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Working for a wannabee: How to deal with an incompetent supervisor

Unless he owns the company, a bad boss is probably living on borrowed time.

Bad bosses tend to be extremely insecure and defensive people, who are more interested in covering their own butts than contributing to the bottom line. In time, real talent is hard to miss. Those who have it are likely to rise to the top. Those who do not will eventually fall away.

In their guts, bad bosses usually know this. That’s why they are so difficult! They know they are standing on shaky footing, and they know they are not all they want to be.

My worst boss was a shrill and unstable middle-level advertising executive. I was fresh out of graduate school, young and bold and ready to take on the world. I did everything I could to make our department succeed – and make her look good to the higher-ups.

Alas, the shrew stole my promotional concepts!

After the first occurrence, I began keeping detailed files and copies of everything I did. I sent confirmation memos after meetings and carbon-copied relevant parties. With a year, I was head-hunted and received a position higher than what my bad boss had.

The shrieking manager was passed over several times, as others leapfrogged their way to the corner office.

As a dynamic employee, how can you deal with a deadwood boss without derailing your own career?

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Never let a wannabee boss steal your ideas!

Document your contributions. Just as writers copyright their work, keep dated copies of everything you do. E-mail is a simple way to do this. After a brainstorming meeting, send a confirmation e-mail to the other participants, including your boss. Summarize ideas you presented, and clearly outline exactly who will be responsible for tasks that were discussed.  Save this message on your computer. It will include a date and time stamp.

Deliberately include witnesses. Avoid one-on-one brainstorming meetings with the bad boss. Whenever possible, include a third person in such sessions. Try to choose a person of strong character, who will stand on conviction, if your manager tries to claim your ideas as his own.

Deliver quality consistently. Continue to strive for creativity and excellence. Don’t let one bad boss sidetrack your career or your abilities.

Develop strategic partnerships. Cultivate high-powered allies within the organization. This will deter your bad boss from subverting your efforts. In addition, once the bad boss is removed, these relationships will serve you well. (Perhaps your bad boss’ worst nightmare will come true, and you will receive his position!)

Never cover for an incompetent boss.

Don’t do it! Instead, cover your own responsibilities, cover all the bases, cover your mouth, and cover your career.

Cover your own responsibilities. Do the job you were hired to do. If needed, draw up a written job description for your position. Keep a personal file of your own, with copies of all performance reviews.

Cover all the bases. Be an indispensable member of your department or team. Help your colleagues, and even your boss, when you are able to do so. However, you need not cover his or her shortcomings. That’s called codependency, even if your boss’ family owns the company!

Cover your mouth. Resist the urge to join in the fear-mongering, the backstabbing, the idle threats, the unsupportable ultimatums, and the office gossip. Stay out of the fray. Do not engage your inept employer in verbal volleyball. Whatever your profession, be professional. Do your job as well as you can, even under the frustrating circumstances. True talent will surface, in time!

Cover your career. Keep your resume current. Follow up on interesting job leads. Take advantage of every possible networking opportunity within your field of work and interest. Collect written letters of reference, printed emails that affirm you and your skills, thank-you memos for successful projects, and samples of your work.

Don’t cover your eyes! Be aware of changes within your organization. Be alert to the possibility that the top executives are already aware of your contributions – and your manager’s shortcomings.

Hold on! A better working environment may be coming your way sooner than you expected!

Working for a wannabee:
How to deal with an incompetent supervisor
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Is gossip a blessing or a bane, when it comes to career progress?

Most of us don’t really enjoy being the topic of others’ gossiping. It’s often mean-spirited and generally inaccurate.

In fact, plenty of people take great pains to stay out of sight, when it comes to dicey situations. This seems particularly true in instances of potentially risqué behavior.

Countless career experts counsel clearly against mixing business with pleasure, professional with social, and work life with real life.

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Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer. Only it’s not.

Some people actually do feed the frenzy on purpose. Maybe they simply enjoy being the center of attention, but sometimes it seems to run deeper than that.

I have a colleague who specializes in fueling the fires of fodder on purpose. Let’s call her Gertie – to protect her privacy, which she seems less interested in preserving.

Daily, Gertie posts extremely candid comments and statements on Facebook and other spots, highlighting her serial dating adventures and showcasing her self-proclaimed “bad behavior.” Her profile photo series includes an ever-increasing collection of “come hither” self-portraits.

On her career how-to blog, Gertie even writes about her shall-we-say social networking strategy as a means of drumming up attention for her own websites, instructing other web hosts to follow suit. 

Hey, it seems to work. Fellow web hosts and bloggers are gossiping about Gertie in online groups and even including links to her posts. 

Granted, one of Gertie’s websites is a celebrity gossip spot. Maybe personal gossip goes with the territory for readers. And maybe self-disclosure isn’t really gossip, which tends to target other people instead.

Apparently, Gertie is writing a roman a clef to detail her exploits. OK, so maybe she’s luring readers with her colorful status updates and racy photographs.

Perhaps Gertie is onto something.

On the other hand, what happens if Gertie someday seeks to apply for a company job?

If you were a potential employer, would you hire Gertie, if you read her blog or her book or her purposefully provocative posts? Would you take her seriously, disregarding her self-disclosed private life?

How important is a professional demeanor, while a person is on his or her own time?

Can the gossip grapevine help your career at all?
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Would you hire an achiever, a dream weaver or an eager beaver?

Maybe it takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round. But in the workplace, different strokes may throw a cog into the works, if people aren't paying attention.

American humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910) pointed to such diverse personal characteristics, when he said:

“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

Maybe Twain was right. Surely, anyone who has pored over a padded resume or endured endless name-dropping will agree with the gist of the statement.

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But perhaps there are actually three basic kinds of people, when it comes to human resources and employment selection. Maybe these include the achiever, the dream weaver, and the eager beaver.

What sort of candidate would you prefer to hire, given the choice?

Who would you rather have on your team? Would you prefer the doer, who brings a wealth of quantifiable experience to the job? Would you pick the visionary, who brainstorms big-bang solutions to any potential problem? Or would you select the highly motivated, but perhaps somewhat green-behind-the-ears person, who comes packed with potential?

The first might require specific direction and authoritative management. The second will surely take some grounding, coupled with a solid dose of reality. And the third may need considerable training and guidance.

Having addressed this question, what type of employee might you be?

Knowing your own niche, how might this insight help you to position yourself for success in the workplace?

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Going off online: 10 ways to sabotage your own career online

Can a person’s online behavior affect his or her on-the-job status and employment security? You bet it can.

Networking is king in today’s career planning, employment advancement, and job hunting. Ask any employment expert or corporate recruiter. A savvy individual can realize considerable career advantages over peers through strategic participation in popular online communities. At the same time, one casual comment can wreak havoc on one’s working status and future employability.

What are the most off-putting posts an intentional careerist should avoid?

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Here are 10 surefire career-sinking bombs often found on online social networking sites.

Quips, casual queries, and thoughtless remarks can prove professionally perilous. Consider these potentially career-sabotaging examples.

1. Off-the-cuff

Knee-jerk responses and emotional remarks may help diffuse immediate frustration, but such public postings can be dangerous. Katie, an accounting manager at a Midwestern insurance agency, learned this firsthand. “My boss is a philandering jerk,” she said on her online dating site profile. “Don’t be like him, if you want a call-back.”

Sure, she used a fake name on her dating page. But someone showed her supervisor a screenshot, and he recognized her photo.

2. Off-the-wall

Who doesn’t chuckle at sarcastic cartoons that bounce around Facebook? From politics to religion, issues to celebrity scandals, these images enjoy plenty of online sharing.

East Coast office manager Marylou tapped out an “LOL” forward on a particularly pointed pre-election poster, forgetting her ideologically opposed boss was on her friends list. She realized her unintentional gaffe during a morning meeting.

3. Off-color

Racy and raunchy jokes or images may seem harmless to some folks, when it comes to online sharing. But reputations may be tarnished by the things we pass along, as Alicia discovered. Fortunately, a wise friend privately alerted the friendly Southwestern Wisconsin bookstore manager to the breadth of her pass-along post, and Alicia deleted it.

4. Off-limits

“TMI” has become a popular acronym for too much information, as social networking has facilitated over-sharing.

Ask Nina, an employee benefits counselor in Ohio. Angry at her ex-husband, Nina posted an excerpt of a dramatic spat in an online forum, assuming the group was private. But it was not, and the repercussions spilled over into the office.

5. Off-base

Professional conflicts can spill professional poison, if shared publicly online. Zeta lost her corporate administrative assistant position in Tucson after Tweeting a rant against a popular manager in her department.

6. Off the top of one’s head

Typographical errors, misspellings, and grammatical goofs may seem acceptable in casual online conversations, but these may also be perceived as sloppiness. Carla, a social studies teacher in Des Moines, was surprised when her principal questioned her grasp of the English language, citing her recent Facebook posts.

Online posts may be casual, but smart careerists keep comments cogent.

7. Off-kilter

Stream-of-consciousness writing comes and goes in literature, but it proves daunting in social networking. Meandering thoughts paint questionable perceptions of mental acuity, particularly if potential bosses or current higher-ups are reading.

“She’s a zombie. She wants to eat my soul,” Lily captioned under a photo of her cat. The following day, the Minneapolis cashier was puzzled to find coworkers eying her curiously.

8. Off-the-record

Investigative reporters may allow strategic sources to speak candidly without fear of exposure, but this is seldom the case with online postings. The internet puts everything on the record. Even deleted comments or photos may be stored somewhere as screenshots.

Paula, a Houston child care provider, put up an exasperated “These kids are driving me nuts” post, but took it off a few minutes later. How could she have guessed one of her charges’ parents was online to see her momentary rant?

9. Off the charts

Everyone loves success, but coworkers may resent those who paint a too-perfect picture. Minnie unwittingly offended colleagues by repeatedly trumpeting her kids’ academic and athletic successes online. “It’s like a daily overdone holiday brag letter,” a fellow Seattle sales clerk confided.

Can exaggerated personal successes block on-the-job advancement? Minnie wondered, when she was skipped for a promotion.

10. Off-line or off-schedule

Social networking can lead to helpful career connections, but it takes consistency. Sporadic hit-and-run posts rarely form strategic relationships.

Worse, prolific posts during working hours is generally a workplace taboo. Imagine trying to ask the boss for a performance raise, only to have him or her ask about all those workday interactions on popular websites. 

Here’s another key concern for online posters.

Inter-site linking may conveniently insert posts simultaneously in multiple sites. It’s easy to forget that a zingy Tweet may also appear on Linked-In, Facebook, blog sidebars, and other spots where existing and potential employers may see it and cringe.

Social networking can be a super strategy for career networking, or it can blow up in one’s own face. It all depends on what one is posting … and who is paying attention.

Wile E Coyote 
vintage cartoon screenshot

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