My clients come from a broad range of industries. But regardless of their specialty - tech, telecom, media, broadcasting, real estate, travel, performing arts, retail, banking, finance, whatever - almost all of them have stories about crappy bosses.
Doesn't matter what level the individual is working at; I hear as many bad boss stories from folks at the low end of the totem pole as I do from those who wear more stripes on their sleeves.
It's one of those consistent laws of management. We all tend to regard ourselves as being leaders who are thoughtful, caring, and enlightened while seeing our bosses as thoughtless, self centered and dim. (This should cause you to wonder about your team's true feelings about your style.) I thought I'd share a great 'bad boss' story today. It's so bad that it seems unbelievable. I know it's true because I was there to witness it. It took place in the boardroom of one of the largest retail chains.
The routine of this retailer is to have a monthly meeting involving all the senior leaders to review each's performance from last month, discuss how the current month is doing and then forecast the outlook for the coming 2 months. It seemed like a good approach - allowing all the leaders to know what's going on across the company and what the near future holds overall. The only problem with it resided with the CEO. He hated bad news. If you were one of the leaders going into that meeting with a less than stellar report or prediction, it was nerve racking because the CEO would often make an example out of the 'poor performers'; lambasting and being extremely cranky. He considered this to be open and honest discussion. The people presenting thought it was simply old fashioned bullying using new technology for the presentations. What took place this one day convinced me that this retailer's CEO was a solid candidate for worst boss ever.
A business unit leader was standing in front of the assembled group - about 20 department or unit heads. He was looking at a huge screen at the front of the room on which his numbers were blown up with a font size that looked like about 100. He clearly knew his report wasn't going to be well received. Because the room was a rectangle it was almost impossible to focus on the screen while looking at the audience; so the presenter didn't see the CEO stand up. Nor did he see (as did all of the others around the table) the CEO pick up a rather heavy leather chair.
It was clear from the look on the presenter's face that he could not comprehend what caused the clunking sound behind him and he turned to face the audience to see what caused the commotion. No one in audience was looking at him. All around the room, everyone was looking at the floor, or checking their tie for spots. Except the CEO who was looking directly at him. Then the hapless presenter realized there was a chair lying on its side just in front of him. He looked around the room and back at the CEO, who then said, "If you show those kinds of numbers again mister, the next time I'll hit you with the f-ing chair!"
I believe this was the clearest example of a boss behaving badly that I've seen. Was he the worst boss ever, though? Or have you seen similar bad behavior? Let us know and share them with us. Misery loves company.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.