How to Manage When You Feel Smarter than Your Boss

Feeling smarter than your boss can be incredibly frustrating and draining. But before you start venting and thinking about all of the things you are better at than your boss, try a reframe. If you are overly critical of your boss, it is time to take a look in the mirror before you let your ego go into overdrive. When you feel smarter than someone, you are in judgment mode, which means you are more subjective and more vulnerable to viewing the world through your own bias. Here are our tips on how to manage when you feel smarter than your boss, so you can improve your relationship and leadership influence.

1. Be curious. Seek to understand their experience and skillset that brought them to their role. Think about their broader skill set. While there may be areas that you feel smarter than your boss, the opposite is also true, meaning there are areas where your boss will have a better insight and skill set than you do. Every person is your teacher and your student, we are all able to teach and learn from each other.

2. Suspend ego. Just because you are passionate or believe something to be right may not always mean that it is right. Your boss may have visibility to things that you are unable to see and those things could be very important to understand when judging someone’s actions. Ensure you are getting all of the facts and suspend your need to prove you are right.

3. Adjust expectations. Are you a perfectionist or do you have high standards? Sometimes those high standards can pollute your ability to view a situation objectively. Lean into your emotional intelligence and expand your social awareness by being open to different approaches and ways of doing things. Think of it like directions, some people may appreciate the direct route whereas others may appreciate the scenic view. Just because it is different than how you would do it does not always mean it is wrong.

4. Bridge the gaps. Instead of applying a “me vs. you” mentality with your boss, look for an opportunity to be a strategic partner. Consider asking, “how could we collaborate and both leverage our skill sets to approach this issue?” The two of you together may be able to create a much stronger solution or product than doing it alone.

5. Avoid gossiping. Dismissing your boss doesn’t always make you look better in the eyes of your audience. This can sometimes backfire and can get the perception that you are untrustworthy or difficult to work with. If you are frustrated and need to vent, try to identify what specifically you would want done to improve the relationship. Then schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss.

6. Be respectful. Just because you may feel superior does not mean you have any right to be rude or condescending. If you want to prove a point, rise above and role model the behavior of an influential and respectful leader. Teaching others to undermine authority breeds a culture of distrust. Be the change that is needed, not the critical leader.