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Could Your Boss Do Your Job – and Does It Matter?

Topics: Career Advice

A good boss can be the difference between a job you love and one you dread. In fact, research shows that employees’ job satisfaction is most closely linked to their boss’s ability to do his or her job well. Beyond that, bosses who can fill in for employees also increase job satisfaction. But is a good boss necessarily a boss who could work a day at your desk?


(Photo Credit: Samuel Zeller/Unsplash)

One thing is clear: if you’re not happy with your boss’s apparent lack of skills, you’re going to be a lot less happy with your job overall. But before you determine that your management situation is hopeless, ask yourself these questions:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Is your boss a subject expert or a manager of people?

If corporate hierarchy were simple, folks on the lower end of the corporate ladder would have simpler jobs, and the higher you ranked, the broader your range of skills would be. But as many workers know, that’s certainly not always the case.

A good manager doesn’t necessarily have to have come up through the ranks and be able to do everything that you can do. In fact, when Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman surveyed over 300,000 workers to ask which skills were most important for a leader’s success, “displays technical or professional expertise” ranked eighth out 16. Before that: “inspires and motivates others,” “displays high integrity and honesty,” and “solves problems and analyzes issues,” among other skills.

In short, some leaders are experts at the thing their reports do, but others are experts at motivating and leading people. A great leader might even be able to do both … but if you had to make a choice, leadership skills would probably be more valuable.

2. What are your boss’s goals? 

If you don’t know what your boss needs to accomplish, it’ll be hard to determine whether he or she is doing a good job. 

“When you know what drives your boss (even if your boss may not be fully conscious of it), you can speak to ‘his listening,’ frame your opinions and use language in ways that line up with his core values, concerns and priorities,” writes Margie Warrell at Forbes. “Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things as they do.”

When you feel like you and your boss are on the same page, your perception of their competency can take a back seat, because you’ll be more focused on accomplishing your mutual goals, and confident that you are at least on the same page.

3. What are your own blind spots?

Even when you’re equipped with a solid understanding of your team’s mutual goals, there are still going to be areas for which you simply don’t have the full picture. Consider what Annie McKee, founder of the Teleos Leadership Institute, told HBR about the subject of so-called blind spots: “It’s very common for people to completely miss the pressures their boss is under. Partly because a good manager will buffer you from them.”

It’s tempting to think that, even as you work closely with your manager, you could do her job just as well. But it’s virtually guaranteed that you don’t know all of the ins and outs and pressures that come along with the job.

Bottom line, whether or not you are in fact a more competent worker than your boss shouldn’t be your first concern. The point is to work together to achieve the company’s goals.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you feel like you’re more on top of it than your boss? How do you combat that frustration? Is this writer high on millennial entitlement? Tell us your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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