when they will it so. Burn incense and lay your tithes and offerings at the foot of your boss's altar (read: desk). He or she will be made to feel comfortable and you'll find peace.

- Machiavellian Bosses don't think they're gods. Nor do they have any qualms about taking out whomever they perceive as a threat or impediment to their ascent to the top of the organizational ladder. To avoid having your beating heart ripped from your chest and slapped in the palm of your hand, let Machiavellians know you're invested in their success and you're even willing to give them top billing for the work you do. They're going to claim it anyway.

- The Sadistic Boss thrives on causing pain and suffering. He or she loves to hear weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the cubicle farm. That's your cue. Let your Sadistic Boss know, with excess whining, that the burden they're placing on you and your peers is heavy (even if it's not). If they think you're about to snap, the Sadistic Boss will be satisfied and cruel demands will probably level off.

- Masochistic Bosses will constantly try and enroll you in their failures. In subtle ways, you must demonstrate your competency to those at or above your boss's level.

- The private scenes you play out with Paranoid Bosses should differ from the way you present yourself in the presence of more competent folks. Refuse to allow the Paranoid Boss's conspiracy theories to cost you sleep. Never dispute the existence of the plots and conspiracies your Paranoid Boss believes are afoot. Instead, express sympathy for the stress his or her hallucinations cause, while avoiding them yourself.

- Stop resisting your Buddy Boss's attempts to hang out. Make them the center of attention by planning as many office parties and work-related gatherings as possible with he or she as the guest of honor. Sign them up for extra-curricular sports and activities that you don't participate in. This will shift the burden to a broader audience. Then sneak out the back door.

Regardless of category, it's important to remember that bosses will be bosses, blissfully carrying on about whatever bosses carry on about while you go about the business of dutifully doing your job.

Do yourself a favor and give the boss-bashing a rest once and for all. It's time to create a slander-free zone between your ears. A one-time pledge to expand the horizons of your tolerance won't do it. You need to inventory your attitude every day, sometimes several times a day, for many months to come.

Over time, the burden of fighting your boss's essential nature will be lifted from your shoulders completely. You'll be immune. Enjoy the new you.

Dr. John Hoover, Minyanville professor and scribe of How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive Without Killing Your Boss, is a leadership coach, consultant and author on staff at Partners in Human Resources International (
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