Have you ever worked with someone that was incompetent but you could do nothing about it? Well, this pretty much summs up my problem and I'm wondering if there's anything I can do about it.

Here's the situation. I do a lot of cross-department projects, involving sales, marketing, development, etc. so I get to work with several different managers. More recently I've been working more closely with the head of one department in particular and have realized that this guy is worthless. Here are a few of my concerns about him:

- He never makes a decision. He is always trying to get you to decide something for him, even if it has nothing to do with your area. In the rare case where he decides something, if it turns out to have been a bad decision he changes his stance and says that it wasn't his decision.

- He takes credit for ideas even when they were not his ideas.

- He doesn't back you up. In a couple of different situations where we had come up with a decision and were presenting to the CEO, at the first sight of pushback from the CEO instead of him helping me explain why we chose a certain path, he immediately sided with the CEO as if he had never worked in the project.

- He doesn't know his business/department. This became clear after several meetings we had where he had to ask someone on his staff for the data because he didn't know the answer to some basic metrics he should be tracking religiously and is being measured against.

- He is always trying to get out of doing any kind of work. If there's something that needs to get done, he tries to get other people to do the work. Now, this is a very interesting "skill" he has, not sure how he does it but somehow afteer we discuss what needs to be done, everyone has an item on their list and he doesn't. Is funny a couple of times, but has become the norm. And if he ends up with anything on his plate, the result is so bad you have to basically redo.

These are just the most glaring examples of what's bothering me latetly. People that work with him have also complained to me about similar things.

My problem is that he doesn't work for me, otherwise he would have been fired ages ago. And he's one level higher than I am in the org chart.

Any suggestions?


jhack's picture

You need to take your game up a level.

You "do...cross-departmental projects." So make sure you document who is to do what by when. And get him to commit. And if he won't you take it the project sponsor. And if he does, you hold him to his commitments.

Over time, real performance will be noticed.

Trying to get rid of him will distract you from your teams and the company's objectives. It may seem satisfying, but in the end, you will both lose out.


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


Focus on your results and the performance of your team. Like jhack indicates, over time people notice.

As your career progresses, relationships become increasingly important. Do not let toxic feelings dominate your thinking.

Norwood's picture

Thanks for the advice. I did think that someone would notice, but so far it hasn't happened and my frustration grows. I thought about calling his boss directly to let him know but I decided against it since I didn't want to overstep my boundaries.

On one hand I keep thinking that people will eventually notice it but on the other hand I also think about the company and that it would benefit the company if this person wasn't working here. I guess sometimes you just need to let things take their course.

HMac's picture

***Don't speak of this to anyone in the organization****

Not to higher-ups; not to HR; absolutely not to peers, and you're suicidal if you're mentioning or intimating this to anyone below you.

Regardless of whether you're "right" - you risk appearing jealous, or like a meddler, or like someone who can't stick to his own departmental business. Again, I'm not challenging your diagnosis at all - you just run the risk of setting yourself up to be viewed negatively within your organization.

Sorry -that's life. And outside of Hollywood, not many people really like "whistle-blowers."

Focus your efforts on what makes the most contribution to your organization. And if in the long run that doesn't succeed for you, then look for other organizations.


mdave's picture

Use the three Ps to your advantate. PERFORMANCE -- exceed expectations for everything that you do. PERCEPTION -- Keep to the high road, mind your business, and let people recognize that you are an asset to your company. The heck with him. POLITICS: Keep out of it. If it is as bad as you describe then its likely that people have noticed. He may be the elephant in the room for a reason. Eventually, he'll step on himself, its imperetive that you do not step on yourself while trying to do it for him....Remember --people rarely get into difficulty for things they do not say. Good luck wth your situation.

RobRedmond's picture

I recommend you listen to the basics podcasts:

You are treking down a path you do not wish to go down. In those podcasts are concepts that will take you in a different direction:

* Focus on behavior, not conclusions
* Focus on your team, not other people's reports
* The solution to any problem can be found if you begin your search in increasing concentric circles beginning with your own desk

Take your eyes off of this guy and get them back on your goals.

Besides, you may be misinterpreting what you see.

- He never makes a decision. He is always trying to get you to decide something for him

He could be trying to include others in the decision making process. He could be trying to develop others to have the ability to make decisions.

- He takes credit for ideas even when they were not his ideas.

The manager of a team often takes credit for his team's ideas. It's not what MT managers do - we hold our people up for their successes and give them credit, but technically a manager does work through other people and may present a collaborative effort as theirs. It's not purely evil. It's just not very evolved.

- He doesn't back you up.

Sounds like here he saw which way the wind was blowing. Arguing with the CEO is not a good idea. Once you think you are going to lose, it is good strategy to surrender before you suffer the defeat. Being defeated makes you look weak and helpless. Surrendering makes you look magnanimous. It's not like on TV where everyone holds to their dearest principles. In business, you have to be careful which battles you pick to fight.

he had to ask someone on his staff for the data because he didn't know the answer to some basic metrics he should be tracking religiously

Perhaps - or maybe he delegated the task to someone else and you saw him without his latest report in a couple of instances. Maybe you didn't see the others.

he tries to get other people to do the work. Now, this is a very interesting "skill" he has, not sure how he does it

-Rob Redmond

terrih's picture

I agree with what Rob just said.

And if the guy really is incompetent, don't assume you are the only one noticing, just because no one is talking to YOU about it.

Maybe the guy's boss is working a coaching program with him. You have no way of knowing. Or if the boss is a non-MT boss, maybe he's on the verge of being fed up.

It's a slight misapplication, but I think Horstman's Law #3 works here, to wit-- You're not that smart; they're not that dumb.

Norwood's picture


At first, I did think I was misinterpreting the situation, until I started seeing the same things happen again and again. Not only that, but now another manager came to me asking for advice because he is feeling the same frustrations! Which tells me I'm not the only one that realizes this is happening.

Which goes to what Terrih said, "don't assume you are the only one noticing". Eventually more people will notice it either, right?

Oh well, nothing I can do I guess, but it is frustrating!

Thanks guys for your comments.

US41's picture

Your situation is not frustrating. It is simply happening. You are doing all of the frustration all by yourself. Choose not to.


Norwood's picture

Wise words, US41! You are completely right.

Stress management 101 :)

thanks for reminding me.


jchase's picture

I read this post and saw one of my managers on the screen! Wow...
Sometimes I forget that I am not the only one in these positions.

In my case, a lot of the differences were explained when I went back and listened to the DISC podcasts again. I remembered that I am a high-C/high-D and he is a high-I, which really contributed to my view of his perceived incompetance. I wanted him to be more task-oriented (like me), make decisions and stand by them (like me), and know the details of the business intricately (like me). My frustration grew the longer I wanted him to be like me!

I had to take a step back and let go a lot. I stood back and let him manage how he was going to manage, and focused on my team and performance. I totally understand your feeling that no one will notice, but I've found the key to my frustration isn't whether or not someone notices his competance, but mine! I actually turned it around and fed my own fire to make a bigger splash with positive results. I can't control his success (much), but I can influence my own. Believe me, I care about the team and him, but my energy is much better spent focusing on my team's succcess than his. I do my part and the rest is his job.