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How Mean, Deceitful or Whiny Can You Get?
Let me ask you a question, since you’re reading this: Are you hoping for pointers so that your employees will actually dislike you? Some bosses really do take glory in being obnoxious. You might feel you’re too soft, with productivity at an all-time low, and you think if you just brush up your bad you’ll inspire your staff to new heights of achievement.
Well, think again, Mister or Mizz Boss Person. Some chiefs truly don’t get it that they’re schmucks. They treat everybody with the same hail-fellow-well-met attitude, totally in the dark that people write nasty graffiti about them. And mostly they deserve it! I’ve heard of bosses that really did these things:
- Called an employee who was in an ambulance to tell her she was messing up the work schedule.
- Told the admins on National Administrative Professionals Day, after his wife passed out gift cards to a local spa, that he should have bought them all douche bags.
- Left underwear lying about the office.
- Refused to give an employee a day off after 22 straight days.
So jump into this list of personalities that drive employees crazy and see if it feels like you’re looking in a mirror.
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1. The Glad-Hander. Many bosses get started in a new position hoping to curry favor and be in everybody’s good graces. It’s normal to experience a honeymoon period, but once a few weeks or a couple months pass by, people just want you to be real. They'll get tired of you spouting someone’s praises each and every day because guess what—it just doesn’t sound genuine.
Marion in Marketing will know you don’t mean it if, for example, you tell her she’s the glue that holds the department together and then you revise a flyer without even getting her input. And most people don’t want your praise unless they’ve done something worth the recognition—they'll just figure with all your baloney, you oughta open up a deli.
2. The Idea Thief. Do you steal people’s ideas? You must be anxious to have someone make a voodoo doll with your name on it. Oh, no, not me, you’re immediately disclaiming; but take a minute to think about it. It’s no good saying that you would give someone credit, except he or she is just not part of a project at a given level.
For instance, if Leslie figures out a way to streamline a process but she’s not on the change team, give her the shout-out anyway. If you don’t give credit where credit is due, you're a bad boss and people are likely to go over your head the next time they have an idea. If you present someone’s ideas to management, you look good for inspiring your team to brilliance. If your people go over your head, you look like a schmuck.
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3. The Commodious Comedian. It’s true that people love a good joke in the office. Notice that I said people love A. Good. Joke. That’s singular, period. Some people don’t know when to stop it with the hilarious anecdotes and witty one-liners that just go on all day long, day after day. Even if you think you know a lot of good jokes, guess what? Most people lose their spontaneous laugh after one or two takes, and they’ll cringe when they see you coming. As you read this, your team members are probably plastering fake smiles all over their faces getting ready for you.
The other problem here, of course, is that you’re also holding them up from their work and setting precedent that it’s okay to waste time chatting. No matter how good your jokes are, you are only permitted to tell one per day. Period.
4. The Lying Lizard. Oh, this is a bad, bad boss. Do you lie to your employees? Because, let me break this to you this gently—they can always tell. They get together and compare stories. Some of them actually have the skills to note the personal tics that you display when you lie.
And the worse part about is that when you try to evade a direct answer—telling your boss that Mark in Accounting said the deadline was moved back instead of admitting that your report isn’t ready—you’re making someone else look bad. People will not forgive that kind of treachery. No, people will plot to see you get caught in your lies! At the very least, someone will order a dozen pizzas to be delivered to your home.
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5. The Bully Boss. People just dislike a bully, whether it’s in grade school, at a sporting event, or on the job. When you have a team of people working on a project that’s been stalled, do you pick on the most timid, least confident person first? If you have someone who doesn’t fit the cultural norm, do you go out of your way to point out his or her differentness? Sorry, Charlie, but nobody respects that.
This category also includes the boss who steps all over his people’s civil rights, cancels their bathroom breaks and forces them to work overtime. When you have a deadline, you can expect zip, zero and zilch in terms of loyalty or effort put forth to make you look good. People love to see a bully take a fall. Put on some body armor, buddy, because somebody’s throwin’ you under the bus the first chance they get!
6. The Notorious Nag. Okay, everybody knows their jobs. It does no good for you to hover over your admin and ask, “Is it done yet? Can I see it?" Your purchasing manager will let you know when the bids are in from the potential new vendors. Sales will call you when the new client signs.
The trouble is, nags are negative by nature, and if you are nagging people you are also most likely complaining about the weather, the state of the outside world, and probably even your spouse. Lighten up! People don’t want to hear it! Oh man, did you teach my mother to nag, or did she teach you?
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7. The Anti-Delegator. Some bosses are really good people but they don't know how to delegate. Others are so impressed with their own greatness that they never let anybody else have a chance to shine. Are you unable to relinquish control because you’re afraid someone else will mess things up? The truth is that most people are just aching for their 15 minutes of corporate fame, and if you don’t give it to them they are going to draw mustaches on all your photos in the company newsletter--and then they’ll leave you for the competition.
Some of these bosses fall into a subcategory of supervisors who have done things the same way since Adam tickled Eve, and they don’t want to hear about any other way. Get over it! You’re not the best thing since sliced bread!
8. The Insidious Sycophant. There’s nothing so sneaky and lowdown as the boss who flatters and praises people to their faces, and then stabs them in the back as soon as they’re not looking. Do these kinds of bosses really think they’re fooling anybody? The word does get around! And holy moly, what’s even worse is when this nasty person decides to have some fun by getting people riled up at each other. This is toxic for the entire atmosphere, and someone will surely rearrange the letters of your name on the lobby directory to spell a bad word.
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9. The Poor-Me Baby. Are you whiny? Nobody but nobody cares if your boss gives you a hard time. Nobody will lose a minute of sleep if you have to pull all-nighters. Even if you go out of your way to be nice to your people, just fuggedaboutit! Maybe if you never complain about anything or steal anybody’s ideas or bully anybody around, they’ll feel sorry for you. Once. Don’t expect it more often than that. That’s why you get the big bucks, they’ll say—it’s your job to put up with all that stuff. Feelings hurt? Here’s a quarter: Go call 1-800-Cry-Baby.
10. The Mean Boss. Does sarcasm drip from your voice when you talk to your subordinates? What a good word for them, you’re thinking--subordinates because they’re subhuman and you get bored with them. It’s your job to keep them on their toes by making certain they know just how lax and stupid they really are.
Now, ask yourself if these last several sentences sound like anything you’ve ever remotely said or thought. If so, you've crossed the fine line from assertiveness to aggression. You’ll never have a loyal employee (except for the suck-ups), and you’ll die alone and unloved. Well, just stay away from the next holiday party, because somewhere there’s a mudpie waiting to hit your face. Oops!
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Who Was Your Worst Boss?
Most likely you thought I was going to pound it to the Type-A personalities or pick on the OCD’ers. Well, these ten types are just as bad as either of them, and you undoubtedly share traits with at least a couple of these baddies. I’m not going to ask you which of these 10 ways to get your staff to hate you sounds most like you. Instead, I want to probe deeper into your psyche and find out how you became the psycho you are today.
Who was your worst boss ever? Think back to your flunky days and let it fly. Use the comment space below to tell me what the monster (or weirdo or slimeball) was like. No identifying names, please!
- WorkingAmerica.org. Bad Boss Contest, at http://www.workingamerica.org/badboss/winners.cfm
Oliver, Vicky. Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers, & Other Office Idiots: 201 Smart Ways to Handle the Toughest People Issues. Sourcebooks Inc., September 2008
- All images from sxc.hu under royalty-free license: Col6085, pitus55, sinoreport, imrub2b12, h2030, and catalin82