“What would you do when your boss makes you feel incompetent? My boss always criticizes me at work and makes me feel like an idiot.”
I got this desperate message dropped in my inbox more than once. Apparently, there are more people in my life who are dealing with the unpleasant challenge of facing a nasty boss than I thought.
Their stories always start the same way: An once-confident employee suddenly got thrown into a new scenario with an intimidating supervisor. As each day passed by, they found themselves descending into a downward spiral ensues of little mistakes, feelings of being singled out, self-doubt, compulsive thinking, and a complete loss of confidence.
You, too, might have experienced this at some point in your career, and that’s what lead you to this post. So, how to deal with a boss who makes you feel stupid?
Don’t worry, the Jobandedu team is here, and we will help you cope with it!
Why Does Your Boss Make You Feel That Way?
Before discussing what to do when your boss makes you feel incompetent, it’s essential to pinpoint the reason behind this feeling. Sometimes employees might engage in perfectionism and try to stretch themselves beyond their means, which leads to them being more sensitive to criticism.
Hence, you will want to make sure that the problem comes from your boss, not your own insecurity. Sit back, and let’s analyze the situation one more time. If you keep seeing these signs, the issue is not in your head: You are dealing with a really toxic boss.
They Constantly Turn Down Your Ideas
Sure, your supervisor keeps going on and on about how the company needs fresh ideas. However, whenever you come up with something to improve your team’s performance, they don’t give a damn about your opinion.
Even worse, your boss might think they already know everything. If they promote those who validate that they are right and disregard your point of view when it goes against theirs, it’s a sign your feeling of incompetence comes from the manager.
They Set Unrealistic Expectations
Does your boss expect you to always stay overtime? Or demand every work to be flawless without giving you a chance to learn and improve? Do they ask you to put in extra hours on the weekends or phone you at strange hours?
Making mistakes all the time isn’t favorable at all. Still, if you live in constant fear of making mistakes because you know your boss will make a fuss out of it, you are working under a toxic boss. When they purposefully set the standards out of your reach and criticize you for not meeting it, you will need to realize that you are not incompetent. It is your boss who makes you feel so.
They Are Being Rude
Speaking of criticism, a toxic boss will rarely give you constructive advice on how to improve. Instead, they can make condescending or outright disrespectful remarks that target you, your personality, or your appearance rather than your performance.
Their criticism doesn’t mean to help you but rather break you down, and that’s one of the biggest reasons your boss makes you feel incompetent: They keep diminishing your value and making you feel small.
They Never Notice Or Ignore Your Accomplishments
If you always perform excellently and always finish your tasks before the deadline, yet your boss refuses to acknowledge it, then the issue may lie within them.
The worst part is, that whenever someone compliments you, they might downplay the compliment or take responsibility for your accomplishment. That makes you feel like your abilities aren’t up to par or that your successes aren’t noteworthy. This is a way to keep you feeling low and maintain control over your self-esteem.
Things To Do When Your Boss Makes You Feel Incompetent
So you see these signs above, again and again, you say? Well then, the problem doesn’t come from you, your performance, or your insecurity. It is your boss who creates a toxic environment for his or her employees.
Instead of blaming yourself, what you should do now is find a way to protect your mental health as soon as possible. To overcome negative feelings and regain confidence, here are a few things to do when your boss makes you feel incompetent:
Write Down Those Negative Thoughts
This frustrating circumstance might make your negative self-talk get out of hand, so your top priority now is to pull yourself together. The thing is, when someone tries to make you look bad, your inner voice tends to build things up much more than the situation calls for.
Whenever those negative voices try to take control, silence them with positive affirmations. I have a habit of furiously writing down all the unfavorable thoughts in a notebook that no one can see, then reminding myself why they are not true. That’s an effective way to reorganize feelings. Just give it a try: A few days later, you might look back at your writing and find it funny to get enraged over that tiny problem.
Talk To Someone You Trust
Bottling up your feelings is never wise. If the situation with your boss makes you feel overwhelmed, it’s essential to talk with someone you can trust.
This can be a friend, a family member, or even your therapist. Aside from giving you emotional support, this person also helps you see the problem from another perspective. Sometimes, an outsider’s opinion can help you deal with the whole thing more rationally.
Surround Yourself With Encouragers At Work
As you get your emotions under control, it’s time to ditch your cocoon of self-loathing.
Yes, I can understand: Perhaps you feel like your confidence is crushed and all you want to do is hide under a rock, especially if your boss made you look bad in front of other colleagues. Still, in this case, seeking support and guidance from others will make you feel better. Reach out to your co-workers and ask them what they think you can do to improve your performance.
An intimidating boss might make your workplace feel like hell. Nonetheless, just ask around and you will realize that there are still nice people out there. If you can, find yourself a mentor. Not only will they give you career advice and support, but they can also point out your worth and potential.
Do One Thing Really Well
After being constantly criticized, it’s easy to think that you can’t do anything right and focus only on your shortcomings.
I’d recommend working on a task or accomplishment you know you can successfully fulfill in a competent manner. That will prove to you, mentally, that you are not stupid and are learning and growing. This achievement can also be something for others to look at if they ever question your potential.
Prepare To Confront The Issue
When your boss’ hassling has gone too far and you are certain that they are legitimately messing with your self-esteem, create a plan to confront the issue. List out everything you want to discuss with them in order of importance.
Being proactive will give you more advantages, so try to provide recorded instances of your boss’ nasty behaviors toward you. Try to make a presentation that’s more informative than confrontational. Additionally, compile all the documents you have that speak to your performance – reviews, evaluations, and examples of your achievements.
Request A Meeting With Your Boss
Of course, the next step is to talk to your boss. If they are so all up in your face, why don’t you take the initiative and face it head-on?
You can talk things out with your boss alone or request that a third party attend the meeting. Having an eyewitness can be a good thing, especially if the situation gets out of control.
Now here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t start with a confrontational tone, such as “Why do you make me feel like an idiot?”. Instead, use words like “I notice that you are not happy with my performance.” Try to address the problem first and confirm that it exists, then discuss how you can deal with the whole thing.
Your boss can react in different ways. Perhaps he or she is really not satisfied with your performance or just wants to motivate you but doesn’t know how to execute properly. In that case, they will point out your strengths and weaknesses, acknowledge the negative impact they have on you, and do something to rectify the situation. The discussion might be an excellent chance to build a development plan and let them buy into your growth as a professional.
Your boss might also deny the situation and refuse to take responsibility for their actions no matter what you say. A worse response is an abrasive and abusive one where they try to blame you for the incident. When this happens, you won’t be able to go anywhere further with your boss. The only option left is to make a formal complaint.
Make A Formal Complaint
When the problem doesn’t subside, your last resort is to go to the HR department. HR often serves as a middle point between the company and its employees, so they can come up with a solution for you.
There is one caveat, though: The HR department still works for the company, so they will protect the company’s best interests. That being said, if you file a report, you might be able to get something done about your issue.
Evidence and documentation will benefit you greatly in this case. Before contacting HR, you should pull together all the documentation you have. This includes pictures, witness statements, recordings, and so on.
The HR team can deal with the situation in many ways. It might separate you from your boss, call you two for a meeting, or dismiss your case, saying you are at fault. That’s why gathering all the documentation and evidence you have at hand is essential.
“I feel incompetent at my new job, what should I do?” – Advice from Jordan Peterson
If the outcome is not what you expected, moving on might be a necessary step to improve your life and protect your mental health. It’s okay to quit a job because of a bad supervisor, just don’t ruin your reputation on your way out the door.
Never Waste Good Opportunity To Learn From Bad Boss
A new day comes, and so does the struggle of showing up for work. There’s not much relief at the end of the day either since you can’t help but dissect every nasty remark from your manager and wonder what to do with your life. That’s what happens when your boss makes you feel incompetent.
Toxic bosses are surely bad news, but if you can see them from a different perspective, you might just learn something valuable from them. They will teach you how to protect your mental health, value your own worth, and what not to do when you become a leader. Keep these lessons in mind when dealing with a crappy boss; they will benefit you a lot in your future career.