Monday, July 11, 2011

Horrible Bosses

The Horrible Boss

I’ve hit the employees a little hard in the last couple of posts, so I thought I would take attention away from them today.  Afterall, employees aren’t exclusively responsible for the horrible conditions of their work environment and not all office-loathing is one-sided.  Often times, horrible bosses will create the poisonous environments they work in.

It’s easy to characterize bosses into neat little quirks, after all, that’s how we’re represented in most films and comics (e.g. The Office, Office Space, Horrible Bosses, In Good Company).  But, truthfully, we bosses are a complex character, just like you, the employee.

We’re not sitting here getting off on all our power (POWER!!) nor do we remotely enjoy writing you up or chastising you for a mistake (maybe a little, depends on who you are), we’re actually constantly concerned with the balancing act that is management.

So, before you write off every boss as being the “enemy,” let’s take a look at the four things I think separate the Horrible Bosses from the Great.

The Bully

If this person has never been your boss, then you have at least heard of them.  This is the boss who belittles you publicly and trashes your work.  This is the boss that addresses his/her team as “children” rather than “team” when making group announcements.  This is that boss who looks at your work and asks you if you’re “stupid or something.”

That is a bully.  If you’re a boss and you are reading this, take note immediately of how much your employees despise you.  In my opinion, this person is, by far, the worst kind of boss.  No one respects the Bully, they only fear them, and that is NOT a productive work environment.  The Bully is power hungry and the only way to bend them is to challenge them.  Bullies respect bullies and they will always rise to a challenge.  They were very likely “winners” in high school, so they hang on to that Letterman Jacket mentality.  Stand up to them on the quad and they’re likely to respect you back.

Remember, “Praise in public, criticize in private.”  This is the mantra that every Bully should learn.

The Imbecile

We have seen this person.  They’re idiots.  They don’t know what they’re doing.  They don’t understand their job or the responsibilities of the people beneath them.  They have never worked in any of the positions that they’re managing.

This person is an imbecile.  An idiot.  A moron.  An untrained monkey with half the brain.

How did they get this job, you wonder?  They’re very likely to have been closely related to the owner of the company you work for, possibly a wife (or ex-wife), sister-in-law, brother-in-law, useless nephew, maybe?

Whoever they are, they got here and they are your boss.  There isn’t much that you can do about it, but you can help make them stronger.

This person will appear lost most of the time, indecisive, so help them along.  It’s possible that they’re afraid of asking for help, too, so don’t let them make bad decisions that will make you look bad.  Push the imbecile in whatever direction you think is the best.  Guide them to your bidding.  They are, afterall, the imbecile.

The Weakling

The opposite of a Bully is a Weakling.  This is an under-confident push-around that the higher ups put in place just so they had someone easy to control.  They never stand up for their self, they never argue, they proverbially take it in the ass day-in and day-out, but never complain.

This passive-aggressive ingrate is incapable of making decisions on their own and requires constant guidance from both their supervisors and their employees.  Incapable of disciplining their staff, their office tends to be a zoo, run by anarchistic employees who are confident that no amount of bad behavior will result in a negative reaction.  These are the Miltons and George McFlys of our corporate world and they need to be weeded out or retrained.

The Friend

This is easily the most controversial Boss on this list.  Personally, I think the Friend is a Horrible Boss.  Why?  Why wouldn’t we want our best friend as our boss?  Why wouldn’t we want to work for someone who we can have drinks with after work?  Someone who invites us to BBQs and fun at the lake?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because Friendships don’t stay at the door.  You can’t wear your Boss hat and Friend hat at the same time.  There will come a time when someone needs a verbal warning, write up or worse, to be FIRED, and a Friend will struggle with their approach in these situations.  A Friend will see this employee as their golf partner or hunting buddy, not as a well-managed member of their staff who occasionally needs disciplinary action.  A Friend in any office can gradually become the Weakling when his/her fellow friendoyees stop taking him/her seriously in the work place.  Ultimately, the respect of your employees isn’t earned through friendship -- it’s earned through kindness, appreciation and a commanding knowledge of your responsibilities as a manager.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Golden Employee

The Golden Employee

Every Manager has this person in their office.  They’re invincible.

They deflect your criticism.  They reject your advice.  They are rubber and you are glue.  The Office Superman (or woman).

This person thinks they are perfect, flawless and in every way an item of desire, praise and eternal gratitude.  This person will tell you how wonderful they are and great they are at their job.  They will criticize the work of others and shake their heads in disappointment while explaining how they could have done better.  Well, you sir (or ma’am), can kiss my ass.

I would hate to deflate your overblown ego, but none of us are perfect, including me, and I’m your BOSS.

The sign of a truly great employee is the ability to admit mistakes and accept criticism.  This person is interested in learning and growing and making themselves a better person/employee/man-child.  For any employee to sing their own praises and openly criticize everyone around them is proof that they aren’t mature enough to handle a promotion.

I’m surprised that we allow so many of this type of employee into our corporate environment.  My guess is that confidence is such a clear indicator of strength in any desirable employee that every confident interviewee gets hired automatically.  If you’re a cocky asshole and you’re on a job interview, chances are that your Interviewer won’t know that you’re cocky, since cockiness is revealed over time.  Congratulations, you will probably get hired.

It isn’t difficult to be charming or confident in an interview, but be forewarned my future employee, if I hire you and you’re going to turn into some Godzilla of Assholes, your life will not be easy and you will wish I never hired you. Chances are, you’re going to hate me anyway since you think you can do a better job than me.  Sometimes, I wish I could hand over the reigns and say, “Go for it, let’s see what you can do,” just so I can watch you drown.

If you're a whiny employee and would like to complain, you can reach Boss Blog HR at 

Cheers, Happy Hour Thursday

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Compliment Sandwich

Discipline is a common activity for any good Boss.  The bigger your company, the more this responsibility is shared between multiple Bosses and the biggest of Bosses has the power to fire someone on the spot.  The rest of us have to go through HR and all that disciplinary process bullshit.

I believe it's thanks to the wonderful people in HR that we have the delicious Compliment Sandwich at our immediate disposal for any disciplinary/critical/baffling situation.  For those who don't know, the Compliment Sandwich works quite simply.  One will "sandwich" a negative observation between two positive observations.  Example: "Mark, you are doing great work here and we're glad to have you, but yesterday you took a shit in the board room during our budget meeting and for that reason, we have to write you up (because we can't fire him, it's his first offense), but keep in mind that you have a big, bright future here with XYZ Corp and your quality of work is incredible!"

I wish that was a real-world example.

The biggest problem with the Compliment Sandwich is how indirect it really becomes.  The negative connotation provides less of an impression on the employee than how wonderful they are doing thanks to the very structure of the sentence.  We use the Compliment Sandwich because we don't want our employees to hate their boss or to hate the company they work for, but we've learned from my previous blogs (and Tweets) that our employees already hate us and sandwiching their reprehensible action (in this case, shitting on a board room table) won't make them hate the boss any less.  It's ridiculous to think that an employee (a smart one anyway) will even remotely feel better about themselves when we turn their negative action into a positively spun piece of crap, worthy of political lobbyist praise.

The other problem with the Compliment Sandwich is the sheer number of employees who are aware of its existence.  Just because we use a sneaky, time-tested HR maneuver to discipline our over-informed staff doesn't mean it will have any effect.  They will laugh it off and laugh at YOU, the BOSS, and never take you seriously if you're constantly holding up this HR shield against the potential backlash of an angry employee.

If we simply spoke our minds a little more often, unafraid of potential confrontation, the work place would carry more respect for the Boss and his/her tactics/disciplines/strategies.  It's very important to understand that good bosses try to abandon immediate, emotional, knee-jerk reactions to most situations and we will frequently second-guess how we phrase something just to make sure it has the most impact, so I'm not suggesting every boss begin crying when their employees share pictures of their newborn.  I'm only suggesting that all you Bosses out there gain an awareness of how knowledgeable your staff may be to your techniques and it might be time to adopt some new strategies.

If you're a whiny employee and would like to complain, you can reach Boss Blog HR at

Happy Hump Day.