Better Qualified Than Your Boss? How to Navigate This Tricky Situation

With the working world constantly changing, reporting structures, managerial qualifications and your own abilities have to change to match. In some cases, employees – especially PMETs – have been forced to accept paycuts or junior positions in order to keep working.

With such circumstances comes a shift in the pecking order. If you are one such person, you can expect that you might no longer be working for someone more qualified or more educated than you. And despite everyone’s best intentions, these “invisible” differences can adversely affect the professional relationship.

Make sure you keep steady by reminding yourself…

1. That your boss doesn’t have to be “better” than you

You might have more qualifications, experience and specialist skills than your manager, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should have his or her job.

Every management position is different, and the only thing that should concern you is whether your manager is doing his or her job well. Do you feel supported, are deadlines clear, is the team working together effectively? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, your manager has every qualification to manage you, no matter what your backgrounds may be.

“Having said that, if you find yourself frequently having to explain basic things, asking for guidance and not getting it, or being called upon every time your boss has to make a decision, there’s a good chance they’re not as qualified as they should be,” said Sarah Archer, career coach and co-founder of CareerTree.

2. To take ego out of it

Managers who lack experience or confidence can sometimes be threatened by top performers. If you find yourself caught in a power struggle with your boss, take a step back.

It might help to talk to a trusted colleague or careers coach to get a clearer perspective on the situation and your next steps. After all, it is very unlikely your boss is going anywhere, so it would be better to focus on how to support them and push the team forward rather than speculate on office drama.

Whatever you do, do not bring up your superior traits as a way to put them down, belittle or badmouth them. That only makes you look worse!

3. To learn from your boss

Though your boss is ‘less qualified’ than you, he or she is in a higher position than you are. Isn’t such a person someone to learn from, rather than push back against?

Instead of focusing on their faults, see if there’s something you can learn from them – after all, they got the job for a reason.

“Respect that your boss may have experience or knowledge that you don’t, and be prepared to learn from them,” said Sarah. “They may have better soft skills than you, or simply be better at networking and managing their career progression. Watch them and see if you can adopt some of their strategies.”

4. To be diplomatic and respectful

So what happens if your boss advises a course of action all your experience tells you will not turn out well?

“That’s the time to speak up and leverage your superior knowledge,” advised Career Coach Sam Waterfall of and author of The Essential Guide To Interview Success.

“How you do this is key. Rather than saying “Boss, you’re wrong,” which will lead to confrontation, seek a more diplomatic way to gain influence. Let them know in private that there’s a better option, and if possible make them look good as they adopt your way.”

Once again, never publicly call out your boss for lack of knowledge. Instead, identify and compliment your boss on their strengths, and voice your reservations with respect and evidence.

Remember, at the end of the day, you’re all working towards the company’s best interest today. Keep yourself and your boss going well and who knows? The next promotion may be yours!