Sun | Oct 23, 2016

What to do if you're smarter than your boss

Published:Wednesday | February 6, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career writer

Glenford Smith,  Career writer

Don't laugh, but I've been there, having people I supervise being smarter than me, that is. They weren't smarter in every sense, mind you, but in the area where it mattered most, the job. They were more experienced and knowledgeable in important areas.

In my case, I had to be humble, admit my ignorance, ask questions and respect my subordinates' knowledge so we could work together effectively.

But what if you are the one who is smarter than your boss? What if he or she gives you impracticable instructions then blames you when mistakes are made? What if you try your best, based on your knowledge and experience, to show them that their idea won't work, but they go ahead and then deny any responsibility when their idea blows up in their face?

If you believe that compared to your boss, you're Albert Einstein, then here's what you should keep in mind: You might have more knowledge, but he or she has the power and authority.

In common parlance, you're holding the razor-sharp blade, but they have the handle.

Yes, you may be a genius, but what good will that do when you alienate yourself by being arrogant, overbearing and an obnoxious show-off?

No matter how dumb your boss is, he or she will appreciate having someone knowledgeable whom he or she can rely upon.

They just won't take too kindly to you showing them up as incompetent, uninformed or out of touch, however. They won't tell you this either. That would be admitting that you're smarter than them.

They might find subtle ways to victimise, sideline and sabotage you. Furthermore, no matter how smart you are, you will make a mistake at some point, which they may use as an excuse to fire, demote or suspend you. It's true, they should not, but human nature being what it is, that is likely to happen.

how to handle it

So, if you're really as smart as you believe you are, make it your job to be your boss's most valued ally.

Here are some keys to make this happen:

1. Never argue with, contradict or correct your boss in public. You'll feel great at showing others how smart you are, but will embarrass your boss. He or she will resent it and get back at you. If you must point out a mistake, do so without making them look bad or being confrontational.

2. Learn effective communication techniques. If you must point out your boss's mistake or ignorance, say:, 'Your idea is a good one and I see how it can work. What do you think will happen when so and so ... ?'.

Lead him or her to realise the undesirable consequences of implementing their idea, rather than saying, "you're wrong, I don't agree, or that's a terrible idea".

3. If your boss insists on going ahead with an impracticable idea, send him or her a brief email: 'Thanks for listening to my suggestion at the meeting. I just want you to know that I understand why you disagreed with it. Be assured that you can depend upon me to support your decision'.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of the book, 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Email