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More knowledgeable than supervisor…how to handle?
Old 07-17-2011, 11:54 AM   #1
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More knowledgeable than supervisor…how to handle?

I have good news since my thread Opportunity to throw the boss under the bus.

I moved to a new job with nicer people, more relaxed work environment, richer benefits, and a great opportunity to learn…a much better deal that before! (the bully boss at the old job also moved on, ironically at the same time I did, but to a different city…I think he resigned to preempt getting fired…)

At my new job, my official boss is two levels up from me…in between, I have a day-to-day supervisor.

Despite the improvements, I am encountering a new type of stress…I am much more knowledgeable in my area of expertise than my supervisor!

I have worked in Specialty A for over a decade. My supervisor worked in Specialty B and only recently moved into Specialty A, although with some fringe exposure to Specialty A prior to her move.

I also worked in Specialty B before, but made the move into Specialty A years earlier, and got some great consulting experience in Specialty A.

Salary-wise, we are at about the same level...I make slightly less...not sure about bonuses, except knowing that I am not in a bonus program.

This situation is causing me stress. Examples -- the supervisor will focus on an issue, and I will realize that the real issue is something else…or I will ask a question and the supervisor will respond with a non-sequitur. And recently I provided an analysis and recommendation that she pasted into an email to the higher-ups without citing the source (me).

The first week had some tense moments, but I diffused them by kissing a**. It grates on me because I am more capable…the emotion is – resentment!

My boss told me there would be sensitivity with the similar salary levels and my higher level of knowledge. I need to be careful because I want to develop positive relationships…I will probably be on this job two years or more…maybe all the way to FIRE...comments and advice appreciated.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:15 PM   #2
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I happily teach them everything they know, but not everything that I know. My area is specialized and that level of teaching is easy. Can analysis and recommendations be forwarded to others in the team so that more know of your work? Having a couple of people know a recommendation makes it tricky for someone to claim other peoples work.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:21 PM   #3
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Congratulations on the new job.

You might know more than your supervisor but supervisors typically aren't necessarily subject experts (supervising is a skill too). Make her look good and you'll look good too.

You've only been there a week, it sounds like? Maybe relax a little and focus on the "nicer people, more relaxed work environment, richer benefits, and a great opportunity to learn" in your new job?
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:32 PM   #4
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Salary-wise, we are at about the same level...I make slightly less...not sure about bonuses, except knowing that I am not in a bonus program.

And recently I provided an analysis and recommendation that she pasted into an email to the higher-ups without citing the source (me).
The boss taking credit for your suggestion is the only problem I see but it's a big problem. I'd go to her boss or higher and make sure this stops.
As far as salary goes, it's seems like she has more to complain about than you. Why would you make more or even close to the same if she's the boss?
As far as you knowing more than the supervisor, so what. It's your job to know your job. Your supervisor doesn't need to know your job they need to know their job. I've been at my current job for 11 years. I've never had a supervisor or department head who knows anywhere close to as much about my job as I do but that's not their job. I feel I do much more work that any of them and make much less money but they're the boss. That's the way it works. It's your job to do the work and it's their job to make sure you do the work. They don't need to know how to do it themselves.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:38 PM   #5
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Congratulations on the new job.

You might know more than your supervisor but supervisors typically aren't necessarily subject experts (supervising is a skill too). Make her look good and you'll look good too.

You've only been there a week, it sounds like? Maybe relax a little and focus on the "nicer people, more relaxed work environment, richer benefits, and a great opportunity to learn" in your new job?
+1

However, a good supervisor will give credit where credit is due, so if this behavior becomes common then you have cause to feel uneasy but surely this is early days yet, take your time and get established in your new job.

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This situation is causing me stress. Examples -- the supervisor will focus on an issue, and I will realize that the real issue is something else…or I will ask a question and the supervisor will respond with a non-sequitur. And recently I provided an analysis and recommendation that she pasted into an email to the higher-ups without citing the source (me)
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:48 PM   #6
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+1

However, a good supervisor will give credit where credit is due, so if this behavior becomes common then you have cause to feel uneasy but surely this is early days yet, take your time and get established in your new job.
Good advice. BTW I seldom had a supervisor who would give credit where credit was due, to me or to most others. Credit went to those who were singled out for advancement, due to being related to (or having dirt on) someone higher up, not to those who were expert at doing the work and doing it. Such is life. I found it possible to keep slogging on if I just focused on the paycheck, and on my plans to retire as soon as possible.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:51 PM   #7
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Appreciate the feedback so far...yes it's still very early...I ignored something early on at the previously job and it haunted me the whole time, so I am wary of early issues now.

I have been more knowledgeable than past supervisors, but this time the gap is huge, so we are having trouble communicating...in fact she's feeling a bit intimidated, I can tell.
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Old 07-17-2011, 06:26 PM   #8
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Maybe it is your delivery? You may think you are being helpful, but they may see you as coming off as a know it all or shooting down their ideas.
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Old 07-17-2011, 08:57 PM   #9
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Hello Gerbil - to answer your question, I would keep quiet about the situation. My view only.
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comments and advice appreciated.
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:39 PM   #10
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I was recently hired for a job where I have forgotten more about the subject matter than any of the bosses in the chain up to the head honcho. So what? They do their job, you do yours. If you realize that credit is not being appropriately assigned, start marketing your skills more widely in the organization, copying more people, etc. But since it is early on, I would give your boss the benefit of the doubt.

I will offer a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The path to success is broad enough for two to walk abreast." Translation: don't be shy about sharing credit for a job well done, as there is generally more than enough to go around.
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:42 PM   #11
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I will offer a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The path to success is broad enough for two to walk abreast." Translation: don't be shy about sharing credit for a job well done, as there is generally more than enough to go around.
Yep. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is make your boss look good.
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:53 PM   #12
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I get along well with my direct supervisor, but there is some stuff I know better than her. I have a new official manager (supervisor of my supervisor) who is my actual boss. Since she didn't really know me at all, I've purposely shown my motivation/knowledge in front of both of them. I overheard the two of them discussing an annoying boring thing that only certain people would be capable of doing, so I volunteered to help out.
Then when my supervisor had this big spreadsheet thing to do, I volunteered to do it for her. The results go to my actual manager. I know I do Excel at least as good, if not better than my supervisor, so this reminds them of my special skills and interest in that area.
As far as the credit thing, need to see how that goes. Our supervisor often asks for input from the more senior people and then just compiles the info to send further up. There's no reason she has to specifically credit me for my ideas in that case.
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Old 07-18-2011, 07:50 AM   #13
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I happily teach them everything they know, but not everything that I know.
Hahaha, that makes my day. Been there, done that!

Hey, if it's only two years, I wouldn't even sweat it. Whistle while you work. Once you're gone, you'll never think about it again. You're on the way out!
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:41 AM   #14
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Are you a technical expert, while the supervisor is more of a generalist?

Plenty of times I've been presented with a subordinate who either knows more about the technical stuff than I do, or thinks he/she does. This is very common because tech experts tend to follow a different path from managers. Most of the time, they are glad to have somebody keep the political and administrative nonsense off their shoulders, so they can focus on the fun stuff.

Occasionally, the person seems resentful and tries to make an issue of how little I know, versus how much she/he knows. This is quite apparent to other employees, who are forever looking for a little drama and excitement in their humdrum days. It also makes the expert look insecure, just as a boss will look insecure if it becomes known that he/she is inclined to take credit for work that the expert performed. Your boss's bosses have eyes and ears too...

hang in there and don't sweat.

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Old 07-18-2011, 08:51 AM   #15
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Plenty of times I've been presented with a subordinate who either knows more about the technical stuff than I do, or thinks he/she does. This is very common because tech experts tend to follow a different path from managers. Most of the time, they are glad to have somebody keep the political and administrative nonsense off their shoulders, so they can focus on the fun stuff.
+1...

This was my situation in my later years, prior to retirement.

Sure, the people I managed knew more than me on the technical side, but I'm sure I knew more than them on the business "BS stuff" (forecast/managing budgets, manpower, resource allocation, etc, along with the idea of keeping people out of their way so they could do their job.)

Everybody has their place in an organization. The few times it was mentioned by the folks I managed had more technical skills than me, I would just say (to myself), if I knew as much as them, why would I need them? ...

Some people design cars - other people build them. It's a collabrative effort; it takes "two sides" to produce any product...
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:07 AM   #16
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It is part of your job to make your boss look good. If you are as good as you say you are, people will know where it is coming from.
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:18 AM   #17
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I will probably be on this job two years or more…maybe all the way to FIRE...comments and advice appreciated.
Gerbil Wheel, you've received some excellent advice so far. It sounds like you're building a strong rep at work: experienced, knowledgeable and hard to supervise. If all you care about is FIRE in a few years why does this even matter? Do your job. When you have a chance, teach your supervisor. Who knows - it might make you feel good.

If knowing more than others causes stress, go hang out at Mensa.
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:28 AM   #18
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If knowing more than others causes stress, go hang out at Mensa.
...

Good one (and I agree, though I would never say that to one of my team members, in the past...) BTW, even though I was the manager, we were still on the same team. We were in "the fight" together and advanced together, through the years.

It's funny, but I would fight for pay/promotions for folks that made the team stronger - not just themselves. In fact, the person who showed that they were most interested in advancement of the team (over just themselves) received my strong recommendation for promotion and to take over my position after I retired. Just something to think about.

I know that's not a consideration of the OP, but just some words of someone who has "been there" in the past, and some younger person may see as something to consider in their career...
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:42 AM   #19
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Do you want to be the supervisor? It sounds like you are a huge potential threat to the person's position.

Either way, you have to befriend the supervisor and earn their trust.
Entering into conflict with a politician, especially if your are a technician, is generally a bad idea.

Do your job, but an a day to day basis, remember it's better to be liked than right.

If you do want her job, you need the chance to do it, when she's too busy or on vacation. You won't get that if she fears you.
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Old 07-18-2011, 11:24 AM   #20
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Eegh. It's been decades since somebody talked me into taking the Mensa test and going to Mensa meetings, but I still remember feeling out-of-place there even though my score apparently made me "one of them."

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If knowing more than others causes stress, go hang out at Mensa.
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