From the “Teachers don’t get to say that files”

A teacher is awaiting word on whether he’ll be fired for asking a student why he hadn’t done his homework. Except he asked it like this…

Source: Happyplace

Managing the Meanies: Ganging up as a management style

Last week Buck introduced us to the idea of management style being introduced in adolescence. In Buck’s case, his bad bosses were all male, but the concept that management style, particularly bad management style, begins in adolescence, transcends gender – believe me I know from experience. Today Buck discusses “ganging up” as a management style…

As kids we called it “ganging up”, gathering together as much muscle as needed in order tooverconfident demonstrate your influence. It’s a management style used by corporate bully-bosses and surely a behavior that these de-motivators learned as kids. Such corporate bullies have issues upstairs, so to speak, self-confidence vacuums that cause them to enlist the support of other bullies in order to force their influence and demonstrate their irresistible control over others. In short, they can’t influence or persuade you by themselves. They don’t have enough self-confidence for that, so they must gang up and do it as a team. If you don’t think that this is so, think again. It’s behavior that bully-bosses learned as kids and they’re using the same techniques today. The trouble is it’s a technique that’s overwhelmingly de-motivating to those on the receiving end.

I was in the lobby of the Hampton Inn at the Buffalo airport stamping the snow off of my shoes at 7:30 in the morning when my Napoleonic bully of a boss called me on my cell phone. I had just cleared eight inches of freshly fallen snow off of my rental car. It was still snowing hard and the sky was so gray and the cloud ceiling so low that it almost seemed artificial. I heard his voice and my demeanor stiffened as I braced for what was coming; I always dreaded talking with him. He was about to brow-beat me into convincing a customer to take several shipments of bad product and he had enlisted yet another bully to participate in the intimidation. This other guy was a yes-man sycophant and the two of them together surely could do some damage. My boss was in a particularly bad mood since previous attempts to strong arm me had failed; I had not acquiesced to his unethical demands – demands which could have been harmful to the customer – and obviously this pounding had been rehearsed beforehand by the two of them. They left me little wiggle room other than to do just what they insisted or no doubt face unemployment. The encounter left me red-faced and furious. It was a classic case of a pre-arranged ganging up, a desperate bully-boss technique when the guy needed to demonstrate his prowess. His confidence in his own persuasiveness was so low that he was compelled to recruit another to help with his dirty work.

This bully-boss would never confront a major issue alone and it nearly goes without saying that he surrounded himself with a few favored managers, trusted confidants that carried out his every wish. The trouble was that these guys were nearly all lesser figures, unremarkable characters who allowed this incompetent to shine. It was absolutely demoralizing to the rest of us; one of the favored had the IQ of a dolt, but he called the boss “sir” and was flatteringly responsive to his every need. These corporate courtesans were skillful at telling the boss what he wanted to hear, never gave him bad news or shared an opinion contrary to his. None of them would ever eclipse him with their mediocrity. And so the business was mismanaged into near extinction under this boss’s reign and no one in senior management ever ventured to peel back the layers and look inside.

Next Tuesday: Cronyism and its destructive effects

Buck Hamilton is a sales and marketing executive who’s spent over thirty years working in the paper distribution business. He’s a prolific writer who’s presently working on a book which narrates the stories of sixteen Vietnam War veterans. You can read his weekly series  “Managing the Meanies: A Survival Guide” every Tuesday here on Really Bad Boss.

Managing the Meanies: The Intimidating Demoralizer

Before the holiday break Buck introduced us to bosses who only appreciate one opinion, their own.  Allowed to rein free in organizations, these insecure bad bosses are dangerous for both the organization and the people who report to them. This week Buck returns with an analysis of another type of really bad boss – the Intimidating Demoralizer. He also introduces us to the idea that the seeds of this kind of bad boss behavior may be sown as far back as adolescence…

Another memorable bad boss in my past was a moody man with a disturbingly de-motivating style.overconfident Self-conscious of his short stature, he exerted absolute control over his realm. This guy was so caustic, so abusive and snotty that the dozen or so sales reps and group managers who reported to him would telephone each other in advance and pass along the storm warnings. Like an alcoholic or a manic depressive, this guy was always miserable and unhappy and as such would make certain that we were too. He insisted that we phone him and report the goings on in our respective markets and he would then take the opportunity to dismantle and crush our enthusiasm with an abusive line of questioning.

Absolutely uncertain

One of the hallmarks of his dreadful management style was that he’d never believe what we told him, he’d question the veracity of the intelligence that we reported and let us know that he had little confidence in our feedback. He’d intimidate and demoralize us. We all recognized of course what was going on here; this guy was asserting his power and control over us. If he allowed us to be enthusiastic, if he put credence and confidence in what we reported to him, then he’d be giving us credibility and hence power. He’d be validating us. His moody abuse, like an insecure tyrant, was his way of keeping us absolutely uncertain, never knowing what to expect and always thinking the worst. Dealing with him was an exhausting struggle that over time would have anyone worn down to an insignificant nub. It was some years later that we learned that there was indeed some truth to the otherwise unfounded rumors that he went through the trash in our offices at night after everyone had left to see what dirt he could find on his people. We positively dreaded having to deal with this loser, and he was the company’s vice president of sales and marketing!

Self-inflicted deficiencies

One thing is clear; I know men and I know how they think. I’m a man and have been one for nearly sixty years. As such I passed through childhood and into adolescence with boys, went to school and played sports with them, matured into adulthood with men and have worked with them for over thirty years. What they were as boys and how they learned to interact with other as kids in many ways is what they are today; how they treat others, how they project themselves and, more importantly, what self-inflicted deficiencies they have burdened themselves with since the experiences of their adolescence.

Next Tuesday: Ganging up as a corporate management style

Buck Hamilton is a sales and marketing executive who’s spent over thirty years working in the paper distribution business. He’s a prolific writer who’s presently working on a book which narrates the stories of sixteen Vietnam War veterans. You can read his weekly series  “Managing the Meanies: A Survival Guide” every Tuesday here on Really Bad Boss.

The Really Bad Boss Blog Roundup

What the blogosphere’s saying about bosses this week…

rbb blog roundup copy On her blog A Meaningful Existence, Karen shares The top 5 reasons to leave your job – no surprise here, a bad boss is number one. And while this economy might have you staying put for a while, it’s important to note her suggestions, particularly about doing something everyday to move towards finding a better job, and a better boss.

Our friends over at Tame your TOT (Terrible Office Tyrant) share a few of the thousand office tyrant stories collected during research for their book. One unbelievable tantrum throwing VP “threw a fit because a new employee took the last cookie in the break room.”  We cannot make this stuff up.

Jack and Suzy Welch offer insight into surviving a bad boss including, trying to figure out your own end game.

“This is NOT in my job description!” I added the exclamation mark for emphasis because I’ve yelled that (in my head) so many times throughout my career I’ve lost count. On his site Work Awesome, (love the name!) Joseph Lewis breaks it down for idealistic newcomers to the workforce – “Life isn’t fair. Nor is it reasonable, rational, sensible, logical, nice, or fluffy. Life is strange, ridiculous, cruel …and just a little bit dirty.” And in this dirty life, one day your boss is going to ask you to do something you don’t want to do. Lewis offers advice on how to handle it when it happens, because trust me, it will happen.

Monday morning mayhem…

j0422409 I still remember it like it was yesterday. The anxiety I felt on Sunday evenings knowing that in a few short hours I’d be back at the office working at a job I didn’t like and for a man, or woman, I didn’t respect. It was years before I’d learn how to manage my reaction to my bosses so that they didn’t wreak havoc on my entire life. Monday morning mayem is a re-post of something I shared when I first launched Really Bad Boss. It’s the true story of the time I crashed the company car and had to walk to work the following Monday morning and confront what I now know is the worst boss I’d ever have. Did I mention I’d only been working at the company for two weeks?

Monday morning mayhemOr how to survive getting  your really bad boss, really angry on a Monday morning

For years I wasted entire Sundays absolutely dreading Monday mornings.   The uneasy feeling would start to creep in on Saturday night, and by Sunday evening, I was a basket case.  For many of us Monday spells the end of the weekend, the start of the work week and a return to a real tool of a boss.  Facing a really bad boss on a typical Monday morning is bad enough, but it’s even worse when you’ve got to face him with bad news from something that happened over the weekend.  What could you possibly do over the weekend that would require you to give your boss bad news on Monday morning?  Glad you asked.   I crashed…no… totaled the car. The company car.  Did I mention I’d been on the job for only two weeks when it happened?  I challenge anyone to top that Monday morning story.  

Thankfully no one was injured in the accident.  I still remember the two block walk of shame to the office that morning, after a totally sleepless Sunday night.  As my new colleagues sped by me on their way to work, I sensed more than saw them looking at me in their rear view mirrors wandering why the new girl was walking to work.  They all knew I had been given a company car and like a scene from The Office, were all peering over the receptionist’s shoulder when I arrived several minutes later.  I could have taken a cab, but in addition to the car, the company was paying for me to stay in a hotel until I found an apartment.  I thought it would be pretty presumptuous to take (and expense) a cab to work the day after totaling the car.   

It’s a testament to the saying "time heals all wounds" that I really don’t remember much of the conversation that took place that morning.  I do remember that it involved a lot of cursing on the Reprobate’s end (in two languages) and quite a bit of apologizing and tears on mine.   I was pretty young then, so crying was one of the only coping mechanisms I had mastered at the time.  I think I must have blacked out for a couple of minutes too because I remember someone handing me a bottle of water and seeing half of it on my shirt a few minutes later…or maybe that was sweat.  In any event, my point is this.  I dreaded that Monday morning probably more than any Monday morning I’d ever had before then and have ever had since.  Yet I survived.  I made it through the swearing, spitting (yes there was spitting) and crying that day.  Had I known 10 years later that I wouldn’t even remember the conversation clearly; I would have slept that Sunday night.  Had I known that the next two years would involve a lot more cursing, a lot less tears, and me ending up no worse for the wear, I would have had a lot fewer sleepless nights. 

It took several more bad bosses and Monday morning mayhems for me to learn that we can’t always control how our bosses treat us, but we can control how we respond.  Our really bad bosses get our talents, our time and our energy, but we own our emotions and our responses to theirs, no matter how erratic they might be. The next time I was faced with a Monday morning mayhem of that magnitude, I slept on Sunday night – not like a baby – but like an adult who knew in her heart that no matter what the boss dealt me on Monday morning, everything would be all right in the end.

If you’ve survived your own Monday Morning Mayhem, share your tale of survival with our readers. Email your story to, or leave a comment in our comment section.

Managing the Meanies; A Survival Guide Part I

overconfident A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader interested in sharing his own stories of bad bosses and the impact they’ve had on his life and career. Always interested in others’ stories and how they’ve coped with really bad bosses, I asked him to send me his. And what a story it is. Buck Hamilton is a sales and marketing executive who’s spent over thirty years working in the paper distribution business. He’s a prolific writer who’s presently working on a book which narrates the stories of sixteen Vietnam War veterans, and he’s got a lot to say about our corporate culture of bad management and worse bosses.

I’m very excited to welcome Buck Hamilton as Really Bad Boss’ first ever guest blogger. His stories are honest, often amusing, and familiar accounts of really bad bosses and the damage they can inflict on their employees and the companies they run. This week begins the series we’ve entitled Managing the Meanies; A Survival Guide to Corporate Bully-Bosses.  Every Tuesday over the next few months, Buck shares his personal stories of bad boss behavior and how he managed to survive his own corporate bully bosses.

In part one of the series, Buck introduces us to the first of his many bully bosses. Peter was the quintessential bad boss – “grumpy and unapproachable” with a god complex…

An eager young supervisor

It was while talking on the phone with a friend of mine who just recently left his company for a new job with a competitor that I heard in his voice a level of passion and excitement that he had never shown before. As if having been released from Puritan stocks he was liberated from the former company, the massive oak mantle that he had been locked into had been lifted. My friend was the casualty of a bad boss and the dysfunction cost the former company hugely with the loss of his talents.

His demoralizing bad-boss relationship was reminiscent of my own story when I was coming up in the paper manufacturing business as a young supervisor. At the time I had been challenged with a nearly impossible task, one that had been tackled by several other managers before me without results and one that I was determined to succeed at. This overwhelming assignment involved the disposal of hundreds of tons of waste paper that had been irresponsibly accumulated by the company over the years, paper that had no use whatsoever other than to be gradually reclaimed into the process as raw material, and if successful, the bottom line return to the firm could ultimately reach well beyond half a million dollars.

I worked on the project over time, reading about and researching the technology of recovering the waste, understanding the quality impact of using such raw materials in the process, talking with the old-timers at the paper mill and securing their thoughts and input. Several trials yielded promising results and I was thrilled with the progress that we had made.

Grumpy and unapproachable with a God complex

Well, every morning the company’s general manager, Peter, walked through the plant making his tour, his hands thrust into his pockets and always looking grumpy and unapproachable. On one such morning he stopped and asked me about the status of the project and I told him of the progress we had made and that several chemical company consultants were coming in to advise us on the technology — free input, I might add, with no cost to the company other than the price of the chemical should it work. He lost it right there on the floor and blistered me for bringing in consultants, the only consulting he insisted that the company needed was from him and he walked away berating me over his shoulder. I was left standing there flushed with embarrassment, crushed by the granite weight of his rejection. The encounter left me demoralized and uncertain what to do with the project, paralyzed as to whether or not I should even continue to develop this technology.

The seminal moment

Despite the general manager’s deflating style I succeeded with the challenge and in time recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in bottom-line savings for the company. My nasty encounter with Peter, however, was the seminal moment in which I realized that it was time to leave the company and move on to a competitor; I had no desire whatsoever to work for a company that promoted such poor management style. But most importantly, Peter had demonstrated to me the lessons of yet another episode in how not to treat subordinates.

Have any of you ever had a seminal moment? A moment where, while working in a bad job, or for a bad boss, you simply realize that you can do better? That you just have to do better? We’d like you to share your seminal moments with us. You never know, maybe your story will give someone the courage they need to realize their own seminal moment.

Next Tuesday…12 bosses, less than 20% worth their salaries…

Bosses, listen closely, consent doesn’t get you off the hook

finger pointingAn article in Business Management Daily warns bosses against mistakenly believing that consensual sexual activity with their subordinates gets them off the hook for sexual harassment.  Case in point, the sensational case of Augusto Medina and the late Frederick “the Rev. Ike” Eikerenkoetter, a former Florida based evangelist.

Medina was hired by the church to be the pastor’s personal assistant. Medina claimed the pastor made him engage in a sexual relationship and sued the church for sexual harassment.  The church and the reverend denied any sexual relationship, but claimed that even if there had been one, the lawsuit was baseless since Medina himself admitted to consenting. It’s the old “I didn’t do it, but even if I had done it, you let me” argument.  The court didn’t buy it either, citing the supervisory relationship between Medina and Reverend Ike.

Office fraternization is common – even when explicitly forbidden by company rules. But when you get people spending more time with colleagues than with their spouses, these things happen. And while workplace dalliances are always risky, when they involve bosses and their subordinates, the risks multiply.

Business Management Daily suggests that companies consider banning all personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates.  And while many companies will take that suggestion, at least on paper anyway, we all know that banning them won’t put an end to them.  I’ve been in environments where there were obvious signs of a relationship going on between a subordinate and a member of management.  It’s bad for office morale, and it causes everyone to question the leadership.  We couldn’t see any evidence that HR or other management attempted to do anything to remedy the situation.  Maybe realizing that not interceding could threaten their bottom line, is the boost some employers need to finally take action.

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