How to work under an insecure boss?
August 19, 2014 11:05 PM Subscribe
I'm struggling with a social / political issue at work. I have been in my current job for about a year. I am a little overqualified for the position, but I really like most aspects of it and it's a small enough field that other similar jobs are hard to come by, so I'd vastly prefer it if the solution doesn't involve quitting.
I have significantly more expertise in some facets of the work that we do than my boss does. He also seems to feel that he gets less respect than he deserves within the larger organization. He's truly a nice guy a lot of the time and has genuine professional strengths, but he seems to be so hungry for status that he finds ideas he didn't personally come up with or bring to the organization himself profoundly troubling unless he can somehow take ownership of them. He realizes that my work is, in fact, excellent, and my performance reviews have reflected this. Nevertheless he hates it when I question his methods or even quietly do things in ways he doesn't expect. A typical conversation might go something like:
Boss: [Work product] looks great!
Me: Yeah, I just [did it X way] and got it taken care of quickly.
Boss: Um, err... I really don't like [X way of doing that]. I've always thought it [causes Y insignificant problem / is ineffective for intuitive but untrue reason Z].
Me: (thinking: you just said it looked great) Actually, it works because [actual progression of chosen method].
Boss: I really don't like it. I prefer to [use a method that is totally impractical].
Similar little conflicts play out all the time. He'll insist that things be done in ways that simply don't work, which puts me in the position of having to choose whether to defy him or fail to get important things done. Sometimes I can't conceal my frustration, and if I so much as sigh, or say something like "Well, you're the boss," this only confirms his pre-existing fears that he can't get no respect. Thereafter he'll be snippy and make backhanded comments for days, and I'll feel like actually doing my job is something I have to get away with.
I'm not sure what I'm asking here, but I think I probably have some blind spots that will be obvious to others. Short of quitting or making an enemy of him by going over his head, how might I try to improve this dynamic?