I received some feedback on my last post. There were two main concerns: 1) My advice to “quit” isn’t an option for some, and 2) I didn’t share enough detail about those jerks.
In response to the second concern (I’ll address the first concern another time), I decided to dedicate this post to all those horrible bosses out there who give new meaning to the word “jerk.” In my coaching business, I hear some pretty colorful stories of bad behavior, and I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites to share with you. You might find reading about other people’s horrible bosses entertaining or even cathartic (“You mean I’m not the only one!”). In the end, I hope, at the very least, it shows you what NOT to do.
Horrible Boss Moments
(Names changed to protect the not so innocent.)
The One Upper boss.
Jack takes personal credit for others’ successes. When a vendor, partner or Board member compliments someone publicly on a job well done, Jack will comment that he was pleased to suggest the idea and knew it would be successful. Jack does not give the credit and authentic appreciation to his direct report for the success either publicly or privately. Many times Jack goes on to say that while the job resulted in success, next time he will produce even more.
How am I doing?
The boss at Going Nowhere Company repeatedly delays performance reviews to the point that the next review is due before the last is completed.
So why have an agenda?
All direct reports at ABC Company are required to request meetings through the central calendar system and provide a brief agenda at the time of the meeting request in order for the meeting to be accepted by Dick, the boss. When Dick is in the scheduled meeting, he disregards the agenda and also uses the time to fill attendees in on his weekend, latest hobby, or do stand-up comedy from old TV re-runs. Although Dick might intend for his conversation to be an ice breaker to put the group at ease, he rarely asks others about their personal interests, doesn’t keep the chat brief and ends up disregarding the purpose of the meeting. Direct reports leave with most questions unanswered and no feedback on the business issues at hand.
No harassment issues here!
Karen interviewed a girl for a customer service position…she was extremely professional, intelligent, and conversational—perfect interview! The boss, however, noticed the girl had bad acne and told Karen to focus on hiring prettier girls, because that’s what the office really needed to attract male customers.
Maternity Leave isn’t a crutch….
When Mary told her boss she was pregnant, he chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you’re expecting to take some time off after the baby gets here? What should we be prepared for here? 2, maybe 3, weeks? I mean this can’t get out of control because then everyone else will want to do the same thing. I expect you to continue on as normal. There will be no special treatment just because you’re pregnant. And you don’t get to fall back on this like a crutch.”
Snow Days are only for the lazy!
During a state of emergency last winter (police were literally pulling people over and giving them tickets for driving on the roads), the boss at Rain or Shine Company wanted to know what excuse people had for not coming in to work. The boss volunteered one of the employees who owned a jeep to pick people up. This person blew his transmission trying to get through the snow and the employer did not pay for the repair. When the emergency lasted another day, the boss went to others houses to pick them up and bring them to work. The problem was he has macular degeneration and no license and should not have been driving himself, let alone his employees.
Ash does not prepare for meetings or stay current with company projects and updates. She asks for staff to generate reports, send multiple copies to her, an executive assistant and a senior executive as well archive them on a shared drive. Ash wants multiple emails sent as reminders in advance of the meeting, re-attaching the agenda. A written recap is company protocol for all meetings with next steps captured and circulated to her and all participants. Ash chastises staff with derogatory email—capitalizing many words and phrases—insisting that staff aren’t doing their jobs or communicating. It’s clear from Ash’s comments that she didn’t read and digest the well-documented (some might say OVER-documented) work that provides all the information she repeatedly insists is missing. If staff reviews the answers from the documentation in an attempt to help Ash get current, she insists she has too much volume to read everything and must have had an email issue in receiving the information.
Who’s having fun in this team environment?!
The boss at XYZ Company insists on an open-concept office space including a very high-tech cubicle for himself that looks like some kind of space capsule (and costs about as much as the Space Shuttle!) but offers very little in terms of sound control. His conversations are often animated and usually involve colorful language. In an attempt to implement some form of privacy buffer for his conversations, the boss purchases a sound machine. Unfortunately, this only causes the boss to shout even louder and now the rest of the office must endure the cursing rants set to the sounds of waves crashing.
I’m never wrong, and now out of business.
The office environment at Three Partners Company has been deteriorating for several years due to the inability of the three bosses to agree on a strategic direction (or even be in the same room together). In an effort to listen to their disgruntled employees, the bosses agree (well, two of them agree) to hire a third-party to conduct an in-depth employee satisfaction survey. Upon completion of the survey, the bosses digest the bad news and proceed to do absolutely nothing except blame one another for the problems. The company ultimately disbands. The end.
Being the boss means holding only your subordinates accountable.
The leadership team at Who’s In Charge Company are required to attend a sexual harassment program as a result of one of the bosses’ inappropriate comments to a client’s wife. A few minutes into the session, one of the bosses—the one clearly nursing a nasty hangover from the playoff game he’d attended the night before—excuses himself to use the restroom. Unfortunately (for all), the restroom is located in the adjoining space and the walls are very thin. The session leader continues but must shout over the sounds of violent vomiting for the next ten minutes.
Hopefully, you don’t recognize yourself in any of these situations. Sadly, they all really happened. The good news is that the “victims” from these stories have all moved on to happier employment. They also developed some excellent coping mechanisms for the bad behavior along the way (bright side?).
Now it’s your turn. Have a horrible boss story you’d like to share? Post a comment! Just remember to change the names.