I’m not big on contests, but the AFL-CIO has been doing this great “Bad Boss” contest you all should check out.
Here’s one story from a bad boss semifinalist:
My story starts with me being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I am in my early thirites and have not worked since March of this year. I also have three young children under the age of 8, and a wife who cannot work due to my condition. I think you get the idea.
In the industry I work in, disability benefits are available but only equal about one-half of what I normally would be making. These benefits are formulated from a day to day basis for days you have received no other compensation for. Needless to say, every day claimed is extremely important in the basic task of feeding my family and keeping the lights on.
I have been an employee for about 10 years and as such, I have built up some paid time off. I sent paperwork in to take some of my time off, to help pay the bills, but when the paycheck came, I was short on several days. This was compounded when I did not claim disability benefits on the days I thought I was being paid for. As an end result, I lost out on my vacation days AND DISABILITY BENEFITS. Talk about getting hit where it hurts.
My boss threw away the paperwork I sent in and then lied about ever receiving it knowing that filing a grievance for the time I should have received would take months if not years to resolve. Its hard enough just trying to stay alive, let alone trying to pull knifes out of not only my back, but the backs of my wife and children too.
Check out the bad boss website.
And while you’re at it, share your bad boss story with me.
Here’s an excerpt about bad bosses of my book, “From the Sandbox to the Corner Office“:
Richard D. Parsons, CEO of Time Warner
Early in his career, Richard D. Parsons worked with a boss who was competent and smart, but had one major character flaw—an explosive temper, “which he made little effort to keep in check,” according to Parsons.
It was Parsons’ job to be the buffer between other employees and this manager. “I was put in a situation where people would report to me and then I would in essence beard the lion and take issues to his office,” he explains. But his boss created an atmosphere of fear, and when someone creates a fear dynamic, the people around him or her never know when the boss is going to explode “and splatter all over everybody,” Parsons says.
On one occasion, this boss caused a grown man in the group to cry, recalls Parsons. Even though the distraught individual did not work directly for Parsons’ boss, he found himself on the other end of the boss’ wrath getting yelled at and having things thrown at him. “Everyone was under a lot of stress, and this guy started to cry,” Parsons says.
Parsons learned from this episode in his career that leading out of fear undermines the whole organization. “It tended to stifle, muffle, and impede effective communications, particularly bad news, which is what you need to know first. No one wanted to set off this manager, so they didn’t tell him things they thought he wouldn’t be happy hearing.”
What was lacking on the part of the short-fused boss, who Parsons otherwise thought was a savvy executive from an operations standpoint, was a basic thoughtfulness about the work at hand and the staff. “If you’re deeply thoughtful about what you’re doing it helps no matter what you’re doing. I realized you need to develop a habit of thinking something through before you say it and commit to it and do it.”
A big stick or bellowing is not a sign of a good leader. “Excessive volatility or behavior that’s intimidating derails people coming to you to share their views candidly and in a timely way. If they are afraid of you it won’t work. I would rather have people come to me candidly than be revered. Being a tough leader is about making tough decisions, unpopular decisions, decisions that may cause pain or disappoint. They don’t have to be tough themselves,” he adds.
The experience with the angry boss reinforced things he learned early on when he attended college at the University of Hawaii at age 16, and read articles about the Polynesian leaders and how they were basically type B personalities. That resonated with him, and he’s always, surprisingly, described himself as a type B leader. “Leadership and aggressiveness have, in the modern world, achieved a synonymous state that isn’t real. It doesn’t have to be aggressive. It can be quiet.”
Parsons’ Bad Boss Lessons
1. A great leader doesn’t need people revering him or her. A leader needs to develop a trust with subordinates so they can readily disclose bad news.
2. Think about what you’re going to do before you do it. Spewing your anger on employees and colleagues only poisons the work environment and the organization at large.
3. Leaders do not have to carry a big stick. Toughness is all about the difficult decisions you make for the business day to day.