Leadership

Three bosses you don't want to have

There are actually more than three kinds of bosses you don’t want to have, of course. But here are some of the bosses who exercise behavior that may fall under the radar.

There are actually more than three kinds of bosses you don't want to have, of course. But in this blog I leave out some of the obvious ones, like crazy bosses, bosses who throw things, and bosses who dress in Italian renaissance clothing and make you call him Machiavelli.

Here are some of the bosses who exercise behavior that may fall under the radar. You know your boss is bad if ...

He's too busy managing up to effectively manage a team

I will admit these are tough times economically, and everyone is acutely aware that no job is permanent. But some people, middle managers especially, are so concerned with pleasing upper management that they sacrifice the morale of their teams in the process. They spend most of their time and productivity figuring out how to keep their jobs instead of actually doing them.

It's tough to be a middle manager. Many times you have to ask your team to do something they don't want to do to meet a business need expressed by upper management. The problem comes up when a manager folds every time something like this happens. Employees will always work harder for a boss who understands their day-to-day routines and who is willing to keep the duties from becoming too harsh.

She is MIA

While rank does have its privileges, some folks take the idea too far. I once worked for a woman who would come in late, leave early, run errands in the middle of the day, etc. If you had a question, you had to e-mail her and schedule a time to address it. It was a definite impediment to communication.

This kind of behavior can also be bad for morale because if employees sense that their boss's priorities lie somewhere else completely -- and they will sense this -- they won't feel motivated to do their best work.

He will throw you under the bus in a New York minute

As a team member, you should feel that you can make some mistakes without being publicly burned at the stake by your boss. Your boss might readily discuss a mistake with you behind closed doors, but he should never air those mistakes in public.

Particularly hideous is the boss who will shove blame onto you for his mistake. If you have one of those, you should run away. Fast.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
Zertz7
Zertz7

Should bosses actually 'do' something?

Sysadmin/Babysitter
Sysadmin/Babysitter

This guy was promoted to boss because he was a GREAT salesman. He is STILL a great salesman & a lousy boss. He is still doing what he was doing as a salesman, and devoting NO tome to management. He is never there for the employees, as he is ALWAYS on sales calls.

Vallah
Vallah

I had a boss that had all three of these wonderful attributes, unfortunately. And I hear she continues to rise through the ranks. Go figure!

raybailey
raybailey

I had three bosses in two years. The first was a temp. Useless. Knew nothing about IT and brought me up on review becuase I criticized a coowrker for leaving the "God" password stuck on the udnerside of the server keyboard. #2 was busy playing politics. He would take me to lunch and warn that this or that vice president was out to get me, and he was there to "help" me...He was fired after having a screaming match with the VP in the HQ lobby. #3) was passive. I'd go in to talk to him, and he never gave any feedback. Would just sit there and stare at me. He hired four new techs under me...all 25 year old good looking girls. I knew my days were numbered. Fortunate for me, I had some heart trouble which lead to a medical out... and a severance package for me... Run if you have to! Do Not Stay too long when they get bad... or you get a string of them in a row!

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

I got the (I#E*D*D MBA that fits every detail you've said right now. So, don't talk about him any more. He might find out.

lobo
lobo

I don't know what my boss does, but he never, ever, arrives before 10:00 am. First thing he does is going for his coffee break, he disappears many times during the day to "meetings" and after 4:00 pm is rarely seen. If he is invited to a meeting, he always delegate the invitation to myself or one of my colleagues. He doesn't do "menial labour". Reports to be presented to his superiors are filled up by us. Projects passed on to him, will definetively go straight to us. We have to fix our own issues ourselves because he doesn't "micro-manage" the team. One can't help but wonder, what does he do?

blu0871
blu0871

OMG you just described my boss completely. Except you're missing the part where some days he doesn't even come in at all. And for some really lame reasons.

hhilde99
hhilde99

My boss is definitely in that list. He is clearly focused on sports (coaching his son's teams) all year. Communication is word of mouth even when an update is ready to go out I hear it from co-workers as to when I'm supposed to do it. The only way to communicate with him is e-mail. Which you have to send about 10 times because "it's at home". And he thinks he understands technology but that couldn't be further from the truth as evident by the tasks he has me do. There are MANY other reasons he's a boss you don't want to work for.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I had one on a consulting contract like the first and second combined. I could not wait for that contract to end. I never could track him down to get answers to my questions or get him to call someone I needed his support to get info from. He was so busy a@@kissing that he was never in his office. Terrible situation. Nicest guy in the world away from the office but a total zero while in it.

tuomo
tuomo

Nicest guy, he and his family, but in work, forget it! Some people are like that. Now, many blame MBAs, not all are bad. My first was a MBA, we did work 8 years together very well and when I moved, I got him a very nice job in company I had moved. He wasn't my boss any more, different organization, but we did work together again next six years until I moved. Middle management is often a problem but the real problem is often created by top management - isn't it a managers in higher position responsibility to see that things work well - isn't that what they are paid for?

LarryD4
LarryD4

Mine is all three piled in to one person.. It is what it is...

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

How do you avoid these bosses? Or better yet how do you work with them? Met all three, worked for at least two. Running away isn't always an option.

jeremy.redwood
jeremy.redwood

I am currently working for a women that meets the profiles. Within six months about a third of the staff have left. I can not afford to leave. I am taking out a grievance against her. Probably have a legal case of negligence as well. There will be no winners but I hope to modify her behaviour.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

They always hate a whistle blower worse than the one doing the bad. And, the whisle blower always comes out shorter than the bad one does. So, if you plan to stick around, I'd find another route or another way than direct confrontation. Just my advice.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Your right about no winners in that situation. Hopefully she improves. Good luck though.

LarryD4
LarryD4

My Boss who encompasses all three of these types almost never communicates with staff other then word of mouth. So now every decision and directive I receive via word of mouth I follow up with an email confirming his directive. If he does not confirm the directive the process does not start. Only way to save my butt, when he throws me under the bus..

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I guess there's no magic formula. You know say the magic words and your boss is a good boss now. :) You're right, documentation is important with these bosses.

Dixbert
Dixbert

Three bosses? This is 1 person in the company I last worked at!!!!

nwoodson
nwoodson

You guys just described half of the MBAs I know!

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Wow, they must be getting better.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

An MBA is a tool, like any other. Here's how I see it. A top of the line set of tools doesn't make someone a good carpenter, or even a carpenter at all. A top of the line set of tools can, however, make a good carpenter a great one. the problem *I* have with the MBA attitude is with people who get them and think that it's the tool that makes them great.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

The idea that one will be a great manager just because someone holds, or has earned an MBA is fallacius. It is even a dangerous illusion. No school will teach you greatness. Schools teach us about greatness, but no school will turn anyone into a great leader or manager. You are right. An MBA, like any degree is nothing but a tool. It really just provides us with the tools that will allow recipient to uncover the secrets of the world around us. Thus, effective managers--who hold MBAs are not effective because they earned an MBA. They are effective because they identified the key that allowed them to uncover the secrets of management. They successfully used MBA teaching to uncover the secrets of organizational effectiveness. Additionally, again I think that management is an art. You must love it, practice it, and challenge what you know/learn constantly. Look at basketball and football in the US. Most effective coaches don't hold MBAs, yet they have successfully turned losing franchises into winning teams. Mind you, managing/leading rich, sometimes arrogant people like most of these stars is not easy! Bottom line? If you have earned your MBA, ask yourself "what do I need to do in order to become/be an effective manager?" Whether you have already earned an MBA or are trying to earn one, understand that once you earn the degree, you'll start learning. That will be the beginning of real knowledge. Erick

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

Guys, don't resent the "MBA." It is worth the sweat. Actually, I did not think of the initial MBA literally. I viewed it contextually, as always tell myself that context is king. What a cool imbecile I was! :-). Look, I have seen managers without a BA who have bigger heads for MBAs. So, to me, one doesn't need to hold an MBA to act the MBA type. It is an attitudinal issue. Well, I hold two master degrees but I spend entire days without even thinking about it. I once managed a group of super talented college students who provided the needed support for the technolohy program I had implemented. I always told them that while I was their supervisor, I knew they had skills I did not possess. They knew things I didn't know. Thefore, I will be learning from them and they should feel entirely comfortable answering questions I ask for I will be asking not to trap them, but to seek the truth about challenges we face and learn from their answers. Anyone who think that because they have an MBA or a terminal degree they know all and everything, ipso facto can rarely BE an effective manager. Sure enough, becoming a manager is one thing, but being one is another. Erick

dcavanaugh
dcavanaugh

I have seen this in real life. I suppose the people who make a 2-year full-time commitment are the ones who are not working during that time. Extending the theory a bit, they might be in the program for the right reasons. The night/summer school crowd IS currently working, which should be an advantage. But I think the problem arises when an MBA-centric organization forces people into the program almost against their will. These folks are in a mad scramble for advancement. The MBA is just one more weapon to be scooped up, as one might pick up a rocket launcher while playing Unreal Tournament. You can almost hear the gamers shout, "I'm going to pull the trigger and blast my way to the top!" In a perverse type of supply and demand, there are people who think this way and employers who hire them. Imagine what happens when an organization's management is overrun with the gamer's mentality. It's not pretty.

ReallyGoodManager
ReallyGoodManager

I was lucky enough to attend a top 10 MBA program. We were taught our MBA's were nothing more than a "tool bag" for us to reach into to select the proper "tool" to resolve whatever business problems we were facing. And we were taught that if we were arrogant and flaunted our MBA's, then (1) We were really not MBA material and should drop out of the program, immediately, to make room for someone who was not suffering from the "glass navel syndrome;" and (2) This kind of behaviour would quickly build us enemies and one cannot accomplish much working by themselves, except to become even better at making more enemies. In my own career spanning 25 years so far, I have observed that MBA's with the worst attitudes (and they were always the worst managers) either attended an evening or night program and did not make the two year full-time commitment to earn the degree. Or they attended a non name-brand school and had a chip on their shoulder and felt they have something to prove to the name-brand school MBA's they worked with since they didn't get into one of the top 10 schools. As always, YMMV, of course.

dcavanaugh
dcavanaugh

It may help your voice be heard by upper management. And it might make you promotable. I have seen MBAs who were given all kinds of high-profile work to do, with an automatic declaration of victory regardless of the true outcome. But the real value is that IF you get thrown under the bus, the search for your next job will be shorter. The anti-MBA stereotype comes from people who chase the credential in lieu of real world experience. We have all seen a few. Never assume that any credential is a substitute for real world success.

Bassplayer and Drummer
Bassplayer and Drummer

Yeah, well, I already knew going into the program that I will be the end-all, be-all, fountain of wisdom. I'm just rehearsing the air of arrogance, and believe me it's hard work. Take it from me, I know it all... because I'm going to be an MBA graduate. ;-) :-P *laughs sarcastically while clicking "Submit Post"*

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Don't know, don't want to know, but want to direct.

RFink
RFink

When I was a programmer, our biggest challenge was writing software to be both fool proof and MBA proof. Edited -- Sorry it posted twice.

RFink
RFink

When I was a programmer, our biggest challenge was writing software to be both fool proof and MBA proof.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I hope you do well. I think what some of us are speaking to is the "MBA mentality" that we've witnessed. Sorry, I've encountered far too many MBAs who think that completing their masters suddenly makes them the end-all, be-all, fountain of wisdom.

Bassplayer and Drummer
Bassplayer and Drummer

I'm in the process of getting my MBA as we speak, and it's interesting to me to read these comments. I could speculate that there is underlying resentment, but I won't. I know better than that (and not because I'm working on my MBA ;-). I've had bosses who "managed up" and ones who threw me under the bus. In those cases I always knew I could do a better job being the boss than my boss. Am I getting my MBA to better myself? Of course I am, but that's not the only reason. These days you need a master's degree to be promoted. You can't get promoted with just a bachelor's degree anymore, and even if you did by connections, dumb luck, or a freak accident, you won't have much of a chance for survival if you're unprepared. Lastly, if it's a perceived case of the haves versus the have-nots and paying for tuition, my employer is footing the bill for me from start to finish, but it was up to me to seek it out and take initiative.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

This blog lists three bosses you definitely don't want to work for: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/career/?p=280 Can you think of any more?

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

"Can you think of any more?" There certainly are. However, they might well share characteristics, or trait. I could add the MBI (Management By Intimidation) type. The MBI manager would definitely not allow his/her staff to ask questions about something s/he knows is unethical. The MBI shares at least two of the three attributes listed in the original article, but has more and it would take pages to go through these characteristics. Fact is, morale is usually at its lowest, employee retention suffers. Sadly, it is this kind of managers who, ironically keep their job longer. The question we should ask here is: Does upper management always know what happens downward? My tentative answer is that, in bigger organizations, it is very difficult though not impossible. However, there always seems to be someone in between who benefits from this management mayheim and would do anything to ensure that senior management does not know what goes on down the ladder. Kindest regards! Erick

robo_dev
robo_dev

The criminal boss would actually bring stolen car stereos and radar detectors to the office with the serial numbers scratched off (to sell to us), and would conduct training sessions on how to lie to the customer in a convincing way. He was later indicted under the RICO act and sued for millions. The micro-micro manager: One day when I worked through lunch, he saw me out the window getting into my car. So he calls me on the cell phone asking "so, where you going?". This was a very high-level salaried corporate position (Enterprise Network Architect) One time at a meeting where a technical discussion was getting heated, he actually passed me a note which told me not to talk anymore. He was constantly snooping on phone conversations, would sneak up quietly and see what was on your screen, and would even get others to spy on employees. He regularly got reports from the badge-entry system to see when and where people were coming and going, would get the logs from the proxy server to look at internet usage. Six out of ten of his employees either quit or transferred to other departments. He fired one employee who then sued him and the company.

LarryD4
LarryD4

How about the guy who got the job simply because how well he is "in" with the big boss! No experience, no knowledge, nothing to draw on, but he's the big man's favorite so he gets the position.

LarryD4
LarryD4

This just happened yesturday but I had to share it. I'm writing a pretty large script to automate our web based company phonebook. It checks AD and then deletes and/or adds users when they are added or removed from AD. My Boss asks if its done. I tell him two more days for testing and adding catches for errors. He says put in place anyway and assigns me a new project. I tell him its not catching for errors when a user is disabled and it does not tell you about the errors, he says its not needed. So I send an email to him re-iterating his directive.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

With a double whammy - boss was "the Boss cause the Big Boss loves me". No one is safe, including the client.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

I work for the *(#$8383 MBA sob now. You guys describe him to a Tee. Just hunkered down and waiting for him to move on. That's about all you can do.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I've seen this one ruin a company. every last move this type makes is geared for only one purpose: his next job. This one can be easily recognized, but only by those with expertese in the field. This manager will always sacrifice long-term production for short-term gains. Suddenly, everyone is working 50-60 hrs/week, and no new hardware or software is ordered. When people leave there is no knowledge transfer, and the people are not replaced. This individual will ruin a company to make the numbers look good while he was there, and bad once he leaves. Of course, the numbers look bad once he leaves because his sucessor has to clean up the mess he made.

guillenkma
guillenkma

Spending 20 years in the u.S. NAvy, I worked for a guy EXACTLY like this. He, and admittedly so, cared only about the NEXt command he would be a Master Chief at. He moved up the ladder to eventually become a Master Chief of Fleet Forces, a hughly acclaimed position that enables the one sitting there to REALLY help out the troops. Not this guy he STILL lookedto where he was going. The short of it, very ineffective and unproductive to the current command, brought morale down, sailors KNEW he didn't care, the commanding officer knew he didn't care and couldn't do anything about it, after all he was a Master Chief. CRE MORALE AND PRODUCTION WAS IMPACTED NEGATIVELY AND IT WAS CLEAR TO EVERYONE BUT HIM. Thanks Master Chief.

fatman65535
fatman65535

Too many large companies are run by this type. They usually consider themselves MBAs (Master in Business Administration). I feel that they actually are mba's (managed by a--holes!)

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

only they go in with the INTENT to do harm. a hacker typically sets up a logic bomb to go off if he's fired or laid off, this type of manager goes in with the intent of pilliaging the IT dept for the purposes of padding his resume.

vibhutirs
vibhutirs

Perfectly agreed, these one runs the team morale down, completely.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I've seen it. The best people leave, the creative thinkers are pushed out and all the company is left with is demotivated drones. It takes YEARS to recover from that.