Scarlett Letter #135: Avoid the self-destructive “I know more than my boss knows” attitude

Do you ever get frustrated when you realize that your ideas are being squelched by your boss, against your better judgment? Do you sometimes feel as though you could perform far better than your boss if you were to step into his/her shoes? Do you have only a small modicum of respect–at best–for your boss?

Sure, somewhere along our career paths, we likely encountered a sub-optimal boss. He or she may have ‘lacked’ for any number of reasons. Especially irksome are the times when we feel that we are actually better, smarter, faster, savvier….etc. than the person we work for. The very same person that–quite likely–writes and delivers our performance reviews, determines our raises, and greatly impacts our ability to grow (or not) within the firm.

It goes without saying that if there are ethical or legal issues at play, then your ‘bad boss’ is indeed bad. But if it’s something else….something that involves your perception of your own skill sets, contributions, and potential, then I’d ask you to take another hard look before chalking your alleged bad boss up to being…well, a bad boss.

There are multiple self-destructive problems with thinking that you are better/smarter/wiser/savvier than your boss. If you are not careful, you can let it really eat at you, and your attitude can warp your own progress as a result. You may become resentful or hopeless; your own performance may no longer shine.

Remember these things:

-You don’t know the full story as to how your boss secured his/her position. Aside from nepotism and/or personal romantic relationships, there was some reason that that person got to where he/she is now. If you believe in luck, then maybe they were lucky. Maybe they were emotionally intelligent. Maybe they were great communicators, even if they were only mediocre in other key areas. Does it really matter how they got there? Nope. But what does matter is that you respect and acknowledge the fact that they got there.

Let me give you a parallel example. When you go to a contemporary art museum, and you stand in front of a painting that is perhaps a big white canvas with one tiny black square strategically placed in a corner, then do you scoff: ‘This is crap! I could have done it myself!’? If you are that kind of person, then my response to you is this: ‘Sure, you are entitled to think it’s crap. But as for claiming that you could have done it yourself…..well then I ask, why didn’t you? Why didn’t you create this piece and then network in order to get it placed into a show for public viewing? Doesn’t that, in itself, deserve some credit?’

Another example. I have a friend that created a TV show. Apparently, the premise of her show is something that others have also thought about doing: ‘Gee, I thought of that years ago. That should be my show.’ I say to those people: ‘Kudos to you for also having that great idea. It’s unfortunate that you did not take the steps to make it into a reality. Why don’t we just respect what she has done to execute her idea and realize her dream?’

The same is true with the ‘I’m smarter than my boss; I should have his job’ mentality. You may (or may not) be smarter. But he’s got the job. You don’t (yet). It doesn’t mean that you won’t. If you perform at a top-notch level, a respectable company will take notice of your work and believe me, you’ll get what you deserve. In the meantime, you’re only doing harm to yourself—plus, you’ll appear to be jealous and/or petty if you are not careful—by stating outwardly (or even inwardly) that you are smarter than you boss.

If you are so clever, then I suggest you focus your energies on ‘out-smarting’ the situation. Figure out an emotionally intelligent, diplomatic way to demonstrate these ‘smarter-than-boss’ skills and leadership abilities in your current role. Believe me, this performance will not go unnoticed provided you are working within a dynamic, attentive, forward-thinking environment. {If that does not describe your work environment, then you have other problems to worry about beyond being smarter than you boss!}

Tags: AEC boss, AEC career path, Anne Scarlett A/E Marketing, design and construction career path, linkedin, professional services marketing, professional services sales, Scarlett Consulting AEC business development

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September 02, 2010