• Peter Yawitz

My Boss Is A Total Idiot

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I’m much smarter than my boss. He was transferred to our team last year because it seemed like the company didn’t know what else to do with him. He tries his best to understand what we actually do and fakes it ok mainly because I’ve written his emails for him and coached him when he presents to the executive committee. Recently he’s been feeling more confident, so now he edits the emails with factual, stylistic, and grammatical errors. I try to explain why his edited versions are wrong, but he’s said on occasions, “Trust the boss, here.” How can I handle this? Thanks,


Dear F- -K,

Oh, the problems of working for a dumb-dumb; it makes for a frustrating day at the virtual office. On one hand you have to make your manager and team look good, but on the other hand you don’t want your reputation to be damaged because of your association with crappy work. Here are some ideas:

  1. Give praise first, suggestions second. As much as it may pain you to follow through on this point, remember nothing makes idiots feel better than hearing accolades about their self-perceived intellectual abilities. So when your boss edits your emails for the worse, first say how much better something is (you have to find one thing: a font choice, an emphasized word, a paragraph break, etc.), and then gently say why the stupid (don’t say stupid) changes he made may a) be defeating the purpose of the email, b) not be assertive enough, c) not address an audience’s concerns. Base all of these suggestions on facts not conjecture. As for grammar or style issues, have a handy online style guide to prove your point. Don’t let him ever get away with “between him and I.”

  2. Document everything. If you worry that you may become associated with your boss’s bad decisions, you should start documenting your original drafts, his suggestions, and the final product. I wouldn’t go so far as going over your boss’s head to show how his suggestions could be blowing up projects. But you could find a mentor in the organization who can help you understand your company’s way of handling these types of issues and possibly help you set off in a new direction.

  3. Pick your battles. I am giving you suggestions based on your side of the story. I’m not discounting his deficiencies or your frustration, but – and I say this as a fellow full-on grammar nerd—learn to chill a bit if the final draft isn’t absolute perfection. I’d be ready to go to war against someone who purposely manipulated data or outright lied, and would start a walkout if I saw a memo where nouns and verb disagreed or modifiers were misplaced, but I’d take a deep breath and just let a run-on sentence, split infinitive, or mis-used Oxford comma go on their way to someone’s inbox.

Good luck, SED

dad@someoneelsesdad.com | New York 

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