How do I deal with my duplicitous boss?


My boss drives me and the team to distraction. She plays the political game very well and uses all her feminine charms. She's monopolised our new director and our CFO, she's an incompetent people manager and she doesn't seem to work very hard, preferring to run around saying how busy she is. She is late handing in work but somehow gets away with it.

She also backstabs her staff, and claims all the glory for herself. She's constantly telling the team how well liked she is by the bosses and how she "saved the day", when all she does is ride on someone else's coattails. She isn't organised or all that clever, but has somehow ended up the boss of us all.

But her boss is completely smitten by her and has defended her. It's so irritating and annoying: no one respects her, but because she's smothered the bosses with attention she seems to have ended up on top.

Please tell me how to deal with this untrustworthy, scheming incompetent person who has an over-inflated opinion of her skills and knowledge.

Andrea, UK

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Charles Helliwell's Answer:

All you're really looking for here, is a little bit of recognition and reward from your Boss. Almost everything else that you describe is mostly window dressing. Yes, of course you and your colleagues are going to feel resentful that this individual is skilled and adept at 'playing the game', although it's mostly because she doesn't give you recognition for your efforts in front of her bosses.

All successful managers have to be skilled at playing-the-game. Those managers with a bit of honesty and integrity appreciate that their success is as much an outcome of their own efforts, as it is the contribution of others, and they are quick to recognise, appreciate and reward those who support them.

Other managers are blind to the necessity or value in doing so and some are just 'glory hunters'; in other words they are only in it for whatever rewards they can reap for themselves. You may well be dealing with the latter, of which there many shades of grey in the managerial firmament.

Where you're missing a trick is playing all your cards 'face up'. Your value and that of your colleagues is in the delivery of advice, support, outcomes and solutions and if you just hand them on a plate to your Boss, she'll just serve them up as her ideas and her solutions and take all the credit for them. You have to make sure that you make her work a bit harder than that.

So what you have to do is to make yourselves a bit more appreciated and valued and 'play the game' in return. Make your boss come to you for more advice, more opinion, more guidance and more support. Don't put yourselves out to get her 'off-the-hook'.

Make her sweat a little against the deadlines she gives you. Force her to put her requests to you in written form. Create an email thread, so that it becomes clear that it was you who generated the ideas, the work and the outcomes. Make your boss write what she wants and what she expects from you, into your objectives. Don't give her sufficient time before her deadlines to plagiarise or duplicate your work.

Last, but by no means least, make yourself available to accompany her to the meetings with her bosses, on the basis that you are there to act as a support for her to make her look even better.

One of two outcomes will result. Either her bosses will see through her shallow veneer as a manager with little substance, or they will see you as nothing more than an intrusion. Only then will you be able to decide whether this is the type of company you want to work for, or whether your talents are going to be better appreciated elsewhere.


About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.