We can laugh at the pointy-haired boss whom Dilbert suffers and with Michael Scott on “The Office” because almost everyone has had a bad boss. More than one study reveals nine-out-of-ten employees have worked for a bad manager.
John Hollon of Workforce Management recently proclaimed Sam Zell, the CEO of the Tribune Company as the winner of the Stupidus Maximus Award. This award honors the most ignorant, shortsighted and dumb workforce management practitioner of the year.
Sam Zell is not only a bad boss; he’s a bully. He swears at his employees and belittles them in public. Perhaps Zell’s worst characteristic is his absence of responsibility for filing Chapter 11. He simply blames the economy.
Since the economy has worsened, employers are focused on survival and employees are grateful to be employed. This environment may offer the bully-boss an opportunity to push a little harder.
De-layering adds to the potential for managers to behave badly. When managers suddenly have more employees to manage and a broader scope of responsibility, lack of time leads to anxiety and incivility.
Most managers recognize employees who are motivated to make their companies succeed; offering creative solutions, taking initiative and doing whatever it takes add to the company’s competitive advantage. To create an engaged workforce, managers need to genuinely care about their employees, treat people fairly, hold people accountable and recognize contributions.
In a good economy, bad bosses drive the best employees away. In this economy, bad bosses may simply extinguish their desire to contribute. Few good bosses are born; most are developed by a good boss, a mentor or training.
Bad bosses don’t have to be bullies to be bad. They may be poor communicators, poor decision-makers, or unapproachable. They may have difficulty providing recognition, guidance or opportunities for employee advancement.
Some bad bosses take credit for their employees’ work, blame others for their mistakes or expect work behaviors better than their own. Others give employees the silent treatment or speak poorly about their employees to others. The variety of bad bosses seems endless.
Recognizing that you have employed a bad boss requires careful observation. Bully bosses are usually adept at managing up. Pay careful attention when production declines, employees resign or request a transfer, and when absenteeism or accidents increase. Hold the manager accountable for measurable improvement, note the reaction and follow the progress.