My boss is a moron (and other stuff you really shouldn’t say)


My boss is taking a little bit of heat for his latest blog post. The entire point of his blog is to be provocative, but in my opinion, he didn’t get his intended point across.

So, how do you tell your boss that you think he’s stupid? The answer is easy – you don’t. But - you can tell him that you think his idea is stupid…as long as you’re careful.

I love conflict (although I’m told that “open, inclusive discussion” is a better phrase). I believe that if people hash out their issues with no holds barred, that they will reach a solution that they can support – even if the solution is contrary to their original beliefs. In other words – I am more apt to support someone’s decision if I felt that my side was properly heard.

Of course, in order to have a conversation like this, you need one important thing – trust. If I think by boss will fire me or take away opportunities if I disagree with him, it’s in my best interest to keep my mouth shut. This also means that I won’t be very motivated to support my bosses decisions. He also needs to trust me, and know that I’m not disagreeing with just to be petty or to undermine him. You need trust to have productive conflict. Conflict without trust is just a fight, and a fight is just a waste of time.

Even if you’re comfortable disagreeing with your boss, you can’t just say “you’re wrong” and wait for the response. Your side will be better supported if you show a little empathy for the other side. Rather than say “Eric – this is stupid”, it’s better to say something like “Eric – I think I realize what you’re trying to say here, and I do appreciate the provocative style, but the main points that are coming across in this post are way outside of my comfort range. For example … can you help me understand your thinking?”

If you never disagree with your boss, do you truly trust them 100% in their decision making? A survey in Britain last summer says that nearly half of all employees claim those on the next rung up of the ladder are poor decision-makers. I wonder if those who don’t think their boss is a good decision-maker ever bother to disagree with their boss…or if there is enough trust in the relationship to enable an environment where disagreement is a good thing.

BTW – my boss isn’t a moron, but I do love to disagree with him whenever I find it appropriate, and appreciate that we have enough trust between us to make the disagreement productive.


Comments (2)
  1. Adam Goucher says:

    I think you nailed the key thing there with the notion of trust. I actively try to gain the trust of the people who work for me for a number of reasons but a big one is that they won’t be scared to tell me I’m being a moron. Of course trust comes from a blend of competence, confidence and credibility; on both sides of the relationship.

    I suspect the ‘soft skills’ aspects of testing and test team leadership is an unexploited training area in general. But that is a different subject entirely.

  2. Yeah – I know.  Of course feedback is important. We’ve read the studies that say you should say

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