What to do if your incompetent ex-boss follows you to the new company?

There cannot be any one correct solution for such a situation, but there are ways to handle the news and decide on the next move

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Having an incompetent boss at the workplace can be very challenging. Of course, one can always quit the job and move to a new company and leave the boss and related woes far behind. But then, luck may deal another blow. The incompetent boss may follow one to the new company. Double whammy! Fortunately, such cases are few and far between.

However, for those who find themselves in such a difficult situation, this can be the trigger for sleepless nights, given the history of the uneasy relationship with their former boss. Some may have even decided to move simply because of the incompetence of the boss. Imagine their predicament if that very boss were to follow them to their new workplace?

What can employees do in such a difficult situation?

“If the employees are confident of their views on the ex-boss, they should convey the same clearly to their manager or the leadership along with their history with the ex-boss in the previous company.”

Gajendra Chandel, senior HR leader and practitioner

The simplest solution would be to inform the management about the former boss’ incompetency. However, this step may backfire if the former boss happens to wield more power in the new organisation, or happens to have changed for the better.

Is it better to simply keep quiet and watch while the ex-boss actually ends up as a liability for one’s new organisation, or just approach the seniors directly and tell the truth before it is too late?

Jayesh Sampat, former head-HR, Liberty General Insurance, feels, “If the employee has already spent enough time in the organisation and has built his/her credibility in the system, it is advisable to just ask for a transfer to a different subfunctional area so as to eliminate any chance of having to report to the former incompetent boss.”

“Since it is the company that has hired the individual and the ex-boss, the responsibility to cross-check their references before selecting them also rests with the company”.

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Solara Active Pharma

“Also, some incompetent bosses allow their team members enough space to perform so that their own incompetency is covered. This is a great opportunity for such team members to step up and take on the job, which may actually be the responsibility of the boss,” explains Sampat.

“Sometimes, ex bosses who may not have been very effective in their previous organisation may turn out to be successful in the new company. This because, the demands of the role, the culture and the context may be different. Therefore, it may be a good strategy to assess the ex-boss’ strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the new company before taking any step,” advises Sampat.

“If the issues are leadership, approach or managerial style, highlighting them to the management may be relevant but will not necessarily become a reason to fire the ex-boss because there may be others who’d be happy with the ex-boss’ performance and behaviour.”

Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries

“It is always advisable to build strong connects with mentors in the organisation when one’s ex-boss follows one to the new company. These mentors may be able to support one and even speak for one in the organisation, if one were to face any challenges with one’s ex-boss.” Sampat remarks.

Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries, opines, “If that individual has had a bad experience with his former boss, and the latter just happens to follow him to his next job as well, it is simply bad luck, because people do not get to choose their bosses.”

“Sometimes, ex bosses who may not have been very effective in their previous organisation may turn out to be successful in the new company. This because, the demands of the role, the culture and the context may be different. Therefore, it may be a good strategy to assess the ex-boss’ strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the new company before taking any step.”

Jayesh Sampat, former head-HR, Liberty General Insurance

Sharma rightly points out that the management, or recruiters who hire the former boss are certain to have taken into account his merits. Also, “the most important feedback for a recruiter or hiring manager comes from reference checks. After all, a one-hour interview is not enough to determine a person’s traits and talents,” explains Sharma.

Sometimes, companies do call and check with former team mates about a potential candidate. Most issues do come to light during such checks, unless the issues pertain to integrity, code of conduct, ethics or compliances, according to Sharma.

If the issues pertain to providing leadership to the team, and if the ex boss failed to gel well with the individual then the latter should also introspect and find out what actually went wrong in their relationship.

“If the issues are leadership, approach or managerial style, highlighting them to the management may be relevant but will not necessarily become a reason to fire the ex-boss because there may be others who’d be happy with the ex-boss’ performance and behaviour,” he points out.

“If the new organisation nurtures a culture that offers the freedom to employees to express their views openly, the relationship between the employee and the former boss may even improve with time,” Sharma says.

Usually, organisations are careful while making their own inquires about the employees they’re hiring. They carry out their own investigations to gather information about the employees’ history at their previous workplace.

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Solara Active Pharma, says, “Since it is the company that has hired the individual and the ex-boss, the responsibility to cross-check their references before selecting them also rests with the company”.

It is quite possible that the company may not directly talk to the individual himself, but conduct their own checks into the ex-boss’s background and behaviour in the previous company to better understand his/her competencies and make a decision accordingly.

Gajendra Chandel, senior HR leader and practitioner feels it is all dependent on the concerned employees. “If the employees are confident of their views on the ex-boss, they should convey the same clearly to their manager or the leadership along with their history with the ex-boss in the previous company.”

Ultimately, the decision to act remains with the individual, and therefore, they should decide with tact and care.

It is quite possible that their relationship with the ex-boss may flourish in the changed environment of the new company, or it may even worsen. What’s important is that the individual shouldn’t act recklessly, or with the intention of harming the ex-boss by complaining to the management. Instead, the employee should examine the situation calmly and take suitable action in the interest of all involved.

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