These days, I’m working for myself. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.
During my 30-year newspaper career, which ended last month, I always had a boss.
Most were good or OK. But I had two or three that were great and two or three that were God-awful. You’ve probably experienced the latter, and it sucks.
You feel trapped. You have to be deferential to your boss, even though you don’t respect him or her. Your need for your job trumps your desire to vent your frustration.
This summer, a movie called Horrible Bosses came out, and I’ve been meaning to see it. The comedy got good reviews, and I’m sure I could relate to it.
In the film, some disgruntled workers devise a whacky, convoluted plan to kill their intolerable bosses.
Well…that’s a little extreme. But I certainly understand the thought.
I’d say bad bosses fall into five categories:
Let’s take them one by one.
The Incompetent Boss
You might say this is the worst. I disagree.
I’ve found incompetent bosses to be fairly harmless. If they’re truly bad, other people know too. So your career generally won’t suffer if you’re stuck with a stinko boss.
Plus, incompetent bosses don’t last long. They may not get fired, but they get shuffled around, so you won’t have to suffer too long.
The Inconsistent Boss
An inconsistent boss is worse than an incompetent one. With the latter, at least you know what to expect day to day.
With inconsistent bosses, you’re continually on guard, not sure what to anticipate. Some days they’re pleasant to work for and seem to have your best interests at heart. Other days, they’re moody, and you sense they’d throw you under the bus to advance their career.
The Indecisive Boss
These bosses can be maddening. They’re like a wife who can’t decide between this outfit or that before a party. Make up your mind already!
The boss, like the wife, may ask your opinion but doesn’t really value it. The boss is super cautious and doesn’t want to make the wrong decision. Most of all, he or she doesn’t want to get in trouble (a scary prospect) with the higher-ups.
I’d prefer an incompetent boss over an indecisive one. An incompetent manager can make a decision quickly, and even if it’s horribly wrong, someone can clean up the mess. But an indecisive manager paralyzes workers and saps morale.
The Overbearing Boss
Give me an overbearing boss. I can handle it.
Bosses who act dictatorial are usually insecure wimps beneath the bluster. They act like hard-ass coaches because that’s the only schtick they know. They think they’re supposed to be mean and scary.
The best way to combat an overbearing boss? Be over-the-top in your willingness to please. “Yes, sir, I’ll get right on that. Good idea.” You’re play acting – just like the boss.
Ever watch that TV show The Office? It’s greatness. The boss, formerly played by Steve Carell, embodies several types of bad bosses, including the overbearing. But his subordinates wink behind his back and don’t take him seriously.
The Ass-kisser Boss
I’ve saved the worst for last. The ass-kisser is undoubtedly the last person you want supervising you.
These bosses spend much of their time reading the political winds at the office. They have no conviction of their own. They’re only worried about figuring out what someone else wants and trying to accomplish it.
The ass-kisser is intolerable. He or she will give completely different marching orders on different days. But it’s pointless to complain. The ass-kisser will deny the obvious contradiction in direction and try to put you on the defensive.
If you have an ass-kisser boss, just hope it isn’t for long.
Dealing With the Worst Boss
OK, have I thoroughly depressed you? But let me say again, not all bosses are bad.
You may get lucky. You may go years with a good boss or even a string of good ones.
But odds are, eventually you’ll wind up with The Boss From Hell. Do your best to survive. You have my sympathy.
But here’s my ultimate advice: Find a way to work for yourself.
I did, and it’s marvelous. I’m a good boss. In fact, I’m the best boss I’ve ever had.
Try to size up your boss early on. Put them into a category, then decide how you’re going to survive. The best defense against a bad boss is a good offense.
Which types of bosses have you had? What did you do to survive?