We’ve all worked with bosses who are insecure about their abilities. They will not tell you why they are insecure, but the signs are evident. Working for a manager who lacks confidence is difficult, if not impossible. These are usually the managers who focus on technique, micro-manage, and spend most of their time trying to catch you do things wrong. That is how they determine their value because leadership is a foreign concept to them.
Here are 10 signs that you might observe:
(1) You do something right, but you never hear from your boss. An insecure boss feels that praising you makes him weaker.
(2) A mistake is observed in a report, and the boss fails to assume any accountability. Instead, the insecure boss will blame his staff.
(3) A loose deadline suddenly becomes a hard due date. For example, you have an informal discussion with your boss about a deliverable which is due sometime in the near future. Your boss goes to a meeting where he is told that the work is needed immediately. Instead of negotiating for a later date, or offering to help you, an email arrives in your Inbox asking why you are late.
(4) A verbal agreement is ignored. You agree with your boss regarding a date for your vacation. At a later meeting, your boss informs you that he cannot remember the discussion, or that he now needs you at work. He also wonders out loud why you cannot easily change the flight date.
(5) Most of the correspondence is done in writing. While email is a popular method of corresponding, the insecure boss uses email to prove a point, or as a tool to verify that you failed to deliver as expected. For example, “Sara, the report is now two days late. Explain.” A confident boss, on the other hand, will work with you to ensure the report is done on time. Everyone wins!
(6) The insecure boss looks to develop working relationships with subpar employees. This type of boss finds it hard to interact with go-getters. It is easier for him to hang out with employees who are stagnant, especially since he believes they do not pose a direct threat.
(7) The insecure boss over-delegates. Part of being insecure is the lack of competence, which means that he needs to have others do the work. This is an excellent strategy for an incompetent boss because he can blame others for work that fails to meet expectations. Of course, if good work is done, he will take full credit.
(8) The insecure boss prefers to report facts, and not trends and forecasts. In other words, bosses who lack confidence will avoid going out on a limb. They are afraid of making mistakes.
(9) Insecure bosses love meetings. Having meetings appears to be work, and these bosses want to look busy, as if they are doing something productive. The meetings usually contain information you can share via email, such as status reports.
(10) Insecure bosses are more focused on their appearance. Because they are mostly incompetent, they tend to dress well to masquerade their poor leadership skills.
When working with an incompetent boss, make sure that you are clear regarding expectations. You want to know exactly what is due from you. Take the time to review how you will be evaluated, and document any area where you need assistance. If you feel the insecure manager will keep you from realizing your goals, look to find a different position either within your company or externally. You will not be the first one who observed the signs of insecurity.