I have only one year of experience of work after graduating from college. I recognize that given my lack of experience, I am less skilled at what I do than everyone else at my company. On more than one occasion however, my boss has stated out right that I have no skill at all. I try not to be offended by this, but as time has gone on I've seen it more frequently and it has started to make me feel very useless.

How can I ask my boss to stop saying (or implying, which feels no better) that I have no skill without coming off as cocky or arrogant?

  • Are you certain that your boss really is saying that you have no skill at all? I'm assuming if the company thought you were useless, you wouldn't have been hired over all the other folks that applied for that job. It's very easy when we're feeling a little insecure to project what we're feeling and thinking onto other people. Maybe your boss is trying to help you, not disrespect you, by making sure everyone has realistic expectations given the amount of experience that you have. That means it will be easier for you to exceed those expectations.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:58
  • Could you elaborate on exactly what your boss is saying, ideally with examples? Because "no skill at all" and "arrogant" seem like opposite extremes, what's making it difficult to separate them in this case?
    – Nat
    Jul 16, 2017 at 21:31
  • @Nat Ill give two examples that stick out in my mind as especially unpleasant to me. On one occasion where me and 2 other programmers were taking a training course, before the course he said that hed told the trainer he hired that we were all at least familiar with basic logic except for me. When I first started he also used the phrase 'obviously you dont know anything'. Theres also a lot of less blunt stuff that collectively gives me the impression he doesnt think much of me.
    – mwbl
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:50
  • @mwbl Don't read too much into the first example. It is generally a good idea to make trainers aware of the participants' skill level so they can tailor the training appropriately. The second example could be less appropriate, depending on how dismissive your boss's tone was.
    – Pedro
    Jul 17, 2017 at 7:31

4 Answers 4


I'll start by saying that a boss that puts you down isn't something you're going to fix with a conversation. So if you're looking for magic words, don't.

Simply put, early in your career you have to prove him wrong. When you have an opportunity to show your skill (and professionalism!) take full advantage of it. Don't shy away from difficult problems. Tackle a longstanding bug. Look for something to do and do it. Learn new skills and leverage the ones you do have. It's that simple.

  • 2
    +1, but with caution: a boss that straight up belittles you could easily adopt a reverse psychology approach of taunting you in order to get you to do something. "I bet you can't do this, I bet you can't figure out X..." Good leadership does not rely primarily on this approach. The OP should look out for this as well.
    – Pedro
    Jul 15, 2017 at 23:55
  • @Pedro What is one to do, though? "Stick it to them" by performing below capabilities?
    – corsiKa
    Jul 16, 2017 at 0:03
  • 13
    No, if a boss is repeatedly insulting you, its time to find a new boss by internal transfer or leaving. There is no excuse for saying a team member has no skill, especially if done publicly. Jul 16, 2017 at 6:37
  • 2
    Depending on context this might be workplace bullying. Jul 16, 2017 at 16:52
  • Ask for specific areas you should work on or ways to improve

    "You have no skill" is not in any way constructive.

    As your manager, if they want to criticise you, they should be able to give meaningful criticism and give general guidance that you can use to improve yourself.

    The optimistic assumption is that the manager just isn't aware of how his words are received (e.g. they have Asperger's) and digging deeper could reveal useful information and making a habit of asking for more details might even in future lead to them opting to start with constructive criticism instead. If this is cause, something could be said about just confronting them about this directly, but that could certainly backfire if they're not receptive and won't go at all well if there is any other cause.

    Alternatively, showing that you're eager to learn from them, you're not in any way offended by their words and every such statement leads to them needing to justify it could remove all pleasure they might get from insulting you and make it way more effort than it's worth for them.

  • Prove them wrong

    Simply working hard to improve the things they criticise you on should (over time) make these criticisms less common or eliminate them completely.

    While this is an option, I wouldn't really recommend it as a way to deal with a manager who gives degrading criticism (because life's too short to be subjected to such criticism while you work on improving yourself and they may just find something else to criticise you about later).

  • Find another boss (i.e. job)

    "You have no skill" is not something a manager should ever tell someone they manage (even if you really do have no skill, there's no point in saying that).

    If they regularly give you such criticism, my strongest recommendation would be to just find another job.

  • I approve clearly the last part, however I am some doubt that a manager that state so bluntly "you have no skill" would acknowledge he's wrong and finally I am totally sceptic that talk like that have really something constructive to say at all.
    – Walfrat
    Jul 16, 2017 at 18:33
  • @Walfrat Asking for details probably won't help, but there isn't much harm in trying. Jul 16, 2017 at 19:00

The esiest way is to keep track of all your accomplishments with objective facts to prove them. Then wait for the first performance review and list them all there.

Doing so your manager will be forced to recognize your skills and accomplishments.


How can I ask my boss to stop saying.....

Work harder, more professionally, prove him/her wrong. Then ask them to stop the derogatory comments if they haven't already.

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