I recently watched the movie called Horrible Bosses (with Kevin Spacey et al in it). I wasn’t expecting too much out of it but I actually found it to have quite a few good laughs and it reminded me of some terrible experiences I had in the past.
The pity is that a horrible boss is not usually an unsuccessful one. Most of these behavioural traits can be found in some of the most entrepreneurial people around. Some might say that it is nearly a prerequisite, however I have worked with people who are successful and do not even display an iota of the nasty habits I will delve into below.
1) You have the weight of the world on your shoulders and you have to let everybody know it.
The first step in becoming a terrible boss is to let all the people around you know that they cannot survive without you. You are the lifeblood of the company and if it wasn’t for you, there would be nothing right going on. You have to constantly let your peons know that you have sacrificed your life for the job and that it was not worth it, however you press on for their sake. Even if you are the one reaping the profits and they are the ones being paid peanuts.
2) Your subjects must fear you; fear is the only way to earn respect
Given that you spend all your life working you feel that the people who work for you are nothing more than subjects in the empire you built. Since you believe that all your employees are there to exploit you, you feel you should do the same and ensure you squeeze every drop of blood out of them. The only way to do this is to instill a sense of fear in all the people who work for you. Raise your voice and cuss regularly. Remind people that their job is always at your mercy.
3) Fun should be abolished from the workplace.
A smiling workforce is definitely not busy enough. If your employees are enjoying themselves then something must be wrong. You need to rectify it by enforcing stricter rules and tightening the screw harder on employees at every level. You must also frown upon, or flatly disallow any activity organised by the company which is not directly related to “work”.
4) Only you can do things right.
If you want to be the perfect terrible boss you must master the art of doing everything yourself. This can be done in one of three ways. You can either physically do it yourself; you can write strict instructions that should be followed step by step by one of your minions; or you could pretend to delegate with misleading instructions, then storm in and change everything.
5) Shift rules, goals and expectations on a whim.
The final one for the list is usually the best way to kill off managers, but it works just as well with people at all levels. Give them a set of goals and expectations to work towards and then shift them on a regular basis. Ideally you need to justify the shift by blaming other people within the organisation, even though it is always clear that these are also acting on your instructions.
If you are a boss and anything in this list is vaguely familiar you should be very worried. Then again, if it really applied to you, you would have stopped reading ages ago. Learning from others is not something you would consider worth spending time on.
If, on the other hand, you are an employee and your boss shows some (or God-forbid all) of these traits, I can assure you that you are not the problem. Polish your CV and slowly, but surely, start looking for a job. If you actually want to find a job, refer to my earlier post about succeeding.
The saddest thing about this article is that there was a selection process involved in it. I have quite a few other terrible things that bosses can do to make their colleagues’ lives miserable so I will revisit the subject in the future.
Do you have any experiences or traits of horrible bosses that you can share? Use the comment section below to vent.
(#12 of 366 X 2012 project)