Eight epic boss failures

First let me wish all the readers a very happy and prosperous 2019. As we entered this new year, I thought hard about posting this blog. Medhajournal is a great place and its focus has been on more spiritual side of things since it restarted. However we are all human beings who have to live in this world, and face worldly problems. We spend about a third of our life at work and indeed, if we face problems there, it invariably spills into our “personal” life. At which point, it makes me wonder if there is indeed anything that is not personal. I mean, it is our very person that goes to the workplace and interacts with other persons. How then can work not be personal as well?

With that bit of information as a backdrop, let me dive right into the unpalatable topic I chose to write about after a long gap. If you are like most people, you probably have a manager at work. I hope this article helps you identify and formulate your thoughts clearly. If you are a manager, I hope you take a good look at this article as well, and maybe it will help you identify certain traits that you exhibit, things that you can use to self-correct and become better leaders.

If you are like me, you would have heard horror stories about bad managers, who meet or exceed the caricature that is the “PHB” (Pointy Haired Boss), made famous by the cartoonist Scott Adams.

I cannot find enough words of consolation for you, if you ever have to endure the kind of mental trauma that ensues, as a result of having a bad leader. And I unfortunately cannot provide sage advice on what you should do in such a case, as I don’t quite know what the best way to deal with this is. All I can say is, that using the Situation-Behavior-Impact methodology is a good way to evaluate if you are facing such a situation yourself. And on basis of that, you can plan what your next steps are going to be.

The SBI methodology involves looking at the behavior of an individual (or an entity) for a given situation, and what impact it has/had on you.  In this methodology, it is advised to look at situations, behaviors and assess impact at their face value. It is advised not to look for underlying motivation for the behavior. Some of what I articulate below might not be perfect SBI candidates, however, my hope is that the reader is able to find some semblance of structure from them, using which they can adapt them for their own scenario.

Behavior Situation Impact
Distracted  in One-on-One meetings They repeatedly have trouble staying focussed in the one-on-one meetings, preferring to have an informal style and often answering texts and emails while  speak to them. This can be exacerbated if you are remote. If your conversations have been over the phone or video conferences, this inability to focus during  conversations, can make you feel unimportant, and give the sense that, you are clamoring for their attention. However, in these type of meetings, they should rightfully be paying 100% attention to the topic at hand.
One-sided conversations In numerous conversations, they engage in one-sided “lectures” as opposed to serious dialog. They make assumptions about what you want to say and what your motivations for making a statement might be. You feel disrespected and left without a voice. It is disrespectful to claim to understand what your motivations and aspirations are, without bothering to really listen to what you have to say.
Unwilling to engage in sincere dialogue
    • They are often dismissive of others’ opinions. Instead of fully listening to an opinion that is contrary to their position, they neutralize the other person by interrupting and immediately countering aggressively.
  • When they are approached with a problem, they labels the presentation of the problem as “whining” and “complaining”.
    • This type of behavior discourages people from sharing their thoughts freely. You might find that you would rather just keep quiet than express your views, as you don’t want to get disparaged for holding a different opinion.
  • By negatively labeling the attempts to bring issues to their attention, they again prevent any worthwhile dialog from happening, and also make you feel somehow immature or inadequate, and therefore have the tendency to complain and whine.
Dismissive or Disrespectful They often takes on a tone of utter disrespect and  frequently speaks angrily and makes statements like “now I’m getting pissed off”. When questioned about the point of getting angry in a dialogue, they then backtrack and makes excuses for their behavior by claiming they were already stressed out after talking to someone else in a previous meeting. This again dissuades free and open communication as it is not possible to approach a manager who is so consistently disrespectful and often angry during conversations.
Evasive and avoid taking positions on record They avoid taking positions on record (email etc) when they can. They will never directly respond to questions directed towards them, often taking a long time to respond (or responding with an altogether unrelated or tangentially related topic) This might prevent you from being able to take a strong position about anything, knowing that your manager will probably never have your back. Thereby, making it harder and more stressful to perform in your role.
Inconsistent rules — change the rules per their convenience They often changes the rules. Add to this the fact that they often avoid putting anything down on record, they then have the freedom to adapt the rules to what is convenient for them.

This type of conflicting and contradictory guidance causes confusion and leaves people in a constant state of stress.

This might result in distrust to such an extent that you have to follow up any major conversation with them with an email summarizing what they said, so they can’t use it against you in future.

Unwilling to let go of control They often delegate work and then refuse to relinquish control. Eventually all that is left for you to do is essentially accept their perspective. They claim to empower people and yet, do not let truly live up to the spirit of empowerment with their constant micro-management. This creates a scenario where the individual suffers from poor self esteem, as it makes it look like you are incapable of operating without the constant administration of the manager.

Playing Mind Games — Another major item which is hard to tabulate is that of mind-games. These type of managers will play mind games that ranges from misdirection to attempts at intimidation. For example, say you have an illness in your family and you have to go on extended or frequent leave, they might bring up the topic of having to involve HR. Instead of listening to your problem and offering to help you, they might try to first intimidate you and then kindly offer a “off the records solution” by your taking time off without notifying anyone (“it’ll be just between you and me”).  As the situations can vary, it is almost impossible to pin this down to a single pattern. Yet, one can most certainly identify this type of behavior when they encounter it a few times.

As professionals, we spend a major part of our day at work and it is just completely unacceptable to have to deal with this type of, frankly, atrocious behavior.

What can you do with this kind of information? That is in the domain of Human Resources and Development, and hopefully you have a strong HR department who can help you deal with this type of trauma and take strict action against this type of behavior.

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