Incompetent bosses: your dilemmas answered

14 March 2018 -

Frustrated employee

Lesley Cowley OBE and Haleema Baker-Mir advise middle managers on how to tackle issues with their superiors

Flexible working hours

My manager has been granted flexible working hours, but refuses to grant me the same privileges, as she says it’s important that I am in the office. What can I do?

Lesley: Managers have to meet business needs. Try to understand why your manager feels it is important you are in the office. Then think about how you could solve the issues they think will arise when you are not there. If you have specific product knowledge, say, then you could offer to train others and produce a crib sheet. You might also propose a trial of flexible working, such as a 30-minute change to your start time for a week, so you can both see how it would work.

Limited technical training

I do not feel I have received enough technical training, but budgets have been cut. What is the best way for me to make a case to receive more?

Haleema: Return on investment is key for any business. I would recommend costing up the worst-case scenario. Compare the cost of outsourcing the completion of the task versus how much it will cost for you to be trained. Then show the return on investment: how many times you have to complete the task before the cost of training has been covered.

Lesley: Come up with ways in which you might get the training for free or at a much-reduced cost. Could you shadow someone else who has the skills? Are there skills that you have that others might need, so that you could set up a free knowledge exchange? Are you a member of a professional body that might be able to direct you to free materials or other members who could help you? Don’t forget to search for free training courses online too.

No pay rise

I was denied a pay rise while my co-worker seems to have received favourable treatment. In light of Equal Pay Day, should I speak to my co-worker to ascertain the facts?

Lesley: Your perception of the situation may be different from reality. Have an open conversation with your manager about what you need to achieve in order to be awarded a pay rise next time.

Delegation and accountability

My manager gives me a huge amount of responsibility, but refuses to be accountable for any decisions we make as a team. How can I push back without looking unwilling to do my job?

Lesley: A good manager will delegate to competent people with potential and talent, so take this an opportunity to develop your own career. But it does not follow that the manager also delegates accountability. Communication between your manager and the team could be improved, so they are aware of the decisions being made.

Team diversity

My boss often hires employees who are from a similar background to him, and recently offered an exciting role to a family friend. How can I increase the diversity of our team without offending him?

Haleema: Be very factual here and use the ‘OIS model’ to highlight the issue to your boss: focus on observation, impact and suggestion. For instance, say: “I can see that recently a lot of our new employees are quite alike; I think that this may actually impact our team as it may restrict our diversity of thinking, decision-making and ability to get results. Can I suggest we have someone else sit in the interviews to offer a second opinion?”

You may also want to suggest some unconscious-bias training. Lead your boss into realising the situation by facilitating a session with a coach for your team.

Lesley Cowley OBE CCMI is chair of the DVLA and Companies House, and former CEO of Nominet

Haleema Baker-Mir is a Chartered Manager Degree Apprentice at Nestlé

Image credit: Shutterstock