Archives October 2023

4 Things A Punk Rock Band – The Clash – Taught Me About Dealing With A Horrible Boss

A recent survey of my readers reported that many of you work for people who fall along the spectrum of being Horrible Bosses. On one end, there are classic ‘Horrible Boss’ horror stories: a boss who is sexist or racist; a boss who takes all the credit; a boss who thinks you have no life & makes you work late every day; or a boss who is a pathological liar.

We love to make fun of bad bosses, from the Dilbert comics, Michael from “The Office,” to the officious boss of the movie “Office Space”… but bad bosses are no laughing matter when you have to face them every single working day.

But there is another kind of ‘Horrible Boss’. One exponentially more prevalent and damaging than bullies is the poor, mediocre or poorly trained manager. A US study found that almost 80 percent of the employees surveyed identified their boss as a lousy manager, and nearly 70 percent stated that their immediate superior had “no clue” what to do to become a good manager.

In my case, I had a boss with whom I was close and considered myself a trusted confidant. Over time, she went quiet, stopped sharing reasons for decisions and stopped responding. People were hired people onto the leadership team to which I belonged, whom I believed did not demonstrate the standards I expected of them. My performance began to slip, and my reactions to events were not always as professional as I either hoped or was expected of me.

In retrospect, all the signs pointed to the simple fact that I was nearing, or had gone past, my best-before date as far as she was concerned. I have never purported myself to be perfect in any regard. Still, in this case, I was dealing with a boss who was not providing me with precise and proper performance management or effective leadership.

What did I do? Well, to quote one of the best bands of all time, The Clash, I had to decide: “Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble, and if I stay, it will be double.”

I had to decide if it was time to stay or go … now … before someone decided for me!

I took control and managed my fate.

Click here for more tips on dealing with your boss

Are you dealing with a horrible boss?

Here are four actions you need to do to protect yourself, your professionalism and possibly your career.

1. Are You Right?

Have you carefully and honestly evaluated your actions and behaviour? How have you been doing your job? Have you always taken the high road, or have you been under-performing?

Hey, let’s be honest here: No one is as good as they think they are. You might be a horrible employee.

That said, you’re human, and the people closest to you will affect your performance, so try to focus on your work to see if that changes anything.

2. Keep A Journal

Start journaling your interactions with the boss. Don’t judge or write emotional reactions; document the facts of the situation and how your and your boss’ behaviour has impacted your performance.

Writing things out dispassionately allows you to articulate and evaluate the event with less emotion. You can then pick it apart to see what and where things went wrong.

A bonus of keeping a journal is for your protection in case things turn entirely pear-shaped. Your journal can support you in any settlement or package negotiations.

3. Be Careful About Complaining

I am not talking about illegalities or improprieties; if sexual harassment, fraud or anything wrong is going on, you must report it to someone. But sometimes, even being right can still get you fired.

I have a friend who was 100% correct in their assessment that their boss was a horrible boss. She regularly went over the boss’s head and complained, and it wasn’t long before she was shown out the door. The boss was eventually fired based on poor performance, which was little solace to my unemployed but morally correct friend.

In my experience, you seldom win a fight with your boss. Management will usually close ranks around their own, and you can’t win against such a formidable opponent. They, Management, will deal with that poor performing manager in their way, but they won’t lose collective face to you or anyone.

4. Don’t Sacrifice Your Health

The worst thing you can do is nothing. I hope the problems will be resolved. No job, boss, or company is worth losing your health, sanity, or self-esteem.

If you can’t find a way to resolve these issues and your boss will never change their behaviour, you should immediately start working your network and begin looking for a new job.

Try not to quit before you find a new job, but again, if work becomes too unbearable, you may need to consider leaving to save yourself.

The point?

Dealing with a horrible boss is similar to being in a destructive or failing personal relationship. Eventually, you have to decide … Should I Stay Or Should I Go…


The Day A Chasm Opened Between Values And Actions

A few days ago, a close family friend said he was struggling with his job and employer. 

He was scheduled to go on an international trip with another employee.

Coincidentally, his company organized a party before this trip. Lots of liquor was involved, and all had a good time until our friend witnessed a coworker launch into a public homophobic rant. Of course, this coworker was the one he was about to travel with.

Our friend was horrified.

First, he was horrified that this individual publicly raged about LGBQT people.

Read more about ‘The Most Important Leadership Value’

Second, he was horrified that his bosses seemingly did nothing at the time.

He seriously considered cancelling this international trip because he worried about what might happen if he were in close quarters with this impolite, undignified, and not-a-very-nice person.

But deep down, he began to wonder about his employment with this company.

His bosses did not stand up for the values they espoused as a company. This company had invested a lot of time and energy in positioning itself as an ally and friend of LGBQT people. They ‘proudly’ branded themselves with rainbow Flags and advertised their building as a welcoming, safe place.

This created quite a dilemma for our friend.

He became increasingly upset and angry that his employers had allowed a chasm of space to open between their values and actions.

I am sure the employers were trying to figure out how to respond to this person’s homophobia. Still, their lack of action created an environment where people weren’t sure if they could trust their employers to act appropriately or the values they so publicly stated.

It took a couple of weeks, and in the end, they terminated the employee who made the comments.

In time, we will learn if there were any long-lasting impacts on the organizational health of that company or my friend’s satisfaction with working there.

What Is Heck Is Organizational Health? 10 Questions Answered by Steve

But I suspect that some irreparable damage has been done. 

As leaders, we need to be cautious about not creating expectations that may be hard to live up to.

This is a cautionary tale to all of us that people are always watching us and judging whether or not we live up to our values. 

World Events & Trying To Give Your People Some Peace

It is impossible to deny that world events impact the workplace, whether it’s a natural disaster, a conflict in a war-torn region, or some other significant cultural event. 

We are in the first weeks, and likely months, of a significant event in the Middle East. 

I am not here to explore the political ramifications, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own opinions and feelings about what has happened. And I am indeed horrified by the terrorism and atrocities we’ve seen and heard about. And I am equally horrified by the impacts of war on civilians and the innocents. 

I want to focus on how leaders in the workplace can deal with this. It would be easy to say: ‘Hey, let’s pick a new business issue and move on to normal things.’ 

However, ignoring people’s real feelings about what is happening in the world may seem cold and out of touch. So, as a leader, we need to acknowledge that there’s a humanity element to what is happening in the world. And that the workplace isn’t just where you separate life from your workspace.

Your people look to you for guidance, but you do not want to sound tone-deaf or indulgent. 

You are tone-deaf when you know many of your people are not in a good place, and yet you are ‘forcing’ everyone to behave as if everything was normal and that outside events are not impacting your workplace. You don’t want your people asking: ‘Are you not human?’ 

What does indulgence, in this case, look like? It is going too far in the opposite direction. It’s like endlessly discussing the matter, having all the TVs continually tuned to the non-stop news feeds and driving people into further fear or worry.

So, how do you thoughtfully and respectfully acknowledge what is going on? I would suggest letting people know you can appreciate what is going on by saying something like: 

I know a lot is happening in the world right now, and it’s heavy. 

We are all sad and shocked, and if you need to talk to me about how you’re feeling, please do. 

Let’s all pray and think about all those impacted people. Some of you may know people over there.

Some of you might have historical reasons why you are connected to all this, and I don’t want you to think I’m not concerned about you. 

I hope we can allow our workplace and team to be a place and a time of peace, consolation, and distraction.

But if you need to discuss it, know I’m here.

Stephen Covey says that we all have a circle of influence and a circle of concern. 

Right now, the world is distracted by something far outside of our circle of influence. And, when we allow that to go on, our people get increasingly frightened and feel like they can’t impact anything.

We only impact our circle of influence; in this case, we can influence how we lead our teams by acknowledging the humanity of the work, the people who work there, and what people are experiencing.

There is an art to this; you must understand where your people are to draw the line in the right place.

As a leader and a manager, we have a massive impact on people’s psyche and ability to see things. We must consider what these people need from us today to move forward so they can go home and be with their families.

Ignoring the emotions now would be ridiculous. We must acknowledge that current world events impact our work, and your work is not the most important thing, especially in such moments. It’s hard to put this in perspective, but it gets even worse if you don’t acknowledge it.

Sometimes, just being human is what we need to do, even if we don’t do it perfectly.

Trust your judgment and get advice from those around you to determine the best way to deal.

Because we’re trying to do is give people peace.

When you don’t know what else to do, keep our people in mind and that their hearts sometimes suffer. 

That’s all we can do.

Ultimately, it’s essential to acknowledge all those suffering and for peace in the world.