Working a professional career is demanding. There is a lot of pressure and there are high expectations to deliver results.
And that is only compounded when you have a toxic boss that consistently makes you feel incompetent.
So what do you do if you find yourself in that situation?
This article unpacks what to do when your boss makes you feel incompetent and brings together advice from top career experts to guide you on the best course of action.
Let’s dive in.
What Should You Do When Your Boss Makes You Feel Incompetent?
There are two key things that you should do when your boss makes you feel incompetent. First, assess the situation objectively to understand if there is truth in what they’re saying.
Secondly, if your boss is being unfair, or even if they are being fair but are presenting their feedback in an unprofessional way, you’ll want to have a professional conversation with them about your concerns.
Take a look at comments from a couple of CEOs that unpack that recommendation further:
Daniel Pfeffer, CEO, Keysearch:
“It’s important to first take a step back and assess the situation objectively. If you believe the boss is genuinely trying to help you improve, then try and stay open-minded and see it as an opportunity to grow.
But, if you continually feel incompetent based on his baseless criticism, try to have a constructive conversation with him about how the feedback makes you feel. Another option is to talk to human resources for more guidance.”
Peter Michaels, CEO, Yeespy Technology Co:
“When your boss makes you feel incompetent, knowing how to react can be difficult.
First, try to take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Are there specific areas where your performance could be improved? If so, address these issues proactively by seeking feedback and improving your skills.
If your boss is unfairly criticizing you or not providing the support you need to succeed, having a frank conversation with them about your concerns may be helpful. Be clear about your expectations and ask for specific feedback on improving. Remember to remain professional and avoid getting defensive or aggressive.”
What Should You Say to Your Boss When They Make You Feel Incompetent?
When it comes to communicating with a boss that makes you feel incompetent, you’ll want to approach that conversation with professionalism.
You need to communicate how their actions make you feel, but do so in a professional manner. During that conversation, you’ll need to maintain composure and courtesy.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you listen to the content of what your boss may have to say as you’re having the conversation with them. Even if they’re taking the wrong approach in their communication style, there may be truth to their feedback that could help you get better.
Take a look at the suggestions from a couple of executives for more detail:
Alice Hall, Co-Founder & Creative Director at Rowen Homes:
“After you have determined the source of the issue, it is imperative that you discuss with your supervisor how the actions of that individual make you feel. In all of your interactions with others, strive to maintain composure, courtesy, and specificity. Avoid using language that is accusatory or places blame, and instead concentrate on the behavior or activity that is leading to the problem.
For instance, you could say something along the lines of, I’ve observed that you frequently criticize my work in front of other people, and it’s making me feel like I’m not doing a good job. I’d be grateful if you could provide some comments to me in confidence and guide me through the process of figuring out how I can get better.
It is critical that you take into consideration the viewpoint of your manager. They may be unaware that the way they behave is upsetting you, or it’s also possible that their expectations are different from yours. Find a way to agree with one another and put your heads together to come up with a solution that will benefit both of you.”
Matt Erhard, Managing Partner, Summit Search Group:
“My best advice here is to keep the focus on the specific situation that made you feel this way and use “I” language rather than “you” language as much as possible. Tell them the specific words they said or tone they used that made you feel they were calling you incompetent, and avoid any sweeping generalizations or criticisms like “you always say…”
It can also help to clarify why that made you feel incompetent, and suggest any alternative ways you can think of that they could provide more productive criticism or feedback in the future.”
How Do You Tell If Your Are Being Pushed Out Of A Job?
Executives do regularly push employees out of their jobs rather than firing them outright.
Typically when an executive wants to push an employee out of their job, there are tell-tale signs. Look for unreasonable expectations that apply only to you and not your co-workers.
For example, if your boss gives you a larger workload, shortens your deadlines, or micromanages you significantly more than your co-workers, then those are strong indications you’re being pushed out.
In some cases, your boss might do the exact opposite. They might give you very little to work on, lengthen your deadlines so you get bored, and never manage your work because they know it’s just busy work. The strategy may be to bore you to the point where you’re underchallenged and you know you’re not advancing in your career, so you choose to leave.
Whether your boss overloads you or tries to bore you out, the common denominator is that you’ll see a consistent and significant difference between what they expect from you versus your co-workers.
The above content was provided by Chas Cooper, CEO, Luminos (publisher of the career development site, Acendance)
For additional information on the topic, take a look at the most common signs that you boss wants you to leave.
Having a boss that makes you feel incompetent can be a stressful and difficult situation.
Frankly, it’s a situation that is likely to impact you beyond just work and the stress can cascade into your personal life as well.
If you find yourself in that situation, make sure to honestly listen for the substance of what your boss is saying for true opportunities to improve your performance. At the same time, be sure to professionally stand up for yourself and communicate how the boss’ approach is making you feel and how you would like them to change.