June 18, 2009

Difficult Bosses


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mean_boss_73212333 Bosses. Job satisfaction surveys say the #1 reason people stay or leave a job is the kind of boss they have. That’s even more important than salary.

So I was thinking yesterday about some of the bosses I’ve had or worked with. They all – every one of them – wanted to do a good job. But there were some who sabotaged themselves and their agency’s success, usually with a runaway ego or blinding pride.

There was the guy who absolutely refused to change what he knew were destructive behaviors. So a group of us, taking our families’ futures directly into our hands, staged an intervention to help him realize how he was hurting the agency and everyone in it. I’m not talking about a he’s-drinking-his-lunch intervention (he shunned alcohol; too bad, it might have helped!). No, his problem was extreme moodiness, swings from hyper-micromanagement to total apathy, temper tantrums (full-scale: throwing things, screaming, threatening to fire everybody on the spot). He refused professional counseling and last I heard he’s still limping along with a just a small staff. The rest of us left years ago.

There was another agency CEO who demanded every single communication be passed under his nose for approval. Talk about no empowerment! Work was always in queue for approval; things were constantly jammed up and late. Anything that mentioned money or implied the agency would be obligated in any way was subject to his OK or veto. He trusted nobody.

One more example: an agency CEO whose habit is to always reject all projects with “not good enough.” Many are plenty good enough of course, but she believes people are intrinsically lazy and never give their best unless they’re scourged like Roman slaves rowing a galleon.

For the record, I’ve worked with and for some really wonderful bosses, too – who understood that the work is best when people are positively motivated, happy, and can grow daily in competence and confidence.

What should you do if you’re in a tough spot? First, learn all you can from the situation. Keep your head held high and do your best to contribute and grow without sacrificing your dignity or doing damage to your soul.

But remember also that life is too short to work for a card-carrying jerk. Never let your fear of finding another job, even in these times, imperil your sanity or your health. You are not an indentured servant.

So what does a good boss do? Get some ideas by reading Style Matters: How to Behave When You’re The Boss on our website.


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