Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Bad Boss, Bad Boss, Whatcha Gonna Do?
Ask anyone you know about the worst boss they’ve ever had and guaranteed, you’ll be there for three hours wishing you hadn’t asked that question. Just thinking about your worst boss is kerosine to the blaze that already exists in your belly.
Why are bad bosses so ubiquitous and good bosses as rare as a well-dressed shopper in Wal-Mart?
Those of us who have been the doers, the producers of actual *work,* know all-too-well what it feels like to be under the stiff palm of a little Napoleon.
And it makes you wonder: how/why do people like this rise to such ranks? They have no business interfacing with the public in general, let alone directing their co-workers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a few good bosses. But the bad bosses, the Michael Scotts of the corporate world, are plentiful, and they did more to contribute to the holes in my stomach than annual revenue.
And you don’t have to be a fan of the TV show, “The Office,” to have heard about the lead character, Michael Scott. He is a composite of all of our bad bosses, checking off every personality defect in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
He's known for his humility: “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
Michael is pompous, inappropriate, bigoted and incompetent, with a complete lack of self-awareness. He’s an attention-feeding juvenile who lives to ridicule others, usurp credit, self-promote and make up new rules that only benefit him.
We have worked for people like this.
I’ve had supervisors who’ve taken ownership of my ideas and insisted on correcting my writing – incorrectly. Bosses who've yapped the day away about their frenzied social lives, adventure vacations and shopping expeditions. These same ones often strolled in around 10, left after lunch and would ask you to come in on
When I was in high school, I worked afternoons in an office for a man my father’s age who badgered me regularly to join him for lunch and dinner. One lunch and I knew we weren’t there to discuss my next project for the company.
Another boss sat me down and told me I needed Jesus to deliver me from my lifestyle: living in sin with my boyfriend. Jesus must have been on my side, since she was demoted shortly thereafter and I was then truly “delivered.”
And I’ll never forget my first day as a writer for a computer magazine. No introductions. No tour of the building. I was assigned to an office with glass walls and a desk. No computer.
I felt like the new goldfish. The staff peered in at me, as if waiting for me to do a number from A Chorus Line or a mime or something. My new boss, a rotund man with a megaphone voice, tossed a stack of past issues on my desk along with paper and pencils and barked at me to write a piece about the company.
“Can you give me some idea of the scope of the piece?” I asked
as he turned away.
“You’ll figure it out.”
An hour later, after scanning the magazines and staring blankly at the white-lined paper, I edged into his office for some clarification. He shot out his arm, pointing to the door and roared, “JUST START WRITING!”
My first day, my first hour, my first dictator.
I slid back into my seat and looked out the glass door. An assistant met my eyes, gave me a sad smile and a tipped head.
Just before noon, he lumbered in to examine the draft. He practically gave it an MRI while shaking his head.
“This is NOT what I’m looking for! You need to START OVER!”
A few minutes later, he left for lunch. I approached his assistant.
“I just want to know one thing,” I whispered.
“Sure.” she said.
“Has there been a revolving door of people in my position?”
She nodded slowly.
I went back to my desk and wrote on a piece of paper: “It’s no wonder you can’t keep a writer in this position. No one with a brain could tolerate you.”
I placed it on his desk and walked out.
The Golden Rule is all but lost in corporate America. Instead, the culture dictates, “Treat others the way you feel like treating them at any given moment. As long as you’re the boss.”
And as long as there are jobs for people, not robots, there will be bad bosses. They are a thorny part of life we wish we could avoid, much like fungus, the Kardashians and shoes that give off a fart noise when you walk.
Remember, a bad boss can alter the way you see yourself. Over time, it feels like an abusive relationship. That’s because it is.
Michael Scott once said to his team, “You should never settle for who you are.”
And I’m telling you, you should never settle for another Michael Scott.
Who's the worst boss you've ever had? (No names, please.) Please one up me with your own Michael Scott saga.