The Really Bad Boss Blog Roundup

really bad boss blog roundupWhat the blogoshpere’s saying about bosses this week…

  • When they’re bad, we all talk about them. But when they’re really good, we should talk about that too. Luis Urzua, one of the trapped Chilean miners and the group’s leader, for two months kept his head and his group together. In the words of his president, Luis Urzua “acted like a good boss.” Bob Sutton agrees. Read his take here.
  • DirectTV’s Undercover Boss, Mike White, mans the phones at his call center and calls a she, a he. Watch the hilarity here.
  • Interesting new website Your Secret Gift suggests sending revenge gift to a bad boss with complete anonymity. Hmmm…
  • An Annapolis blogger calls out Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen for failing to do a background check on his nominee to run the Department of Transportation. Apparently the nominee, Richard Newell, served time for assault, armed robbery and a weapons charge in the 1970s. Retail employees undergo more rigorous screening for their minimum wage jobs. Read more here.
  • The Control Freak and The Finger Pointer are just two of ten archetypes of a bad boss – Find out what the others are here.

Bad bosses contribute to workplace violence

It might seem that we enjoy blaming bad bosses for everything that goes wrong at work, but in reality, bad management is responsible for a lot of what’s wrong in the workplace today, and workplace violence is no different. Believe it or not, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, murder is officially among the top five causes of work-related deaths in the U.S.

Arizona State University professor David Van Fleet and his wife Dr. Ella Van Fleet discuss workplace violence and management’s role in it, in their new book “The Violence Volcano: Reducing the Threat of Workplace Violence.” David Van Fleet says contrary to popular belief, workplace violence isn’t a result of people just losing it. Instead he says, “It’s really building over time, and workplace violence incidents are just the last step in a series of behavioral and emotional developments.” The problems could be avoided by the presence of good, capable managers, but instead are often exacerbated by the presence of bad bosses and bad management.

The Fleet’s book focuses on understanding the types of organizations and environments that result in incidences of workplace violence. As they reviewed literature preparing for the book, David Van Fleet says “It became clear that bad management of tough workplace problems has frequently led to fewer and fewer options for handling the problems, resulting in these eruptions.” The bottom line? Good bosses can be the key to stopping workplace violence.

Read more about the Van Fleet’s book and learn how to spot the signs to look for in employees who might become violent, here on Arizona State University’s website.

Image: David Van Fleet, ASU

In case you weren’t aware – 5 signs you’re a bad boss

Yesterday I talked about bosses who were clueless about how bad they are. Today I thought it would be fitting to list five signs to help those bosses understand that I was talking about them…

  1. You’re ignoring the facts – In the case of my former HR Manager, a 50% turnover rate in an office with less than 20 employees would have probably been a clear indicator to anyone paying attention that things were awry. When you’re not working in the hospitality industry, which is notorious for high turnover, but you’ve consistently got double digit turnover, you’ve got a real problem. Something is being lost in the message. Either new hires are unclear about what to expect or what’s expected of them, or they’re being dishonest in their interviews about their inabilities. Either way, that’s the responsibility of a good HR manager to catch. But in our case, our HR manager was too busy making excuses about the turnover rate to have a honest conversation with herself. It also didn’t help that upper management didn’t step in until things were basically in the toilet. Bad bosses are notorious for being able to pull the wool over people’s eyes, especially their own.
  2. Your staff isn’t making deadlines or meeting goals – As a leader, your staff takes on your qualities – good and bad. If you’re unclear about goals, deadlines and the way you want things done, then so are your employees. I once worked with a great guy whose direct reports were always hustling at the last minute to complete even the simplest projects. The problem was he was a nice guy, but a bad boss. His own lack of organizational skills and focus impacted his team negatively, and as a consequence their days were largely spent in panic mode.
  3. You outwardly defy the very rules you insist your staff abide by – You hammer home the importance of punctuality to your employees, but are late to every meeting, function and event. You site the importance of customer service, yet can be heard bad mouthing customers and employees alike. Your employees will never say anything to your face, but believe me, they’re talking about you behind your back, and it diminishes your authority in their eyes.
  4. Waffle House has nothing on you – If your mission, goals, and plan of attack change with the wind, then you’re probably a bad boss. Prolonged uncertainty breeds doubt, hesitation and ultimately failure, particularly when it comes from a boss. If you’re unsure about what to do, your entire staff will be too. Changing strategy on a monthly basis shouts “I have no clue what I’m doing!” Nothing lowers confidence in management faster than waffling.
  5. Openly showing favoritism – Probably every boss has his or her favorites, and there’s nothing wrong with rewarding top performers. Bosses get into trouble and wander into bad boss territory when they begin showing favoritism towards employees who don’t measure up in any category other than kissing up.  Nothing demeans the hard work and efforts of a team than when the boss starts playing favorites with the one person, or people, who aren’t pulling their load.

There are dozens of signs you’re a bad boss, including the deadly trinity of bullying, harassment and lying. What get’s some bosses in trouble is believing that because they’re not involved in the deadly trinity that they’re doing just fine. If your boss is engaging in any of the above behavior, or you’re involved in any of it yourself, then be forewarned, you’re probably in the midst of an unsuspecting  bad boss.

If you’ve experienced any of the above bad boss behaviors, we’d love to hear your story. Share your thoughts in the comment section or email them to

The worst kind of bad boss

j0285013 You’ve got liars, thieves and those bad bosses who intentionally, purposely spend their days thinking of ways to torture their employees. You might be wondering what could possibly be worse than that? How about a bad boss who doesn’t know she’s bad. Or a nice guy who’s really bad at managing people.  In my experience these can be some of the worst kind of bad boss. Case in point, my former HR Manager.

At first glance, Mary was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about all things HR – until I was actually working with her on a daily basis. It took only a few months to realize that Mary was woefully unprepared for the rigors of real HR Management. Yes she knew the laws and had the required posters displayed in the break room, but when it came to real HR Management – managing people, issues and the day to day operation of human resources, Mary was in way over her head.

A succession of blatantly bad hires and mental breakdowns in front of staff and employees and her carefully constructed cover was blown – at least to those of us who had to work with her on a daily basis. The VPs were clueless about her lack of management skills because they were off-site and because she told them exactly what they wanted to hear. It was only after a couple of years of record high turnover that management took a careful look at Mary and finally got rid of her. The most surprising thing about Mary though wasn’t her ineptitude, it was her complete inability to face up to it. I could never figure out if her bravado was a cover, or if she really thought she was good at her job.  Whatever the reason, her continued insistence that she was excellent at the job was what made Mary completely unbearable.

Then there’s the bad boss who’s friendly, sociable and who you wouldn’t mind working for – if only they knew what they were doing. What makes these bad bosses so difficult to deal with is that they’re genuinely good people, just really bad bosses. You can usually identify them by their tendency to be unorganized, show up late to just about everything and their general inability to give subordinates good direction. They might be very talented in their area of expertise, but when it comes to managing people, they’re just no good at it. As a consequence, they’re great to be around, but really bad to work for. It might seem nitpicky to fuss about a good guy who happens to be a bad boss, but when you’ve got deadlines to meet and professional goals to attain, working for anyone who isn’t able to help you gain the skills and experience you need to move forward can be detrimental to your career.

What’s been your experiences with these particular types of bad bosses? Did you find them harder or easier to work with than other types of bad bosses? Share your thoughts in our comment section.

The difference between leaders and bosses

Over at the Ventura County Star Ritch K. Eich, poses a great question – Were you meant to be a leader or just a boss? Well, which one are you? Eich makes several clear distinctions, including:

  • A leader is a champion for his or her employees. The boss tends to see his or her employees as a means to an end.
  • A leader shows congeniality and respect to everyone regardless of his or her rank. The boss may seek to be pleasant and charming to executives but is indifferent or even demeaning toward direct reports. The saying “smiles up the organization and frowns down the organization” captures the point well.
  • A leader will prohibit his managers from being demeaning, disrespectful or verbally abusive to others. A boss often turns his back on such behavior and may exhibit it himself.

Eich rightly argues that any person in a decision-making capacity, formal or informal, who advances the strategic goals of the business, who contributes mightily to institutional performance and who treats people fairly, honestly and compassionately is a leader. Everyone else, by definition, is just a boss. And therein lies the problem. At a time when leadership is needed the most, our companies, schools and politics are rife with bosses and too few leaders. The long term effects of that will be reflected in our ability to do business and affect true change on a global scale.

To read Eich’s complete list of what differentiates a leader from a boss, click here.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

other_shoe_dropping It’s a sinking feeling. One I’m all too familiar with. It starts out with your boss telling you she, or he, wants to talk to you. If he’s a real heel, he’ll get a hold of you on your cell phone (company provided or personal) late in the evening or even on the weekend. When your boss calls you at night or on the weekend, it’s never to give you a raise. The worst part about it is when you’ve got to wait until Monday morning to get the news.

This recently happened to a friend of mine.  A bunch of us were hanging out on Sunday evening, when she gets a voicemail from her boss telling her to give him a call back, “if she feels like it.” WTH? Who does that? On a Sunday? With no hint at all about why he’s calling? I’ll tell you who does that. A jerk. And unfortunately the business world is full of them. When I was laid off from my last position, my own jerk called me on the first day of my vacation, to lay me off. Why, you might ask, didn’t she just tell me the Friday before I left for vacation? Did I mention she was a jerk?

What I do know is that bad bosses – really bad bosses – whether by design or sheer incompetence, choose the worst times to do the worst things.  Layoffs, “come to Jesus meetings” and run of the mill, work-related bad news are all par for the course wherever you work. My issue is with the way these bad bosses choose to handle delivering it. Once after a particularly disastrous quarter, one boss called to blame me for the entire million dollar company’s poor  performance. Even though I was the marketing manager, he held me responsible for sales, production and inventory failures. Why? I was the only one stupid enough to take his call on a Friday evening.

I’ve spent over ten years working for bad bosses who made holding the proverbial ‘other shoe’ over their employees head into an art form. Some seemed to actually derive pleasure from passing on bad news at inopportune times. Others just seemed oblivious. Whatever their motivation, it was just one of the many really bad habits of really bad bosses. The light at the end of the tunnel? The worse these bosses were, the harder I worked to get away from them. I’ve also found that eventually  there’ll be a shoe looming over their heads as well. And I have to admit, when the other shoe finally did drop squarely on the shoulders of one of my most notorious bad bosses, I got a big kick over it – pun intended. Is that wrong?

Do men or women make better bosses?

j0316761 According to a recent study, men make better bosses. Considering that the two worst bosses I’ve ever had were males, I beg to differ. In fact, the study itself doesn’t seem very definitive. The study says four out of ten women who have female bosses say that their bosses could be doing a better job. Doesn’t that mean that 60% of the women in the survey felt their bosses were doing a good job?

The truth is, bad bosses come in all shapes, sizes, races and are both male and female. My bad male bosses were arrogant, ignorant, bullying, inefficient and power hungry. My bad female bosses were arrogant, ignorant, bullying, inefficient and power hungry and occasionally wore skirts. To assume that one gender corners the market on badness is a dangerous thing. It predisposes us to expect more or less from certain bosses than from others.

I think what some of this boils down to is that some people are still not accustomed to seeing women in high powered positions, saying, doing and behaving in ways that have been traditionally considered masculine. A direct, to the point male boss is considered succinct, while his female counterpart is labeled a bitch. An emotional outburst from a male boss is often blamed on the situation at hand, while an outburst from a woman is blamed on hormones. I wonder what studies like this hope to accomplish? It’s one thing to analyze boss behavior in the hopes of determining what characteristics and behaviors make the best bosses, but what does analyzing their sex accomplish? I’m curious to read someone else’s take on this.

Check out Marie Claire UK’s take on the study here, and more information about the study here.  What are your thoughts? Do men or women make better bosses? Is it industry specific, or does it matter at all? And, what’s the real purpose of a study like this? Share your thoughts in our comment section.

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