How to Cope When Your Boss Has Less Experience Than You

People get promoted for all sorts of reasons, not all of which have to do with their skills, qualifications or seniority. So if you suspect that your boss has less experience than you, you may be right.

Working under a less-experienced manager can be incredibly demoralizing, especially if your manager is an energetic, young upstart fresh out of school. So what do you do? Raise a ruckus, complain to your coworkers, or simply keep your head down? And how do you get what you need to further your own career, when you're not sure that your boss can teach you anything?

Here's how to make the most of this frustrating situation.

1. Don't Get Mad

You may never know why your manager was promoted despite their inexperience - and honestly, the reasons are not important. One person's gain is not equivalent to another person's loss - it is highly unlikely that your chances of future success will be canceled out by your boss's achievements. So, think twice before complaining about the situation. If higher-ups sense that you are badmouthing their choices, it's going to reflect badly on you. Plus, you risk creating friction between yourself and your manager, making it harder for you to build a productive workplace relationship.

2. Find Something to Respect

You may have more technical experience than your boss, but even less-qualified managers bring something to the table. Are they great at negotiating, or can they sweet talk clients like a politician? Are they cool in a crisis, a creative genius, a motivational guru? If you shift your focus away from your boss's experience, you may be surprised by the qualities they do possess. There are very few people who you can't learn something from, so try not to write off your boss completely.

3. Focus on Your Own Strengths

Everyone has a role within their enterprise. As the voice of experience, your job is to solve problems, guide those less able than you, and deliver consistent results. Your boss's job is to be the brilliant hot shot who may or may not stumble when top-level responsibility comes their way. Focus on your own strengths and use your wisdom to do what's best for your career.

4. Make Your Boss Look Good

So you've been around the block a few times. Does your boss know this? If not, step up to the plate and give them the opportunity to learn from your experience. Offering to bring your boss up to speed when they are struggling with a task or an idea shows that you are a key team player, and can be relied upon to make everyone's jobs easier in the long run.

5. But Don't Become Their Surrogate

There's a difference between helping out a rookie boss and taking the fall for their lack of experience. Covering up his or her gaffes sets a dangerous precedent. You may end up doing your boss's job as well as your own, or you may become your boss's surrogate for fixing up their messes. This can be damaging to your career and the organization, especially if your boss's ineptitude becomes intertwined with your own performance.

The bottom line is, focus on doing your own job well. Help where you can, deliver what is asked of you, and keep your cool. Taking a collaborative, rather than combative, approach can help you focus on the positives of having a less experienced boss - things such as dynamism, fresh ideas and new perspectives - and reinforce your own esteemed position in the workplace.

Have you ever had a boss who was less experienced than you? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments!

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writer and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. She lives with her ENTX husband and children in Yorkshire, UK, where she drinks a lot of tea and loves winding people up. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.


Guest (not verified) says...

My Boss Bad experiences has always turned out the worst for me. While I have been doing what you have advised in the article, by cooperating and doing my best, the boss has, with out my knowledge nor consent, never revealed to senior management that I was the positive effect. Instead, they have hidden the truth and profited from my work ethic, and even worse blamed me for any related errors. Twisting the truth and claiming I have been the problem, thus having me removed from the business. One time this happened while I was on a months holiday. I was a star performer, exceeding targets consistently over the previous 10 months, but my boss of 3 months, twisted the truth and I returned from 6 weeks leave to be dismissed on my first day back.
So my advice is watch your back, as a bad boss has power over you, and they will use it to their own advantage.

Trudy5 (not verified) says...

Entirely agree. Same here. My boss took all the my success to his advantage. Twisted all and I, who did all the work became invisible.

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