Horrible Bosses…

While working at my very first job after college, I commented to a colleague one night that some of the partners we worked for were really out of touch with the employees.  His response…”Forget out of touch…I don’t think they ever had touch in the first place.”  The comment was funny and we all laughed…but over the years I’ve thought about that conversation quite a few times with quite a few bosses.  Most recently, I was talking to a friend whose boss has no respect for his employees…going so far as to call them “brain dead” on more than one occassion…and I thought about it again.

Every time I hear a story like that I wonder…what happened?  I mean, these people didn’t start out as the boss.  Just like the rest of us, they were once the new guy…they once were at the bottom of the food chain.  They worked their way up to being the boss…and often it seems that along the way, they forgot what it was like to be at the bottom.  I wonder if any of them consider what it’s like to stand in their employees’ shoes when they are making decisions.  I wonder how they ended up being so awful.

I’m not saying that every boss is horrible.  I’ve had bosses that I’ve loved…who were fair and generous and friendly and helpful.  I’ve had bosses who have taught me so much…who made me love my job…who made me happy to go to work each day.  But I have to say that the majority of them have been bad.

Which is why I think I would make a great boss.  Because, the thing is…those bad bosses taught me something really important…how not to treat employees.

I would never be stingy with vacation days.  I would treat everyone to lunch once in a while…just because.  I understand the effect that an unexpected afternoon off or a small bonus can have on employee morale.  I know that just caring about your employees and remembering to ask them how they are doing is something that can create a lot of goodwill.  And when your employees are happy, they will work harder.  It’s kind of a no-brainer.

At my job, we recently got a new director.  The former director was a nice enough guy, but he would never go to bat for his employees.  If there was something wrong or something that we didn’t like, we just had to learn to live with it.  It made for a very unhappy work environment.  The new guy had a challenge on his hands from the beginning…but he rose to that challenge.  Last week, I made a request at work.  It was something I thought was simple and wouldn’t be an issue…and I was very wrong.  It was an issue and the powers that be didn’t want to grant my request.  The new guy stood up for me.  He pointed out that it was something simple to give that wouldn’t cost them anything…but that would mean a great deal to me and make my life easier.  In the end, my request was granted.

And the new director…totally earned my respect and gratitude.  It was that simple.

So help me figure this out…does anyone know why some bosses are just so bad?  How have they managed to forget what it was like to not be the boss?


  1. 1-Have you seen the movie Horrible Bosses? Good stuff.
    2-Yeah I guess bosses sometimes just forget where they came from and have weird power trips. I guess some people enjoy abusing the power that they have over others just from being a boss. I am fortunate to have a nice understanding boss but that is not the case for everyone in my office and it makes me upset when I hear people scared to ask their bosses for simple things (like time off for Dr’s appt) b/c they fear their boss.

  2. Some people are just jerks–starting at the bottom doesn’t change things because they felt the ground floor beneath them to begin with and their elevation to boss only their due.

    Some people are bitter at having been treated poorly as an underling and return the “favor” either intentionally or not. Sometimes it’s considered paying your dues, other times it’s just what they were taught. A good boss can break the cycle, though.

    And sometimes, sometimes I think it’s stress. As finance people we see the bottom lines every month or quarter, but we don’t feel the personal responsibility for them the way the head of a company does. If he or she can’t get the train back on the tracks, how many people could lose everything? I know I wouldn’t want that pressure.

  3. I don’t know, I think maybe those people who are horrible bosses were horrible when they weren’t bosses as well. Plus, once you get your foot in the boss door, you’re kind of in — regardless of how good or bad you are. But it seems so obvious how to be a good boss yet so many people are so bad at it. You do sound like you’d be a good boss!

  4. This new director of yours sounds pretty awesome. I don’t think people realize that such small gestures can make a huge difference when it comes to boosting morale or just keeping employees happy. I’m really glad he went to bat for you though and hope he continues to do so.

    Oy. Don’t get me started on my “boss.” One of the many reasons I desperately need a new job this year.

  5. Just watched Horrible Bosses last night. Hilarious! I love my current boss. She actually introduced me to my fiance, and we’re going to be in-laws whenever Carolina Man and I get married. I do realize how rare this is. I had two awful bosses before her. They were insecure people, and that’s what made them terrible leaders. They never apologized because they saw backing down as weakness. My current boss? So quick to apologize when she’s messed up, and she’s completely secure in her identity.

  6. After witnessing what you experienced in October, I’m glad to hear you have that support now! I’ve had all extremes and the reason I keep staying at my current job is because the managers are a pretty solidly awesome group. Outside of my office it gets a little iffy :)

  7. My former boss was way out of touch with the whole office. By the time I was out of there Morale was in the toilet. A very bad combination of forgetting what its like to be the little guy, stop-at-nothing ladder climbing, and just plain being a Dick. Our office went from being prasied by corporate for retention to nearly every position rolling over when he got promoted.

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