Lessons to be learned from bad bosses



'I wear my bad bosses like a charm bracelet,' my friend explained. 'Some people just seem to come by their management skills naturally; some learn it from books or classes. Me? I learned how to be a manager by doing exactly the opposite of most of my past bosses. Each charm teaches a lesson I never want to forget.'

I had to admit Iíve learned a lesson or two from lousy managers, too. They were well intentioned but lousy, nevertheless. The trick, I think, is to learn the lesson but not to let the pendulum swing to the other extreme. For instance, if youíve worked for a micromanager, it would not be an improvement to be completely hands off and unavailable. In your zeal to avoid doing one thing, you donít want to over correct.

What not-to-do lessons have you learned? See if you can recognize any of these less-than-charming managers:

The Corrector.

This manager doesnít give much direction when he is dolling out assignments. He tells everyone what he wants done and then goes back into his office and waits for the results to come in. When the finished product is laid at his feet, he steps into action, challenging, correcting and criticizing. Finding faults allows him to show his clear technical and managerial superiority, and besides, itís easier than coaching employees before they begin a project.

The Lesson: When you assign work, discuss the end result you are looking for. Ask employees how they would like to approach the assignment and what ideas they want to explore. If you see that a person has limited knowledge or is going in the wrong direction, you can suggest alternatives that will avoid mistakes later.

The Hoarder.

This manager squirrels away information, power and/or satisfying work. She doesnít share information from senior manager meetings and only doles out an occasional tidbit on a need-to-know basis. Another version is the manager who insists on making every decision. Meanwhile, the logjam of stalled projects piles up on her desk, awaiting her review. Finally, the work Hoarder never should have been promoted in the first place. She loves the technical work and canít keep her hands off of it. You might get a crumb or two but she keeps the whole cake.

The Lesson: The more you share, the easier your job becomes. People want challenge and will gladly take a project from you. Then, you can really exercise your expertise by providing advice and creative ideas, without getting buried in the unchallenging details. The more information you share, the less your employees need close management, since they will understand where to take action to solve problems. Once employees are experienced enough to make their own decisions, they become more enthusiastic and motivated.

The Screamer.

There are usually a lot of slang terms his employees use to describe the outbursts. 'Going ballistic.' 'Getting caught in his barrel.' 'Spending time at the whipping post.' 'Public beatings.' Lovely, arenít they? People will do almost anything to avoid the wrath because even the toughest executive has an innate need to protect his self-esteem. Even though the screamer recovers and becomes as sweet as a kitten, his potential victims never come too close or trust him with their honest information. They have seenóor feltóthe claws.

The Lesson: There are no excuses. This behavior is so counter productive, it has no redeeming value. For instance, if someone made a costly mistake or the company was in dire financial straits, would screaming be justified? Would it make employees more committed, more motivated and less inclined to make additional mistakes? Of course not. It causes people to hang their heads, run for cover and keep their mouths shut.

The Ego.

He loves to flaunt the spoils of his position and status. His office looks like a shrine to himself. He has the 'little people' handle all of his daily details. Everything must be first class. He has no time for the real work that is being ground out every day by the people around him. Honest questions and pressing decisions must wait until he finishes his round of golf.

The Lesson: Mr. Big Shot makes a big target. Eventually, his arrogance will catch up with him. His employees will resent his puffery and they will not protect his back. When he is about to step on a political landmine, they will merely smile. As soon as you start thinking you are better than the 'little people' in your department or your company, youíve forgotten the lesson that you are there to serve them, not the other way around.