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When The Boss Is An Imbecile

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/08/2017 | 11:19 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


We find ourselves in this uncomfortable situation all too often. And, the Chucklehead-in-Charge is, sadly, not a caricature drawn from the comics and the adventures of put-upon Dilbert.

So, what can/should you do? How can you confront the human floater in the punchbowl? How can you pull off an end-around and get to someone close to the top and nearer to a room temperature IQ?

First, foremost, and absolutely mandatory, document detailed, factual, and dispassionate examples and cases, with outcomes and impacts. Do this whether escalating the issue or confronting the miscreant directly.

Begin with contact and constructive conversation with the problem individual. Try to work things out. A later escalation might not look good for you if you've not tried (and documented). It might not work with a 25-watt HR staffer or a boss with dementia, but it might with a peer—and is worth the ol' college try in any event. Let—ask—the individual, either the problem or the perceived solution, to pick a time to talk, increasing comfort and decreasing implied threats or awkwardness.

Go off-site, lunch, coffee, whatever (not drinks) to a neutral site (reduced threat) where open communication is unlikely to spill over into the next cubicle, office, or lunch table.

Position impacts of incompetence as impacts on you, your objectives, and your leaders' expectations. Do not accuse the moron with "you always" complaints or give your leaders the impression that you are out gunning for the problem child.

Bring help into the discussion, whether asking for help to get your job done, or offering help to make the boss—and/or the enterprise—look better. In any setting—with the boss or up the ladder—ask for solution ideas, for a mentor, for a multi-level meeting, whatever is appropriate to continue, or to look for, positive solutions.

At all times, and in all settings, be gentle, be discreet, be sensitive, be empathetic.

Listen as if your job depends on it—it does.

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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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