How to work more effectively with a poorly-trained boss or manager.

Introduction

When you find yourself working for a bad boss, it can be tempting to just give up and leave. But you don't have to. It's not always their fault — if they seem like a good person, they probably just haven't been trained properly or guided through the process of figuring out what makes a good manager.

If your boss is poorly trained, there are things you can do to help them improve their management style. You'll also be helping yourself out in the process — because a better manager means less stress on you and your co-workers.

Here are some strategies for working with a boss who hasn't been properly trained:

Put yourself in your boss' shoes

A poorly-trained boss is often unaware that they could be managing their team better. Sometimes they've only ever worked for bad bosses themselves, and in their eyes, are trying to do a better job at leading than they did. On top of this, employees rarely point out their boss' shortcomings — and understandably so — but without feedback, how is a leader supposed to better understand the needs of their team?

These things are important to understand because it makes you more empathetic towards your boss and also helps you avoid getting frustrated by their leadership style.

Approach them openly & honestly

Take an active role in helping them improve their management style by letting them know what's on your mind, where they're possibly going wrong and how they can improve things for everyone involved.

There's a right way to go about this. You should approach them openly and honestly, as a fellow human being or friend. Invite them for a coffee to discuss some 'thoughts you've had on how you can work together to improve the effectiveness of the team, and drive better results'. This should be a honest and rational conversation about what's going on, the things you and your co-workers are struggling with, and how you can collaborate with your boss to resolve them.

It's also worth mentioning the things you think your boss does well, as they may repeat more of those behaviours, for example:

"When you give us that last push at the end of the week, I notice that we all respond well to that — sometimes we need your motivation to get us through."

"Your optimism has a really big impact on the team, when you're confident in us, and the goals we're working toward, we feel a lot more security in what we're doing, and know it's serving a purpose. It's one of the main things that helps us see you as our leader"

When you have this conversation with your boss, you're not only helping them, you're helping your team, and helping yourself on two fronts:

  1. You'll experience less unneeded stress at work, leading to better performance in your team overall.
  2. If your boss goes on to succeed and get a promotion, they'll likely think of (and recommend) you to take their old position.

Reflect on how they respond

If you take this approach with your boss, look at how they respond. If they take well to your feedback, are grateful, and start actioning ideas from the meeting, then great! This is the type of person you want to work with. Thanks to your help, in a few months time, your poorly-trained boss could become a first-class leader!

If they don't take well to it, consider giving them a little time. They may just feel disappointed in themselves and need some time to think it over. But if they hold a grudge against you, make your work-life more difficult, or take offence to the whole thing, you may be dealing with a toxic boss — more on how to deal with them here.

Conclusion

Remember, not all bad bosses are bad people - sometimes they just need some help and support from their team. You can become the person they'll look to for an honest opinion, and this will benefit you in the long run. Working well is about collaboration - think about the ways you can drive collaboration in your team, and pass them onto your boss!

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