Bad boss tips
Think you have a bad boss? Go see the movie "Horrible Bosses," now in theaters, to see just how bad people in power can be.
Or don't. The film deals in extremes, offering up bosses whose behavior is so bad (blackmail, sexual harassment, drug abuse) that fed-up employees hatch a plan to do away with them - permanently.
In real life, bad bosses don't necessarily come across as folks who literally deserve the ax. In fact, the worst bosses can often appear to be good guys, even as they undermine workers and derail careers. They make you ask, "Is it just me?"
Horrible bosses are rarely as blatant as those in the film. Here are six telltale signs you may have a bad one.
- He lives by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The essayist wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," and "To be great is to be misunderstood." But a good manager must be both consistent and understood. "An inconsistent boss says one thing and does another, plays favorites and does not lead by example," says Craig Libis, CEO, Executive Recruiting Consultants Inc., Dell Rapids, S.D.
- She disciplines like a Victorian schoolteacher. Horrible bosses might as well keep a dunce's corner and cap, for the amount they publicly humiliate people. Calling someone out in front of a group demoralizes the whole team, Libis says. Such discussions should take place in private.
- He finds the "I" in "Team." Horrible bosses say "I" instead of "we," taking full credit for the work of their team or underlings, says Stanford University management science professor Bob Sutton, author of "Good Boss, Bad Boss" (Business Plus, 2010).
- She stays squeaky clean. Leadership means making tough decisions and breaking bad news to people. It's a messy business, says Sutton: "You've got to do the dirty work when you're a good boss."
- He ducks and covers. "A telltale sign of a horrible boss is not taking the fall for their own team. A horrible boss will throw you under the bus," says Karen Russo, of Connecticut-based K. Russo Consulting.
- She believes "positive thinking" is an oxymoron. The Canadian-American economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, "We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect." However, a pessimistic boss "is incredibly poisonous to people's motivation and mental health," Sutton says. Negativity is catching and tends to be self-fulfilling.