5 bad boss behaviors that must die

Inspired by Liz Ryan’s recent Business Week article “10 Management Practices to Axe”, I’ve come up with my own list of 5 ridiculous bad boss behaviors I’ve personally encountered, that should die a quick and painful death.

1. Not communicating effectively – O.k., so we know we can’t be trusted with the confidential, top secret, magical corporate plans, but if the entire office is abuzz about something that everyone suspects is about to take place, the responsible thing to do is to have a conversation with your employees – one that involves some semblance of the truth. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in with top management reassuring everyone that their jobs were safe, only to watch the very same management team drop kick key players just days after the declaration. We’re not saying you’ve got to let us in on the secret family recipe, but not talking at all, or talking but lying for that matter, fosters an environment of paranoia and mistrust.

2. Employing ‘Big Brother’ tactics – If you do a good job in the recruitment and hiring process, why watch your employees like a hawk? Excessive time checking, micromanaging and spying on employees actually reduces productivity in the long run. Employees that feel they can’t be trusted to do their jobs turn into employees that can’t be trusted to do their jobs.

3. Different rules for the rest of us – If workers are required to get to work on time and aren’t allowed to spend the day shopping on Ebay, poking people on Facebook and tweeting tweople on Twitter, then management shouldn’t be doing it either. Allowing two sets of rules fosters resentment and places an even greater wedge between bosses and employees. Yes, many managers have earned the right to some perks, but a lack of productivity shouldn’t be one of them.

4. The blame game – From the largest of organizations to small family owned businesses, I’ve seen it all too often. Something goes wrong, sometimes drastically wrong, and management is all too ready to blame the little guy, often reverting to lying in the process. A leader who won’t or can’t take responsibility for his own actions or the actions of his or her team is no leader.

5. Failing to recognize and reward a job well done – I once single handedly completed a project that resulted in our division winning its first award ever. Not even as she pushed me aside to run on stage to receive the award did my boss acknowledge the work I’d put into the project. Instead, she ran on stage, grabbed the trophy and promptly placed it on the shelf in her office upon her return. The quickest way to ensure an employee stops giving 110% is failing to acknowledge that they have.

What other bad boss behaviors should die a quick and painful death? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Is being treated well on the job a right or a privilege?

Well, maybe neither. But, since studies show that employees who feel respected and appreciated work harder and are more productive, you’d think employers would catch on and at least make an effort to treat their employees well.  And I know not all employers treat their employees like crap. Companies like Google, Zappos and NetApp are well known for being great places to work. These companies, and thousands like them, reward creativity, provide employees with autonomy and well, treat their employees with respect. It makes you wonder, how difficult can it be for employers and managers to treat their employees with respect?

Obviously it’s pretty difficult, especially in an economic downturn. Employees have been reporting higher levels of dissatisfaction with their jobs and their bosses. Some correlate the increase in bad boss behavior to the bad economy, noting that managers are under greater stress, forced to do more with less resources. As a result, some managers are becoming less accommodating of employee requests, providing less positive reinforcement and feedback, and in general, are becoming more difficult to work with. So where does that leave the rest of us?

I’ve worked with managers who felt that their responsibility to me ended with issuing a paycheck at the end of each week. Their obligation to me, and every other employee for that matter, didn’t extend to providing a good working environment, and it certainly didn’t mean they had to be respectful. Truth is, they don’t really. There’s no requirement by law that they provide employees with a great, fulfilling work experience. They’re not breaking any laws when they micro-manage us, belittle us, and deem positive reinforcement a sign of weakness. No, being treated well on the job is neither a right nor a privilege. But it is good business. And until more companies realize this, they’ll constantly be in a cycle of losing valuable resources, great employees and consumer confidence – all things that will eventually impact their all important bottom line.

We’d like to hear your opinions on this subject, especially since we’re in an economy where many of us are just grateful to have a job. Is it asking too much to expect our managers treat us with respect? Tell us what you think in the comment section after the jump.

Reading, writing and really bad rip off – NYC teachers get paid $70,000 a year to sit in ‘detention’

Reading, writing and rip-offs

Reading, writing and rip-offs

Over 700 NYC school teachers, accused of offenses ranging from sexual misconduct to lying, collect their full salaries of $70k or more, while sitting in “rubber rooms” – off campus holding spots for teachers while they await disciplinary hearings.  The teachers spend their days doing yoga, reading, playing scrabble – anything but teaching – and enjoy holidays throughout the school year.

This happens because union contracts make it very difficult to fire tenured teachers, regardless of the offense.  Some teachers wait months and others as many as five years before their hearings. Union officials (of course) argue that the teachers’ right to due process can’t be ignored, but five years? Seriously? Who’s in charge of the process that allows this to happen? Many of the teachers argue that they’ve been targeted for running afoul of a really bad boss, or reporting amped up test scores.  If anyone can sympathize with the fallout of a really bad boss, it’s us, but any process that allows individuals being investigated for wrongdoing to continue to receive their full salaries for years, has got to be revisited.

As usual, whenever adults fight over time and money, kids are the ones to pay. These union rules and the antiquated investigation process cost taxpayers an estimated $65 million a year – money that could go towards improving the school system.

Unfortunately this scenario plays out in other cities throughout the country. Los Angeles has non-working teachers being “housed” while receiving their salaries, and Philadelphia has a “cluster office.”  While we, more than most, can understand the consequences a really bad boss, we can’t cosign this one.  It is not ok to collect a $70k annual salary while doing yoga, or playing scrabble – when what you’re supposed to be doing is teaching.  And, contrary to one teacher, who likens himself to Martin Luther King sitting in a Birmingham, Alabama jail, we do not see these teachers as political prisoners and heroes who should be saluted.

Source: Associated Press

Pantyhose wars – Page 378 of the Really Bad Boss Manual

Retro hose

Retro hose

The other day I promised to provide details regarding the frequent pantyhose inspections that took place at my former job.  Long since paroled  resigned from that position, today, shamefaced and humiliated, I’ll briefly summarize how a master degreed professional was reduced to a work life replete with fearful sick leave taking, snack sneaking, and pantyhose wars. 

In the same office where employees were subject to human voice analysis for sick day legitimacy and where random trashcan inspections were elevated to an art form, monitoring female employees for pantyhose wearage (no, it’s not a real word) was a priority.  I know what you’re thinking.  How is it possible that all that Really Bad Boss talent was concentrated in one office?  Implausible as it may seem, it’s true.  If there’s a management guide on how to demoralize employees, lose their trust and respect, and cause heat stroke, these managers read it, perfected it and then submitted tips on how to improve it.  And on page 378 is an entry that reads something like this “Failure of subordinates to wear pantyhose will cause the total and complete meltdown of the system, resulting in a shifting of the earth on it axis.”  I’ve never had access to the manual, but page 378 must have been dire to elicit the kind of fervent adherence to pantyhose wearage displayed by management.

The irony of the whole thing is that in their eyes, wearing pantyhose epitomized professionalism.  In their minds, clients would overlook the worn carpets and drab office walls.  They’d tolerate long wait times, antiquated office machinery and incomplete and incorrect answers to their questions.  But what they would not tolerate is the sight of stocking-less legs.  We disagreed, but unable to openly defy the establishment, the bravest among us skirted the issue (pun intended) by wearing pants even in the middle of summer.  And thus, the pantyhose wars began.  As with most wars, there were no clear winners.  Management was left with an angry, demoralized staff, and the pants wearers, well, we were just hot.

There’s Something about Mary…and none of it is good

When good HR goes bad – Absolutely unbelievable Mary – Part 2

Yesterday I introduced you to Mary, the unbelievably clueless HR Manager and really bad boss at one of my previous jobs. So you could be sure I wasn’t making it up, I promised to give you details of a couple of Mary’s finer moments including her inability to hire good people, her addiction to potluck luncheons and her two week maternity leave policy. Without further ado:

She demonstrated a complete and utter inability to find, hire and keep good talent - Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t one of the hallmarks of good HR Management the ability to find and keep the right people? If that’s true, yet your company remains a revolving door of people and positions, doesn’t that mean there’s something seriously amiss in HR? Can every candidate be so misleading during the interview process that you completely miss the warning signs that within their first week at work, they’ll call out sick, ask several coworkers “how long before you can request vacation time?” and steal food from the refrigerator?  The problem was that Mary had a habit of posting positions, bringing in one or two candidates to interview and praying that the one without the felony would excel in the interview.  I’m exaggerating slightly – very slightly – but, the obvious problem with that is, you end up hiring the best of the worst.  In another case, we sensed something was awry with one of the managers she’d just hired (the 3rd person in that position in about 2 years) when after only about a week, he kept falling asleep during meetings.  He was gone in just under three months, and so was the manager (again, one of two people interviewed) that followed him. 

She was determined to solve all the company’s problems with potluck luncheons - I liken it to roasting marshmallows on a camping trip while the forest is burning down around you.  In Mary’s case she wasn’t roasting marshmallows; she was planning monthly potluck luncheons.  Read the rest of this entry »

There’s something about Mary

When even Human Resources is really, really bad

Remember Napoleon? My overzealous former boss who repeatedly encouraged us to “drink the Kool-Aid”  believing that  repeatedly referring to Jim Jones and his suicidal cult followers was an effective and appropriate motivational tool?  Well, in addition to questioning his sanity, I questioned the competence of the gate keepers who invited him through the door and allowed him to stay even after everyone realized that something had gone drastically wrong.  

One of those gate keepers was our Human Resources manager Mary*.   Prior to Mary, my dealings with HR Managers had been pretty positive, albeit infrequent.  In my experience, HR managers were the quiet dedicated professionals who implemented corporate policies; made sure we got paid on time and went to bat for employees when management went rogue.  That is, until Mary.  Mary forever changed the way I viewed HR.  It’s sort of like taking your car for granted until the bottom falls out of it while you’re driving down the highway. In the left lane. Going 75 miles an hour.  Unless you’re Fred Flintstone and you work at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company, the complete and utter failure of your trusted automobile will be absolutely unbelievable and render it completely ineffective. That’s exactly how I’d describe Mary. Absolutely unbelievable and completely ineffective.

You know how we all have that family member who whenever he opens his mouth in mixed company, everyone  (who’s normal) cringes? Simultaneously crossing their fingers and praying that he doesn’t say something stupid, while at the same time gathering their belongings because they know that in about two minutes they’ll be leaving. Well, if you’re a good HR Manager and you love your profession, start gathering your belongings. Because Mary is that family member and her HR skills will have you denying kinship.  Hypersensitive, overly emotional and inclined to share way too much personal information with colleagues, Mary was, and most likely still is, the worst and most dangerous kind of really bad boss…the kind who doesn’t know how bad she really is. She’s way over her head and absolutely, completely and totally clueless of that fact.

Tomorrow  I’ll share with you some of the highlights of Mary’s incompetence, including her two week maternity leave policy, her obsession with potluck luncheons (she’s a functional potluckaholic) and her comical attempt at creating and implementing official corporate policies. 

*Names have been changed to protect…well, me.

Really bad boss trait #6 – blame others for your mistakes

Low level employee being blamed by her really bad boss

Really bad bosses who blame others for their mistakes

Yesterday I talked about bosses who’ll never admit when they’ve made a mistake.  Today I’m going to talk about bosses who’ll acknowledge a mistake has been made, but always manage to find someone else to blame. Really bad bosses have a lot of bad attributes, but I have to say that cowardice – the driving force behind blaming someone else for your mistake – is probably one of the worst.   Whether you define it as cowardice or call it by another name, few things cause employees to doubt management more than a boss who constantly points fingers and refuses to take responsibility for his or her own mistakes.  It’s even worse if it happens in an environment where open communication and the sharing of ideas are discouraged.  In that type of  “do as you’re told” environment, where questioning a boss’ decision may lead to reprisal or even firing, employees will keep quiet, even in the face of the most mindless of management decisions.

Speaking of mindless management decisions, remember when the big three auto makers hitched a ride on private jets to meet with congress to beg for money and talk about the viability of their industry? Well I’m willing to bet that there was at least one low level employee at any one of those companies who thought “you know, it’s probably not a good idea for the head of our automobile company to take a private jet to attend a meeting to explain how broke we are.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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