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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 98 – I suspect my colleague has a ‘dodgy’ degree. Do I tell management?

No. 98 – I suspect my colleague has a ‘dodgy’ degree. Do I tell management?

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15 March 2023

What do I do if I find out that a co-worker, who is a poor performer, only holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree from an overseas online “degree mill”, where anyone can get one? The position description requires relevant university qualifications or experience. I want to avoid being seen to be on a crusade against my co-worker, but they are a poor performer.

It would be hard for you to raise this without appearing to be on a crusade against your colleague. You probably need to trust that when they were recruited, their background and experience was considered, and they were deemed to be qualified, or perhaps your employer wanted to give them a chance in the role anyway.

It can be frustrating to be in a team with a colleague who is not pulling their weight or who is incompetent in their role, but it is up to your boss to manage. You can raise your frustrations about their poor performance, but only to the extent it is impacting your ability to do your job. Unless you are suggesting the person was fraudulent on their CV, which is a serious matter, simply questioning the quality of their education and where their degrees come from is unlikely to end well for you.

I have recently moved interstate to a new position that I enjoy. My previous work environment was toxic, and my boss was a micromanaging, condescending narcissist. While I am building a relationship with my new boss, who I really like, I find it hard to not second guess her actions with an undertone of malice, as this was my modus operandi at my former employer. Do you have any advice?

It sounds like you are still suffering some trauma from your last role and from the way you describe your last boss, that is no surprise. Working with or for the kind of boss you describe can eat away at your sense of self-worth, enthusiasm for work and confidence in your abilities. I am glad you were able to find out a path out, and it sounds like you have landed in a very supportive environment.

Try not to allow the impact your previous toxic boss had on you seep into this fabulous fresh start you have been given. As you know, your new boss is an entirely different person, and she sounds like she is working to provide an environment that is safe and rewarding for you. While it may take a while to be reassured her every move does not have an ulterior motive, just remind yourself that these thinking patterns are triggers from what you experienced in your last role, and not the reality of what you have experienced here. Once your new boss earns your trust, it will become much easier to see that the behaviours of your toxic boss are in the past. Be kind to yourself and trust your new boss has your best interests at heart.

I am employed by a membership-based association. The CEO keeps the inexperienced board members ill-informed and compliant. He also goes into the ‘back end’ of the election results to make ensure his preferred candidates win a seat on the Board. He knows I am the only person who knows he fiddles the election results, and it sits very uncomfortably with me. The Chair and the Board are weak, and always defer to him. Any advice?

These are serious issues and I can only imagine how stressful this must be for you to have to grapple with. I am sure interfering with elections would be in breach of your organisations Constitution, let alone breach the trust of your members who presumably pay fees to be well governed. If you are a regulated organisation in any way I am sure it is contrary to many other issues as well.

My question to you is whether you wish to continue working in this organisation with this CEO? Given you are the only person who is aware of what is happening, unfortunately he has placed you in the predicament of needing to decide whether you can be complicit in allowing it to continue or whether you must act.

I would recommend you either speak to your General Counsel or Company Secretary, if you have one, about next steps. I would document all you know and provide a copy of your concerns to the Chair. If the Chair and board choose not to act, then it may be an easy answer whether you can reasonably expect to remain working in this organisation with this CEO. Good luck.

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