Few Things are More Destructive Than an Insecure Boss
by Ramon Greenwood
Few things are more destructive to a career than a boss who is insecure.
Unfortunately, it is a near certainty that most people will encounter one or
more such persons along the way.
"The actions of an insecure boss will eventually create an insecure
organization, riddled with anxiety and indecision," says Ramon Greenwood, senior
career counselor at Common Sense At Work.com. "People will spend more time
looking over their shoulders than looking ahead. Good defenses become more
important than effective offenses."
Seven Traits Of An Insecure Boss
You will know your boss is suffering from an insecurity complex when he or
she is engaging in behavior highlighted by these seven such traits:
1. The boss insists on absolute control over everything in the department. He
rules with an iron hand, refusing to delegate any real authority. He doesn't
trust anyone. He has few allies. Those allies he does enlist are formed into a
tight little clique strongly obligated to his authority and dependent on it.
They live an uncertain life on a short leash.
2. The boss constantly interferes in the work of his staff. Second guesses
are the order of the day.
3. He constantly defends his position. Every question or hint of criticism is
treated as a challenge to his worth and authority. He doubts he has the respect
of his associates. Those who exhibit a mind of their own are under constant
4. The insecure boss is most often an absolute perfectionist. He will climb
the wall when you make a mistake. But look out. When he fouls up, he will blame
it on someone else. He has to be right every time.
5. He will resist making decisions. This means endless studies and return
trips to the drawing boards.
6. He will frequently remind you who is boss.
7. He finds it next to impossible to laugh at himself, but he is quick to
laugh at others.
Seven Actions You Can Take
There are no certain quick fixes, but there are seven steps that will help
mitigate the situation and advance your own interests. Actually, insecure bosses
can offer opportunities.
1. Be certain you are not contributing to your superior's low self-esteem. Do
everything you can to reassure him of your respect for his position and your
commitment to helping him do his job.
2. Shore him up at every opportunity. Learn where he feels most
insecure--where his hot buttons are--and make a special effort to be
helpful in these areas.
3. When you have to challenge him, and surely you will from time to time, be
certain to do it in a positive way. Don't question his authority. Never
challenge or criticize the boss in the presence of others.
4. Never go around your insecure boss to deal directly with his boss without
explicit approval. Make sure he realizes that you clearly understand the
hierarchical relationships. You don't want to become an endangered species
because you are seen as questioning his judgement and appealing to higher
5. Always be sure he gets more than his fair share of credit for your good
work. Stay one step behind him when the limelight shines.
6. Find some of his good points and acknowledge them, publicly as well as
privately. Remember, your boss may be a pain in the neck to work with, but
surely he must have some redeeming features worthy of compliments.
7. Think of your own insecurities and what helps you deal with them. Apply
what you learn from this analysis to dealing with your insecure boss.
Ramon Greenwood is Senior Career Counselor for
www.CommonSenseAtWork.com. He is
a former Senior Vice President at American Express, a published author and
syndicated columnist, a professional director and an entrepreneur.