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Best Worst Boss Story?

Author KarenSB
#1 | Posted: 9 Sep 2009 15:00 
I've been known to whole-heartedly subscribe to the data-substantiated theory that more often than not, people leave jobs because of bad bosses, not because of money or other matters.

I thought that a little sharing might be good right about now: some laughs, learn some lessons, vent a bit.

What is your best worst boss story?

Here's mine:

I've been very fortunate over the course of my career to have found the best bosses at the right time, mostly. More than 20 years ago, one of those was a man who showed me more about how to run a business than anyone before or since. Then he decided to move on to other ventures. In came his replacement, a man who could simply never bring himself to put things on my desk.

He would only use the floor.

"Here are those files you need," he would say, and then he'd drop the files onto the floor beside my desk.

The direct approach did nothing, he refused to discuss it. 'In kind' did nothing, he would simply walk over anything I put on the floor beside his desk. 'Do nothing' did not work, he threatened to fire me for insubordination. He would bring something to me, I would hold out my hand, and he would drop it on the floor.

Of all the quirks and nuances of his behavior and of his character that I was exposed to, this was the one that I could not tolerate. I interpreted his actions (right or wrong, I don't know) as demeaning. It wasn't long before I left and moved on to other ventures as well.

A few years went by, and it came to pass as it often does, that I bumped into someone who knew the rest of the story. Or as I like to call it, the day karma kicked butt. Shortly after my departure, this boss had started an affair with a local customer with national reach (he had, of course, a perfectly lovely wife). The affair led to violations of 'fair trade' with product price point issues, co-op advertising issues, commission issues, etc. They were discovered, the depth of their collusion was uncovered, and he was fired. And his perfectly lovely wife gave him the boot, too.

So...what's your story?

Author ayaree
#2 | Posted: 9 Sep 2009 18:19 
Karen, this is one of those times I wish I had more chalk, but I don't have anything to put on the board right now that adheres specifically to a "best WORST boss story"!

I have explored the topic of "people leave bosses, not companies" to the extent that I have read Love Em or Lose Em (you will probably remember me talking about ithe book, and you were happy to see it mentioned). But I just can't arrive at a "people leave bosses" conclusion, even though there is data behind it. I must be in the minority. And as a boss with his own losses and the conversation around that, well, that is for a subsequent board.

I remember leaving a company once when I didn't have much other recourse but to leave, and there were a lot of bigger circumstances that had nothing to do with the work or the individual who was my boss. I did think the boss was ineffectual, and there indeed was a situation that came up just prior to my decision to leave. I guess you could call that a "catalyst" or the "straw that broke the camel's back." And I remember feeling back then that this boss did not handle things correctly and undervalued me by not channeling me in the right ways and took the wrong approach and was too timid instead of taking the charge I tried to place in hands of the boss, blah, blah, blah. All my complaints about the boss as I remember them, and I am many years past that now.

But even then, I remember not really holding that boss responsible for all the problems I had with the situation, and not even the boss once removed, with whom I had had a tumultuous but also PRODUCTIVE relationship in previous experiences. (Some of the things she said still stick with me as worthwhile wisdom, but I just spell it out differently.) I left because the company - not a "single face" representing it - didn't have anything left for me to make music with, to use an old courting phrase. I'd just reached the end. And it was actually emotionally upsetting (but I kept that at home!!) to leave them, and I had a god-awful hill to climb afterward. Making a personal choice can be a painful thing! Personal responsibility, to one's OWN tune - frightening!!

But it wasn't a boss figure that I left in that story. If we want to say that person was not stalwart enough to take on keeping AYAREE in the company, then fine. Maybe my ego was bigger than having that person as my boss, but I don't fault the boss with my leaving, even if I was egotistical at the root. I gave about a month's notice, and that exit plan was used. And I had a week of goodbye lunches with various groups I had been involved with - I was snippier and more volcanic back then, and yet I had all that repeated goodbye will at my table!

Every reason for going was valid and every reason for remembered fondness are all right. Radar captures the boss at the time as a wrongdoer only in traces.

Just me, all I can do!

Author KarenSB
#3 | Posted: 24 Sep 2009 06:57 

I believe you've captured the heart of the matter in this statement: Radar captures the boss at the time as a wrongdoer only in traces.

For you see, it is all about perceptions.[b][/b]

Overwhelmingly, people do leave bosses, as opposed to leaving jobs. It truly does NOT mean that the boss is "bad." It means that one's perception is negative (or bad).

In my case with the story I told, I am more than willing to admit (now) that in all likelihood, he was not a bad boss. I was simply incapable of moving forward from the one I perceived as wonderful with the replacement, whom I perceived to be a jack-a**. Doesn't mean he was one (and...doesn't mean he wasn't). My perception of him was he was an arrogant so-and-so who devalued me by making me pick my work up from off the floor.

There are 'bad bosses' out there, but I believe they are the exception. I believe, as a boss, that it is incumbent on me to be aware of the perceptions staff hold. Whether those perceptions are valid or not is, in a great sense, moot. That they exist is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

Perceptions are typically unspoken judgments. At least unspoken to the target involved. It is my duty (to organization, to staff and peers, and to self) to continually seek them out through asking for feedback, then addressing them to the best of my ability. Which does not mean I have to "fix" anything. But awareness is, I think, 9/10's of the solution.

I had a very hard case of this over this past spring/summer. Brought someone on board who had always worked independently, and it was so exciting, This person brought certain skills and experiences much required by this organization. I felt quite certain that together, we would simply ROCK.

So here I am, knowing what I know, and bringing in the lone wolf to try to make duck soup to share. And there this person was, very used to be the sole decision maker, suddenly thrust into a team situation. In very short order, the organization was in severe pain. We are very small, very cohesive, so it doesn't take much to hit a tipping point.

Our approaches were oil and water. I prefer collaboration. Lone wolves tend to shy away from that concept. I faced charges of unfairness, unprofessionalism, bad decision making, egotism, favoritism. We received instability and undependability. At the end, this person would bring children into the work environment without notice or regard, would not bother to show up at the office until everyone else was leaving for the day, and routed all business correspondence through personal channels, including encouraging customers to use a personal cell phone rather than call our office.

I know this person is absolutely convinced I am the worst boss to ever walk the planet. I own this failure, and now spend my pensive time trying to understand what I did and what I did not do correctly and incorrectly in the hope that should I face this again, I handle it in a manner that results in a win all the way around. (And there is my controlling nature shining thru! Absolutely convinced that if I do the "right" thing, everyone will be happy. Just have to swim, dip, dive, duck and dodge until I find the 'right' thing!! ha!!)


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