In order for the mediocre to make their working life as smooth and pain-free as an intravenous morphine drip, it's vital that they learn to deal with the sorry individual who's been over-promoted and put in charge of them: The boss.
How on earth did they get to be boss?
Looking at them, you may wonder how your boss ever got put in charge of anything more taxing than an armchair. There are a number of possibilities: mistaken identity, nepotism, sexual favours or, as in most cases, simply being in the pub when the new boss jobs were being handed out. What matters to you is not the incomprehensible nature of this decision, it's how you can make the most of it to get through your day.
Here are some tips for dealing with bosses from someone who's seen both sides and wriggled out of the middle with only surface scarring and occasional self-medication.
It's what you do, not how you do it
Nobody had ever put me in charge of anything until I joined the University Officer Training Corps (a sort of army reserve for students). We were on our annual camp when somebody decided for a laugh that I should lead a night patrol.
Ten of us left the camp and everyone followed me like I knew what I was doing. We were told to expect an ambush. We wandered around aimlessly for several hours using the lights from our cigarettes to avoid bumping into each other. When we eventually got back to camp I realised that I'd read the compass wrong and we'd been patrolling 180 degrees away from where we were supposed to be. Hence no ambush.
I reported back to the commanding officer and nervously confessed to the most incompetent military leadership since the Gallipoli landings.
"Oh, don't worry about that," he said, patting me on the back. "Everybody else got ambushed, you were the only one that came back without being shot up. Nice work!"
As far as your boss is concerned, the result is more important than the process.
Even bosses have bosses
The problems that you have with your boss are similar to the ones that he has with his boss. If they're giving you crap it may well be because they're being given the same crap from somebody upstairs. Your job is to get rid of all the crap and make sure everyone is happy.
Asking for a pay rise
Everyone wants more money. It's what defines us as sentient beings. However, the boss has to juggle infinite demands with finite resources. If your aim is purely to get a pay rise then keep asking. If your aim is to progress your career, it's advisable not to be constantly whinging.
What if your boss takes credit for your work?
Who cares? If you made them look better they're happy, and a happy boss is a demonstrable improvement on the alternative.
Lying to the boss
I once had a member of staff asking for a pay rise as they had been offered a job with more money by a rival company. I rang up my mate at the other company and asked why they were poaching my staff. Turns out they weren't. Awkward.
Probably best not to sleep with the boss
Your boss is a git
There are a couple of possible reasons why your boss is behaving like a bit of a git. The most likely one is that they are a bit of a git. Get a new job.
Bosses are people too
This is hard to believe, though apparently biologically accurate. They may be arrogant, uncaring, red-faced and a bit shouty, but underneath they have feelings too. Be nice to them.
... But not too nice
Toadying is to be avoided. It's not that your boss won't appreciate it, it's that none of your colleagues will ever trust you. Nobody likes the teacher's pet other than the teacher.
Your boss doesn't like your work
Ask people you trust for a second opinion, but never forget that there is a chance, however remote, that your boss is right. They might actually be your boss for a reason.
Anyone who is drunker than you is automatically annoying. A boss drunker than you is both annoying and dangerous. So, even if you find the situation curiously amusing, my advice is to avoid a drunk boss and just go home. (No, not with them.) The boss's maxim is to make sure they are always one drink behind their staff. Make it easier for them by always being one drink ahead yourself. (I said ONE drink.)
• Paul Catmur worked in Advertising at a quite good level across New Zealand, the UK and Australia including co-founding an agency in Auckland. This is a series of articles about how to make the best out of not being the best