Ever get that sinking feeling you may be smarter than your boss? Here are three steps in handling the situation without being a jerk or sabotaging your career.
First, be observant. You may not know—or have taken stock of—the entire situation. Perhaps your boss has other talents where yours fall short. Or perhaps you’re judging them on technical expertise alone. So much more goes into being a good manager than knowing how widgets work.
“Being smarter than your boss doesn’t mean you’re going to be more effective,” Linda Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, tells the Harvard Business Review. Perhaps they have more leadership experience, stronger relationships, better social capital, or more advanced emotional intelligence than you, she adds.
Then, check yourself. In a great pep talk video by CNBC’s Make It, leadership coach and former U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink says that following someone less experienced is easier said than done because of one thing: your ego. When your ego gets in the way, your behavior can cause massive destruction.
“That attitude is detrimental to the team, it’s detrimental to the leader, and it’s detrimental to you,” Willink explains. “What are your chances of being promoted or put on another project when you didn’t have the maturity to be humble, to take a back seat, and support the project that was being undertaken? One of the key components of being a leader is knowing how to follow.”
Typefinder offers some great tips on how to build up your boss without sabotaging your career in the process.
Finally, investigate respectfully. “Find out what is going on within the company…Listen to what changes are being planned. Maybe the plan is to train you up and then move you into the boss’ position when the boss is moved to a new challenge,” advises Lynne A. Sarikas, director of the Graduate Career Center at Northeastern University, in a university blog post.
“If the issue is getting in the way of doing your job, ask the person who hired you for some insight into what is going on,” she adds. But tread lightly. “Ask why they selected you for the position. Be tactful when asking questions, and do not ever bad mouth your boss.”