Learning from the bad and the ugly

Share this:
May 19, 2003 // UPDATED 10:50 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

Bad bosses teach us what not to do

A recent column focused on ways bosses could demonstrate support to their staff, including learning good leadership skills from coworkers. Now, it\'s time to focus on the bad and the ugly. After all, some of us learn best by reflecting on our own mistakes, or better yet, the mistakes of others.

After St. John\'s University released its study saying the number one characteristic of a good boss was someone who demonstrated support, I was curious to see if my business associates agreed. I sent them a survey to share some of their good bad boss experiences.

The responses were surprising: 80 percent said their current boss was good, and 63 percent said over the course of their career the majority of their bosses were good.

But, it turns out, when bosses were bad, they were awful.

\"I just turned 50,\" said Teresa. \"When I phoned [my boss] recently, he picked up the phone and greeted me with, \'Hello, old woman.\'\"

Lesson: Not everyone finds turning 50 amusing. Especially in the corporate workplace, where many aging baby boomers are concerned they\'ll be set out to pasture to make room for the Gen X and Twitch generations. According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, cosmetic surgery (eyelid work, face-lifts and liposuction) for people 51-64 has increased 47 percent since the late \'90s.

\"My worst boss was completely self-absorbed and would introduce staff and professionals on the team as \'my supporting cast,\'\" said Lori. Just to make sure we got the full impact of this very bad boss, Lori added, \"This boss appeared to look for opportunities to catch people doing something wrong and then blow up at them, often publicly.\"

Lesson: The days of a control-and-command management style are fading into the proverbial woodwork. Today, the corporate model is teamwork, and as anyone who has sat through a leadership 101 seminar will tell you, there\'s no \"I\" in team. (That goes for \"my\" as well.)

\"I once had a boss who stood up in a presentation and contradicted my presentation. This was after he had personally approved it the day before. The chair of the meeting was so surprised that he had to ask, \'Are you really disagreeing with a presentation made by a member of your staff on this issue?\'\" shared Karl.

Lesson: Self-destruction is a painful thing to watch. There is a time and place for disagreements and a team presentation is definitely the wrong place at the wrong time. If you are going to pull an offensive and stupid stunt like disagreeing with a staff\'s presentation in a public setting, be sure your resume is up to date.

Finally, I asked my trusted associates to rate themselves as bosses. The majority gave themselves a \"good.\" One said \"great,\" another \"average,\" and another, Tom, stated: \"I don\'t like to rate myself, and I don\'t agree with the St. John\'s study. I like a boss who gives me independence, lets me run my own business, and is there when I need them. While support is important, it\'s not number one. I need a boss who will challenge me and prevent me from getting bored.\"

Lesson: If you don\'t agree with the findings of a survey, wait a couple of days. A new one is bound to be released and it might be more compatible with your point of view.

If you have a good workplace dilemma or just a good story to tell, please contact Elana Centor at ecentor@mn.rr.com. You can remain confidential, as can your company.