All Articles Leadership Careers How do you handle a flawed human when he or she is your boss?

How do you handle a flawed human when he or she is your boss?

3 min read


In a blog post last week, executive coach Mary Jo Asmus made an assertion that may shock some out there — bosses are people too. Not just that, but as humans, they have flaws and make mistakes, just like the rest of us.

As logical as that sounds, it can be hard knowledge to put to practical use in the workplace. At least early on in every worker’s career, bosses are older and more experienced. It’s easy to see them the way a child sees a parent — as knowing everything and being an expert at their job.

Using that line of thinking, it’s easy to see their bungles as them being a jerk or incompetent. In reality, as Asmus points out, bosses often are just making human mistakes. They often are not even aware of what they may be doing wrong. Maybe they need that pointed out to them — gently of course. Maybe they need more training on how to be a better manager. It’s not necessarily the case that they are hopeless.

I have had that experience with plenty of bosses in the past. I thought they were rotten — either in part or on the whole — but they turned out to be people who just needed some work to be better managers.

One case was with a boss who was in her late 20s — just a few months older than I was at the time. Although we were close in age and she had just recently become a manager, she had been working at the company since college and had a lot of experience both with the organization and the subject matter we were reporting on, so I figured she knew what she was doing. She did in terms of writing and reporting the subject matter at hand, but she didn’t when it came to managing and editing other reporters.

She micromanaged and sent conflicting messages in the process. Then she became frustrated when I had trouble following what she wanted. She gave me long lists of information to include in my articles and cut much of it before publication. Then she wondered why I balked at chasing down so much information in the future. She didn’t take time to explain the basics of how they did things in the office. Then she wondered why I didn’t know that it was frowned upon to come in a bit early and leave a bit early once in awhile.

In sum it was a frustrating experience for both of us.

When I finally left that job, I had a chance to talk with her boss, who asked me questions that got at a lot of the frustrations I had been experiencing. It turns out she had concerns about my boss’ management skills too. Through our talk, we concluded she just needed some help polishing those management skills so they would be on par with her reporting skills and knowledge about the company.

The lesson I took away was that I should have done something sooner. I would have saved myself a lot of stress and sped my boss along the path to being a better manager. Sure I would have needed to be delicate in doing so, but it would have been worth it.

In the past, how have you handled a flawed human as your boss? What worked well and what could you have done better? If you are a boss, how would you like your staff to handle your flaws?

Image credit, Palto via iStock