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Boss’ new ‘pet’ is an incompetent brown-noser

Dear Office-Politics,

First of all, thank you for this gorgeous website, which has provided good advice to me in many situations.

Therefore I hope you may be able to help me with the following problem:

I work for a boss who never chooses achievers as team leaders but employees with external relations he thinks he can profit from (and admits that). The team I am a member of was set back for almost a year since someone completely incompetent was put in charge of our IT project.

Half a year ago my boss hired his new “pet”, a guy he had known before from some kind of networking club. This colleague seems to be literally invincible. Ever since his first day at our company he hasn’t completed a single piece of work. Instead of working he surfs the internet all day and tries to sell his fancy half-baked project ideas to our colleagues.

When other teams take these at face value and enquire about the implementation, he always blames our system administrators stating that “he’s not responsible for implementation”.

Apart from this, he has sneaked on almost anyone at the company. But also on the conceptual side he has not completed project specifications our team agreed to create months ago. He even complained about me having finished my part of this work and tried to prevent me from sending it to the person in charge. It turned out that he had actually planned to copy my specifications into his!

However, what he’s good at is brown-nosing the boss: he completely ignores his team leaders and sends his unsubstantial comments and suggestions (without being asked) directly to the boss. Since the boss knows little about the technology issues we are dealing with, he does not notice how this colleague’s comments, which consist of mere buzzwords, testify to his incompetence. He does not seem to care about this guy’s numerous sick notes either (he gets ill because our office is too cramped for him), although the entire project came to a halt several times due to him not documenting anything.

Despite all of this, it looks like “colleague brown-nose” will become my next team leader because of his relations! How can I prevent this from happening? Concerted action of all colleagues complaining officially about Mr. Brown-Nose is very unlikely, and for some reason our boss does not (want to) see that this colleague is all hat and no cattle. What can I do to expose my colleague Mr. Brown-Nose?

Ready to spit tacks

arnie herz

Dear Ready to spit tacks,

When in a bad situation, there are typically three options in order of what most people do: 1. Stay frustrated. 2. Quit and find a new job. 3. Cause real change.

Option 1 is the option of preference for the vast majority of workers in bad situations. They complain, seek revenge, rationalize their frustration and, in the end, they get no where. Nothing changes. Your desire to “expose the brown nose” probably falls in this category. It may feel good but it’s not likely to change anything. In fact, it could be counterproductive and make your life more difficult.

Option 2 may or may not be a viable option. How marketable are you? What other employment options do you have? Are they good options? Are you stuck in a bad situation because there are no other good options or because of laziness? I recommend that you get your resume together and figure out what other options are available to you. This gives you leverage and security.

Option 3 is rare. It is what everyone really wants but they don’t know how to pull it off. When in a very dysfunctional work environment, it may not be possible. In your situation, it is unclear whether it will work but probably worth a try before quitting and finding a new job. Now …

How do you communicate frustration in a way that will most likely be heard and taken to heart? How do you motivate others to change their behavior? This is a vast subject which I cannot do justice to in a paragraph or two. I would need to speak with you and coach you for 1-2 hours before you would be prepared to have a highly constructive conversation. It starts with being very clear on what you are feeling and what you need and what the other person may be feeling and may need. The conversation must go deeper than superficial frustration and anger. You must have the skills to defuse defensiveness and effectively advocate your perspective.

I highly recommend the book, Non-Violent Communications by Marshall Rosenberg, to further your skills. You can visit his website www.cnvc.org for more information.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Arnie Herz

Arnie Herz, is a lawyer, mediator, speaker, author and consultant nationally recognized for his practical and inspired approach to conflict resolution and client counseling. Visit his blog at LegalSanity.com

  1. One Answer to “Boss’ new ‘pet’ is an incompetent brown-noser”

  2. Dear Office Politics,

    I am suffering from a similar situation as described above to “Ready to Spit Tacks”, however, this guy is not known outside of work to the boss. He was hired because of his charm (according to colleagues who have been here longer than I have), and the entire office (under management) is miserable because of him. Within the first couple of months of working here, he went and asked for a pay rise, and is getting more than all tutors except one, and does nothing to earn it. He gets paid for than the qualified teachers that work here, which is really appalling!

    This guy who I shall refer to as Michael, has found a way to harass almost every single person working in the office, and gets chummy with everyone in management. He completes little to no work every day, and when checking off the emails we complete daily on a spreadsheet, he comes up with all these one-lined queries he sends out and only lists them on there to fill his required quota. This guy is given paid leave when it suits him, and it isn’t even taken off his annual leave hours. If I have to have 1 day off in a blue moon for study commitments, the manager will spend a day or two deciding on whether to give it to me, and Michael will be given a day off instantly to play ‘World of the Warcraft’ – a bloody computer game!

    One of my colleagues has been more affected by this than me, and I know of at least 2 colleagues ending up in tears over the weekend knowing that they have to return to this awful workplace. The trouble is, when we say anything, it always ends up in a week’s worth of insults – these can be as stupid as being about a minute late back from our lunch break, to more personal issues, such as certain colleagues still living with family members, not being able to afford upgrades in home computers (and if we can we are capitalists apparently), not to mention his disgusting attitude on women, and his constant “funny” remarks about death and the end of the world.

    In regards to our work, we need to provide feedback to any children who ring in with inquiries about homework set for them (by us) in English or maths. He provides no feedback what so ever, and we constantly get complaints about Michael, and the manager lets it slide, however, if any of us were responsible, he would come out and publically humiliate us in front of the rest of the staff, leaving Michael to sit there and quote his favourite saying with a smirk “Epic fail!”

    It is really quite depressing, but seeing as it is affecting at least 4 of the people around him, it isn’t really an option for us all to leave, especially during this financial crisis when so many others are struggling to find a job!

    Do you have any advice for us workers? We can’t complain to management, because they see him as lively, and bringing “colour” to our office, and if we say anything to him, we end up more miserable than we were before.

    By Elizabeth on Feb 23, 2009

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