You can learn something from a bad boss too


It was Boss’s Day last week. A day when we can play nice with the people who judge us daily and can make our lives great, or not so great all at.

This annual greeting card event should make us all reflect on those who have managed us – both good and bad. Ever had a bad boss? I’m sure you have. We have all had a bad boss… or six.

I have a friend who has a boss situation. His boss is a nice guy, but can’t seem to focus on things that are important, like personnel and financial issues. I’m sure we have all had a boss who just can’t seem to grasp what is really important.

Sadly, organizations led by people like that don’t do well in the long run.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that any description of any boss in this column does not reflect on my current boss. Seriously, how dumb do you think I am? (Don’t answer that!)

I currently have a good boss, but that hasn’t always been the case. I have had the cool boss, the angry boss, the screaming boss, the belittling boss, the brilliant boss, the brilliant boss who wants to remind you constantly how brilliant he/she is and just about every variation.

In my working lifetime, I have had a lot of bosses – my first when I was delivering newspapers at the age of 9. Yes, I have been a boss, including for most of my career in journalism. I am sure I was not always a great boss, but I did try to do my best.

I tried to learn from those people I had worked for. If you pay attention, you can learn both good and bad things. I mostly learned what not to do, or at least try not to do.

Training is a key here, too. I personally have hours and hours of management training. And that training can be very beneficial. Not only to the person getting it, but also to the organization that person works for.

But I would say watching bad managers work is one of the best training tools we have in the workplace.

Your boss should make you better at your job. Your boss should empower you to make decisions and be the best you can be on the job. He or she should make you feel good about yourself and the team you work with – if you work with others, of course.

A good boss is inclusive but also decisive. A good boss is open and trustworthy. A good boss shares the credit and never steals it. A good boss cares.

Sadly, there are still too many bad managers out there. You know the type – the ones who talk incessantly about themselves and their accomplishments, even when those accomplishments aren’t theirs alone.

These are the bosses who belittle employees and try to lead through intimidation and fear. No true leaders do that, for the record. That tactic is usually used by people with little self-esteem who only feel better about themselves by putting down others.

The good news is that there are way more good managers these days than bad ones. Yes, there are still way too many people in charge who are stuck in the 1980s, and who seem to enjoy making people miserable.

I have certainly worked for some miserable people, along with a lot of fantastic people. For those suffering under a horrible boss, I encourage you to work hard for change. And when you are the boss, remember what you didn’t like and don’t do it. It will make you more effective, and eventually break the curse of the rotten boss.