My supervisor believes that only common sense and experience matter when dealing with work issues. He is not one for theory or 'book learning', but has an intuitive knack for the craft and a great wisdom. I am just starting out studying my profession, but feel that I can't talk to him about what I am learning as his eyes glaze over when I start using industry and profession terminology (at all) or things he may be unfamiliar with. I am not sure if this is a workplace issue or a communication issue, but I know I am not alone in the 'theoretical knowledge vs. practical knowledge' issue-- in fact I believe that you need a balance of experience and theory, but my boss seems to scoff or put down ('did you read that in a book? this is how it works in the real world') anything outside of his realm of experience, at least when it comes to work. I am not sure if he is threatened or not.

My question being simply: how can I connect with him and let him know that theory and practical wisdom go hand in hand?

EDIT: The industry I am in is project management, and as far as I am aware I am using basic terms (like stakeholder, risk management, profit margin) in a standard way.

  • 2
    This might work better on Interpersonal Skills, as it doesn't sound strictly work related. (Unless you somehow need to convince him for your job)
    – Erik
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 6:10
  • "his eyes glaze over when I start using industry and profession terminology (at all) or things he may be unfamiliar with." are you sure this isn't because you are playing bullshit bingo (that is, overusing them), or applying them in the wrong context, or generally flooding him instead of using them in a constructive and natural way? Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 15:38
  • What industry? He might not care for all your book learning theories if you job is to build forms for concrete. He's been doing it longer than you have read the book, pretty sure he knows what he's doing, or at least that's how he is going to view it.
    – user41891
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 21:01
  • The industry is project management. As far as I know I am using industry terms (stakeholders, earned value management, project controls, KPIs) in a pretty standard way. Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


Plenty of people these days learn "on the job". I do this myself almost exclusively. I learn what I need to in order to get the job at hand done and I don't always read the background because I don't want to spend more time learning things that aren't relevant to what I'm doing now (sometimes not doing this is an issue, most of the time it isn't). I don't know all the latest buzzwords and terminology - I don't need to if they're not relevant.

This, I'm guessing is where your manager is now. He's using his own experience and learning new things as and when he has to.

You're coming from the other side, you're learning new things, have a lot of curiosity, and want to try new ideas.

How can you convince your manager? By putting your new ideas into practice (if they're relevant to your work items/projects).

Where relevant, talk to your supervisor about your plans and ask if it's ok to try them out. You've already seen his eyes glaze over at times, so you should be aware of when you're stepping over the line in terms of telling him about the new and shiny things. So feed him in smaller, bite-sized chunks. Demonstrate in small (but scalable) ways.

But don't feel aggrieved if he wants you to do things his way, it's something that obviously seems to work.

  • As a basic example, my client company was against moving to Azure because it's too much work ("our IIS works just fine!"). A colleague of mine gave a demonstration today where he set up the entire (dev) environment in a few hours from scratch, and you could see the once forcibly closed eyes of the managers opening.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 12:37

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