Boss Says I’m Incompetent

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors a boss saying an employee is incompetent after two years:

I already wrote one letter in November to my boss’s boss. I was told that I could keep my job but there are no opportunities for me. Now, my boss is making up lies about me to state I’m incompetent, despite the fact I’ve been here for 2 years. I have documented emails. Is there anything else I should do?

Signed, Angry

Dear Angry:

It’s difficult to know what you should do because your message was not clear about the nature of the problem. I can tell you this however, the fact that someone has had a job for two years (or twenty years) doesn’t mean they are competent at doing it. It only means they have been there a long time without someone either teaching them to do it or removing them from the job.

I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it is the truth, as I’m sure you’ve noticed as you are around people who work but who don’t seem good at what they do. Often bosses wait and wait, hoping things will improve. Or, a new boss comes in and decides to do something about a problem that the old boss didn’t handle. It’s a shame when that happens, and it can be very upsetting for the employee when it does.

On the other hand, there are also situations in which a boss doesn’t get along well with an employee for one reason or another and the boss exaggerates minor problems to give him or her a reason to move them out of the office or the job. That may be the situation in your case.

You apparently are having an ongoing conflict with your boss. You have written to your boss’s boss about it, but nothing was done. Now, your boss is escalating the conflict by saying openly that you are not effective at your work. He must have said it to someone who was willing to repeat it to you.I don’t know what documented emails you have—perhaps ones in which your boss has said those things about you. But, the bottom line will be this: Does your boss have some evidence, either his observation or that of others or some piece of work you have done, to show that you have made mistakes? If there is nothing at all that he can point to, he won’t be able to convince his own boss that you are not competent. But, if he has such evidence, he may be able to show you are not doing your work as well as you should for someone with your experience. Then he might be able to convince his boss that he has been right all along and you should not be working there.

Some ideas: 1. If you are in a company where they give performance evaluations and yours have been good, see if you can get copies of those to show that formerly you were doing a good job and nothing has changed.

2. If you have received compliments, ask those people if they can put it in writing, to show that you are doing a good job in the opinion of customers or coworkers.

3. If someone has told you of an untrue statement made about you by your boss, and you can prove that he is saying it just to cause you problems, see if that person will verify it if you report it to your boss’s boss.

4. Do a self-evaluation to see if there are any areas in which you could improve, then work to improve in those areas. If you really believe you are doing excellent work, keep doing it. Be the kind of coworker who is valued by others.Whatever your work is, look for ways to improve it and to encourage your coworkers. No one wants to fire or lose an employee who is positive, helpful, skillful and valuable to others. I don’t know if it’s too late to improve your relationship with your boss, but that would be a great thing to have happen. Even if you can’t have a good relationship, maybe you can find some ways to keep it from being so hostile. If your boss sees that you want to do good work and that you want to help the group, maybe that will at least remind him that you are too good to lose over a personal conflict.

So, those are your options. You can go to your boss’s boss again, if needed. You can just stick to your work and be the best employee possible, knowing your boss has no evidence to show you are not a good employee. Or, you can try to talk to your boss about all of this and see if there is something specific he is concerned about. You can perhaps let him see that you both want the same thing…that the work is done well.You might find a combination of those things to be helpful, according to your situation. Best wishes as you work through this frustrating and disturbing time. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.