Some people are lucky to work with and for bosses who are not just bosses but leaders. Leaders who recognize that employees are their most valuable asset and treat them as such. These are the bosses who seem to have dropped from heaven on a sunny day.
Not everyone is that lucky. Most people at some point have worked with or for someone who is a classic what-not-to-be boss. On the opposite end of the boss-who-dropped-from-heaven-on-a-sunny-day is the boss from hell. Think the mean spirited yelling types who really belong to a psychiatric hospital than a workplace. Hopefully, you will never suffer the misfortune of working of one of these.
Then there the less obvious bad bosses, who, while they may not yell and call you names, can make your working life miserable. It is a constant drip drip drip that eventually takes toll on your emotional wellbeing. How do you know you are working for a bad boss?
- Treats You Like An Afterthought: You will know it when there is a project or a task that is in your docket or that will affect your work, but the boss conveniently forgets to invite you to the planning meeting. Until the last minute! He pops in your office at 2.00 pm with a “Hey, John, we have a meeting at 2.30 pm to discuss the XYZ Project. If you are around, could you come to the meeting?” Of course, you are around, and your boss knows it. He is playing polite and makes it sound as though it is your decision when it is not! So unless rapture happens in the next 30 minutes, you will find yourself in a meeting for which you are ill prepared. And if luck is completely not on your side, the boss will ask for your comment or opinion during the meeting.
- Gives You Scanty Information: But wants you to deliver! I call them the Nebuchadnezzar Bosses. Nebuchadnezzar reportedly sought for someone to interpret a dream he had. He decided, however, that he was not going to tell what the dream was either. The interpreter had to tell both the dream and the interpretation! The Nebu-type Boss will ask you to do something without explaining the why. You work on a piece of a project and you have no idea how it relates to the big picture of the organization or organizational unit goal. What these type of bosses fail to realize is that people produce better results if they can see how they are contributing to the overall mission.
- Hammers Your Innovativeness: You know that boss who gives you a task and tells to do it however you want, you believe him and start channeling Einstein and becoming all innovative, only to be criticized later? Can you know of anything that kills morale faster?
- Asks For Your Input, Only To Trash It. It happens all the time. A new boss comes on board and is ‘committed’ to listening to everyone and righting the wrongs. She invites everyone to participate in a culture mapping and change program. Everyone gets excited, even your cynical colleague is motivated to participate. You brainstorm, write reports and recommendations. Everyone is onboard. This ship is about to turn and sail in the right direction. Only that the Captain, read – Boss, has no such intentions. While everyone was busy mapping out and brainstorming, she turned the stern ever so slightly. Now you are heading on a different direction – not where you thought, but it is a first step. She receives your reports, applauds everyone’s input and promises to consider the recommendations. Consider – is the operative term. That is the last you hear of the report.
- Criticizes You In Your Absence: If this list were in order of importance, this would be #1. A boss who will criticize your work to others is not just a bad boss; he/she is toxic. The only time a boss should talk to others about an employee they supervise is if it is on a positive note. Anything else sows seeds of discord and undermines the employees’ respect for the boss.
- Micro Manages: That’s the boss who asks you to do something, then comes in after an hour to check on how it is going, or sends you an email asking for an update. Or the one who sends you a project by email, then calls a short time later or comes to your office to find out (a) if you received the email (b) how the task is going. By the way, if you have a micro manager, you can help them by keeping them updated. Respond to the email and acknowledge receipt. State that you are working on the project and would get back to them within a specific timeframe. That will get them off your back, and give you time to focus on the task. Micro managers are sometimes just perfectionists who get anxious when they delegate.
- Tells You About Other Employees: It is despicable. A boss who ‘confides’ in you about another person in the organization is toxic. They try to buy your royalty through manipulation. You might not be in a position to shush them, but you can ‘discourage’ by remaining neutral and refusing to be drawn into the discussion. Sometimes intervening politely with a positive comment about the person in question might do the trick. Bottom line, the old wisdom of whoever tells you about others will tell others about you is true.
- Eager To Throw You Under The Bus: This is the boss who blames you when things go wrong. Of course, sometimes an employee is to blame. For instance, if an employee fails in their responsibilities. But when the failure goes beyond an individual’s responsibility, or there is a good reason why the individual could not deliver on a task, good bosses do not sacrifice the employee to save own skin.
None of these things are earth shuttering by themselves if they happen once in a while. But if you recognize a pattern where one or more happens repeatedly, you probably have a bad boss.
Know how to deal with bad bosses?2