This is a tough question. Is there a way you can change your uninspiring boss to try to inspire you? The answer that question lies within another question – Why do you think your boss is uninspiring in the first place? If you know the answer to that question, here are some suggested ways you can try out to make things better for you.

They like to criticise mistakes but don’t give many compliments

It’s good to have frequent one on ones with your boss, and during this private meeting, ask them two questions – what are the things that you should improve on (which they naturally will tell you anyway), but ALSO ask them what are the things that they feel you are already doing well, therefore you won’t to spend time to change those too much. This neat jedi mind trick will cause them to think about your positives and give you praise where it’s due. It will also make them realise your strong points which can help you in your career.

They don’t have big ambitions for themselves

Want a bigger goal? Easy, just let them know that you believe you can achieve more, rather than you have been asked to do. Tell them that the bigger goal will make you feel more challenged. Careful what you wish for though, bosses rarely say no to someone wanting to achieve more, but if you fall short of it, then you would have effectively shot yourself in the foot. As an alternative, why don’t you keep those goals to yourself, and then challenge yourself to achieve them without informing your boss? That way, if you fall short of your bigger goal, you will still have done enough, but if you succeed, you would have given yourself a nice boost to your career prospects at the company.

If that doesn’t work and you are stuck with an unambitious boss, it is unlikely you will be promoted over them (promoted two levels up) if you continue to be in the same team, therefore why don’t you consider if other teams or divisions have interesting work that you want to get involved in?

They focus their attention on under-performers, and as a performer, you find yourself ignored

Situations like this are unintentional because most managers are trained to improve poor performers in teams, and this also happens to be human instinct to want to solve problems. To them, if something is going well, there’s little reason to pay attention to it too much. If you feel ignored because things are too smooth, the best thing to do is to ask for a conversation with your boss. Explain to them that even though things are going well, you would like to check in with them every now and then to update them, and would also enjoy feedback about your progress. Chances are, your boss would love the fact that you are taking that initiative and that you’ve shown that you care about your job a lot.

They don’t understand new things, therefore change scares them

If your boss always shoots down your ideas, why don’t you try to test run some of those ideas on a small scale? Something that would not need approval, and once you can show the results of any change, you will have a better chance of convincing your boss to try new things out. Bosses who are resistant to new ideas typically shy away from them because they don’t want to create new problems, but if you have results that can show it will improve things, they will likely be receptive of those ideas. Work on your persuasion skills.

You think you’re more capable than them

Is it possible you are more capable than your boss? Of course it is. But this is a dangerous one, because very often, it may just be a perception especially when you are dealing with a boss that doesn’t communicate well. Whenever you have discussions on important matters but feel you do not understand each other, politely ask why certain decisions are made, and that you want to understand the logic so you can learn from it and make better decisions yourself next time without having to use up their time too much. Then talk things out. What if you know for sure that they don’t know what they’re talking about? Try going over them to talk to their boss, but this will undoubtedly create friction for you, so you probably need to consider other “longer term” options anyway.

Your boss has a boss and they are uninspiring too!

That would indicate that it is the culture of the company itself and not your immediate boss. There are many “old” businesses that have built a good engine to sustain itself, therefore it’s owners are content to have things be routine and not rock the boat too much. If progress is very important to you, and it’s not your boss, but the company, that is uninspiring, you should probably consider a career with a different employer.

Don’t be stuck in a job you don’t love.



Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.