In honor of National Boss’s Day, I wrote this piece about bad bosses I have had.
Every time I worked under the leadership of a less-than-good boss, I learned.
One of my worst bosses was mentally ill. This man had suffered the loss of a child and subsequently, the breakup of his marriage. He was so emotionally debilitated he could barely get dressed and come to work.
I was young, and this man showed me inappropriate affection. He bought me expensive perfume, wrote songs about me, and wanted me to run away with him. I believed he was stalking me.
I was afraid of him, and as soon as I could, I transferred to a new department.
What I Learned: Bosses bring their personal problems to work. Some problems rise to the level of extreme.
Another supervisor, imbalanced and incompetent, destroyed what had been a successful enterprise. He was arrogant and ignorant but demanded that workers do things his way. Because of this, most of his employees left positions they had once loved. He was eventually fired, but only after I had left and found a new job.
What I Learned: Arrogant, ignorant people sometimes hold leadership positions.
One boss was a foul-mouthed woman who chain-smoked. Our desks butted up against each other and she blew cigarette smoke into my face all day.
What I Learned: All bosses have annoying habits. (And yes, in the 1970s, many office workers smoked. The rest of us suffered.)
Another boss was a Christian, a man with good intentions. But he was unqualified for the position he held.
What I Learned: Even the nicest people, when placed into positions for which they are not qualified, make bad bosses.
Other bosses were weak. They provided no oversight and gave no guidance. They just wanted their underlings to play nicely together in the sandbox.
What I Learned: When a leader doesn’t lead, someone else will. That someone is often a bully.
I cannot tell you when it is time to leave a job because you have a bad boss. Many other factors influence that decision.
I will tell you I have made these determinations:
- I will never again work for someone I am afraid of.
- I will trust my instincts. If I think my boss is a slime ball, or incompetent, or spineless, he/she probably is. I will do the best work I can in that environment or I will find a new job.
- I will not blame myself for my boss’s lack of success. I won’t try to “rescue” a bad boss by hiding her shortcomings and doing her work myself.
- If my boss has a habit that is extreme enough to affect my job performance, I will try to negotiate a change.
When I complained about the cigarette smoke my boss was blowing into my face, she smiled and said, “Honey, I know you hate this cigarette smoke, but people will always smoke at work. That will never change. You’ll just have to get used to it.”
Not all my bosses were lousy. One or two became lifelong friends.
I hope your boss is stellar and that you, as an employee, had a happy Boss’s Day.