Help My Boss is an Idiot! 5 Steps to Freedom

Hey everyone! I started writing this post and it just kept coming! I separated it into 4 posts so you can take your time considering the advice and perspective it offers. Each post ends with a bit of developmental work for you to do. Enjoy! Feel free to post a comment on what you learn from the assignments!


Help my boss is an idiot! 5 steps to freedom: Part 1

I think we have all met him. The boss so focused on themselves that they forget what leadership really is about. They demand the impossible, they couldn’t care a less about us, they steal the glory and praise, they give unfair reviews. Yes they are out there, idiot bosses.

Now let’s talk about how to deal with the idiots.

Step 1: Confirm that they are the problem

Step 2: Understand what they want

Step 3: Can you, with integrity, give it to them?

Step 4: Decide

Step 5: Move beyond

Step 1: Are they the Problem Really??

The first thing we must do is to honestly figure out if the boss is the real problem. Unfortunately criticizing those in leadership positions is a very popular armchair sport. Many employees prefer to criticize from the comfort of their cubicle rather than take the risk to try to do better themselves. Such employees serve no positive purpose in their criticism since they actually are simply wasting company resources (paid time) to complain and in the process bring morale down. There are many ways in which the employee is actually the problem.

Are you a complainer?

If you do an honest self-assessment and find that you focus more on the negative than on the positive you might be the problem. Organizations need “can do” people not “can’t do” people.

Do you lack confidence in yourself?

Another area of self-assessment is to ask whether your attitude is impacted by a lack of self-confidence. People who lack confidence will find critical feedback devastating and can easily shut down as a result. Whether your boss knows how to give feedback correctly or not you need performance feedback to do your best. Developing Leaders has a number of training programs that incorporate how to give feedback such that it actually works.

Are you immature?

This can manifest in so many ways. Here is my opinion, not as a psychological expert, just me. Here are some common examples I have seen throughout my career:

  1. Excessive emotional outbursts in the face of criticism or rejection,
  2. Overcompensating for a weak self-image with an aggressive stance (think bully behavior),
  3. Feeling that you are entitled to anything and or everything,
  4. Thinking everyone in the organization should receive the same benefit regardless of contribution
  5. Lacking integrity using deception and selfishness to manipulate
  6. Unwilling to take responsibility for your own decisions.

I have seen each of these behaviors in the workplace. Each is destructive and frankly not a reason to call your boss an idiot.


Funny thing about each of these, the person who suffers from one or more isn’t likely reading this article. Second they will be the first to deny that they exhibit these behaviors. After all it’s the other person who is in the wrong regardless of the circumstance. The real way to gain perspective on these conditions is to seek feedback. First feedback from trusted friends who will be honest, but hopefully gentle, then from business colleagues who will be even more honest as you seek to improve. Bottom line: finding these behavioral patterns is not easy for someone to complete without assistance. There is another way of course, and that is to hire a coach to help you uncover these patterns and change your behavior.

Okay so let’s assume that you have done the self-evaluation and determined that to the best of your knowledge you are not the problem. What steps can you take to gain some certainty that your boss may be the problem? Consider the following questions:

  1. Do other employees complain about the boss?
  2. Does the boss’s area underperform or at best just hit targets?
  3. Is the boss considered a “micromanager”?
  4. Is the boss an absentee landlord until the rent is due, so to speak?
  5. Does the boss expect you to perform differently / better than they perform?
  6. Does the boss speak negatively about employees in front of others?
  7. Is the boss open to feedback?
  8. Would the boss retaliate if criticized?
  9. Does the boss seek and maintain perks no one else gets (reserved parking spot)?
  10. Does the boss go to the front of the line for any company perk or event?

If you can honestly answer yes to at least five of these questions, then chances are good that the boss may be the problem. Some of these questions are more destructive than others to employee morale, but in the long run all will create a level of disengagement with employees. All these questions are potential signs that your boss lacks the foundational qualities that will enable them to lead effectively.

If you honestly answered yes 4 or fewer times (especially if the yeses were all on the first 5 questions) perhaps you will want to revisit the section above about yourself or simply recognize that your boss is just a person like you doing their best with incomplete knowledge and abilities.

Okay that’s the end of the first post. Your homework?

First look in the mirror and answer the questions if you are the problem. If you are let’s talk about a coaching program that can help you improve your performance. Contact us at

If you are not the problem, evaluate your boss. Whatever you do: DO NOT ask your boss these questions!

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