Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | What do you do when your boss is a doofus?

Published:Wednesday | May 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM

After talking down a friend recently from the brink of a prison sentence, I found it necessary to address an issue an issue far too many of us have had to face, with no idea how to deal with it without being rude to someone. You step into a new work environment brimming with the pregnant expectation that your boss will be awesome. You envision him/her as this vestibule of knowledge that will just pour teachings into you with every day you two interact.

You anticipate many moments of pure awe listening to them, and part of the reason you took the job in the first place was for your own personal learning and growth; and who better to learn from than your boss?

And then soon into the tenure, you realise that your new boss is just plain daft. You quickly begin to wonder how in the world they qualified for the big title, big office, and even bigger salary. And it makes your every workweek 40 hours of raw frustration.

We've all been there. Here are a few tips from friends that will make it bearable.


1. Don't gossip. Ever.


One thing's for sure about most managers. They keep their ears close to the ground. Many unqualified bosses know they don't belong there. It raises issues of insecurity that and paranoia that keep them close to the rumour mill. And anything you say will get back to them. Stay clear of that train wreck and don't become a casualty. Don't bother complaining above their heads either. This rarely ever works, and puts you on senior management's radar for all the wrong reasons. Let your work get you noticed; not your whines.


2. Learn to manage your boss.


Your boss' success really is the team's success. If you identify glaring gaps in the competence of your boss, be his complement. Gently refocus him or her where you can and offer to use your complementary skills more on projects you do together.


3. Stay professional.


A broken clock is right twice every day. Same may be true for the not-so-bright boss. It may be difficult to wade through the seas of senseless rhetoric, but you must. Even not-so-perfect leaders have something to teach. At the very least, that lesson can be how not to behave when in a position of leadership. So make an effort not to discount everything they say.


4. At some point, we may all know more than our bosses.


The reality is that as people move up the ladder, the dynamics of their skill sets change. Naturally, they (should) become better at leadership, strategy and people management. However, their technical knowledge may be less than younger, brighter, fresh-out-of-college workers like you.

And that's OK. Having been exposed to more modern industry knowledge doesn't necessarily make you smarter. It just means you have different strengths. Don't dim your light, so that you won't show up your boss. That light is possibly why you got hired in the first place.

Turns out there's actually a book called How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive without Killing Your Boss, by Dr John Hoover. It may be worth getting your hands on a copy and giving it a read. Bottom line is like it or not, the not-so-bright boss is still in charge of you. The smart employee will play along.

Unless the boss is stupid and rude. If they're rude on top of it all, don't even bother. Start job hunting.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.