Horrible Bosses and Us

Accountability Management



I must admit that I really enjoyed the movie Horrible Bosses and found myself laughing out loud at the absurd craziness of the boss characters played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell, in juxtaposition to their three direct reports. Yes, I admit this may be a comment on my depth of intelligence ha-ha.

However, as I began to read actual stories about the number of horrible bosses people are currently working for, it actually surprised me how real these “movie character” bosses may be. If the many tweets and blog posts are true, they actually do exist and perhaps even in bigger numbers than I might imagine. With almost 10% unemployment in America, the long term uncertainty of our economy, allegedly 48 million people in the U.S. on food stamps, and a depleted or out of touch union movement, etc., one begins to wonder if bosses are acting in more unacceptable ways than ever, some just because they can. This is not so funny, and certainly not a movie. In fact I do know people, particularly those new to the work force, that are “just happy to have a job” and don’t want to rock the boat. So what should you and I expect from our boss?

A great boss (i.e. a rating score of 10) will deeply care about our personal growth and development. They will be exceptional coaches and proactively work to make us even greater than them. Of course they will be superb communicators and we will know what’s expected of us. They will not be perfect, and have off days or behavior. But we will trust them because of their fair-minded consistency and personal integrity. Of course in my language they will be self accountable, respectful, and abundant; they will embody the Character Triangle in all that they do.

Less than great bosses fall somewhere down on the “great continuum” (let’s say between 5 and 10) and we will likely work with quite a few of them in our career. Hopefully most of them are closer to a 10 than not. These bosses deserve our best and often we can help them improve too. They are usually open to learning, and working with them is most often at least tolerable. What we CANNOT do is work for the people below 5. And here is what I believe constitutes a less than 5.

Horrible bosses are bullies. They will attack us personally and consistently (or even worse, inconsistently), and blame and diminish us for whatever is wrong in their world. They will play on our well meaning desire to succeed and will grind on us until we lose our personal way. They will berate us and behave in ways where we begin to doubt ourselves and feel like we deserve what we get. They will think that our options and alternatives are limited and will behave accordingly. The worst of this kind will consciously exploit what they see as our vulnerabilities.

Character Move: if we have a horrible boss like this, we have only one reasonable strategy (and it’s obviously not the one employed in Horrible Bosses), and that’s to get out. My experience is that horrible bosses are unlikely to change. They feel that might is right. Most often, people like this hide as managers or owners in small to medium businesses. But that’s where most of us work in America. Make a concerted plan to divorce yourself, and I use that term somewhat deliberately. Make a detailed plan on how to get out and find a work environment you deserve. Most often we need a support team to help us build that plan. I am practical and realize how tough this is in our current economic environment. But, find a way to leave. Life is just too darn short as they say… (for help go to http://www.workplacebullying.org).

No Horrible Bosses in the Triangle,