Why does my new boss have fewer qualifications than I do?

Dear Evil HR Lady,


I am very offended by a senior level decision that occurred today in my institution.

Our senior level nursing executive position was posted internal only [not a problem]

Four groups interviewed the four internal candidates.

The current interim candidate did not meet the minimum educational preparation requirements [stated in the job description] of a bachelor’s in nursing with preference for a master’s in nursing. [Her direct reports are required to have master’s degrees and do].

The other three internal candidates meet the minimum education and experience requirements [they have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing]

Today, it was announced that the candidate who did not meet the minimum requirements, was selected for the position of senior level nursing executive.

I am offended that I have to meet the minimum requirements for all positions I manage as well as my own job description, but that the senior level executive does not. She does not have a degree in nursing at all. She has a diploma in nursing.

My question is that if there are internal candidates that qualify for the minimum requirements, can a position be filled among their peers by a person who does not meet the required educational preparation?

How can someone with a diploma evaluate her reports that have a master’s degree?

To read the answer, click here: Why does my new boss have fewer qualifications than I do?

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18 thoughts on “Why does my new boss have fewer qualifications than I do?

  1. It depends on how the job announcement was written. I have seen many job announcements where it says something like “The successful candidate will have a Bachelors Degree in Teapot Making from an accedited university. However, other combinations of relevant education and experience will be evaluated on an individual basis. It is important that all previous work experience is listed.”

    So the candidate could have a lower degree (Bachelors vs. Masters) but have relevant experience and still get the job.

    1. The only silly thing here was that they said it was a requirement rather than a plus. That’s a bad idea.

  2. It’s very simple: a master’s degree in nursing doesn’t make you a good manager, and chances are, this person whose mere diploma the OP is sneering at probably has a lot of soft skills that none of the other “more qualified” candidates possess. I manage a team of people who have education ranging from high school diploma and a little college to advanced degrees, and the star performer on my team, who consistently outshines everyone else on the team, who has picked up new work the fastest, shown the most knowledge about and talent for the work we do, and who is best with clients and working in a team environment is the one with no degree at all.

    A degree can be very helpful in terms of making sure a person has basic competencies to do their job, but if this person did the same job as her three peers previously AND has successfully been doing the management job, I fail to see why her lack of degree makes her grossly unqualified for the position or less able to judge the performance of those doing a job she once did. This comes across as incredibly snobbish and incapable of seeing the forest for the trees…might even be part of the reason why the offended one wasn’t picked for the job.

    1. “…might even be part of the reason why the offended one wasn’t picked for the job.”


  3. Another example Prof Dukerich used in Org Behavior: when you have to manage highly-skilled employees, like a hospital administrator managing surgeons. It is a difficult situation because the employees might not think the administrator is qualified to be their boss, but managing an organization and performing a heart transplant are two very different skills. Both are necessary for the organization to succeed.

    1. Yes, that is absolutely true. And we shouldn’t require managers to be able to do.

  4. I think sometimes both companies and employees mistake credentials and qualifications with ability to so the job well.

  5. This “offended” manager’s workplace may have a grievance policy that allows an employee to file a written complaint if he or she disagrees with a decision. Upon receiving a grievance, senior management should review or investigate the situation and either confirm or reverse the initial decision. In unionized environments, union representatives support the employee during the grievance process and objective third party mediators or arbitrators also may become involved.

    Paula J. MacLean is the best-selling author of five books on improving human resource practices in the workplace. For more information, visit her website at http://www.silvercreekpress.ca.

      1. I sure hope not! Talk about sour grapes and painting a big old target on your back.

      1. And my garbled comment is a great example of why I should quit posting and go to bed.

  6. This seems to be an issue in a lot of companies. People think that if they are good at… medical billing, they can get 150 claims paid a day, that means they can manage a medical billing department. Not true. It doesn’t mean they can’t, it just means that the art of getting claims paid is not an indicator of management ability.

    I would have much more confidence in a prospective candidate if they came to me and said, I have taken management classes and I have read up on it and so on. Not that, that would make them a better candidate but at least they know they understood just knowing ” the job of billing” is not the only skill needed to be a supervisor.

    Management is delegating, figuring out better processes, training, hiring, firing, putting together a good team, dealing with problems within the team, etc. Too many people underestimate all that.

    I can’t tell you how many people I know that wanted that supervisor job so badly because they are “so good” at ” XYZ ” and well heck why not be a supervisor? And they failed, really badly. Completely overwhelmed by what management was about.

  7. It’s that darn Peter Principal: Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Just because you are a great Nurse/Engineer/Teapot Maker does NOT mean you will be good at supervising Nurses/Engineers/Teapot Makers.

  8. For me what is not clear is what they told the interim manager. It sounds like they told her she couldn’t have the job because she lacked the degree. If that’s true then they’ve created at least a big morale problem by going with the diploma person. You answered they may have seen something in her management style. But they probably copped out on being honest, said it was the degree, and now appear hypocritical and dishonest.

  9. Part of this may be a misunderstanding of the term “diploma in nursing.” It used to be that folks could do a hands-on training program with a medical college or hospital for a number of years and earn a diploma in nursing. They would still have to take the RN licensure exam to obtain the registered nurse credential. It’s not equivalent to a bachelor or associate degree in anything; it was just a different path to get to RN. This largely went away in the 1970s but was a popular option for a lot of people to get into the workforce. As a diploma nurse, the roles where one could work were more limited (mostly hospital service).
    Nowadays, those programs are pretty much non-existant. Most facilities do not hire anyone without a BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) for RN positions. And those with associate degrees in nursing are being forced to convert to BSNs.
    If this candidate had a diploma in nursing, that gives us a clue that the candidate has probably been a nurse for a (very) long time, and was judged to have superior clinical and managerial skills, as compared with the other candidates.

  10. First the notice for the job opening mislead, second the person hired now has to hire only master’s degree applicants. How can she/he do this without knowing what it takes to get a master’s degree?
    The other thing that bothered me was the writer has not told us if his new boss has show management skills in the past. No sick days, available for over-time, few mistakes and the ability to learn.
    As a small business owner, I know what I wish for and what is available, and I have a second opinion in all staff I hire. Because honestly sometimes I just like the person and my better half sees thru my blindness. So yes to the writer at time we do hire out of our personal ability to work with sub-ordinate.

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