Working Wounded Blog: The Worst Boss Ever

News Flash: Delphi files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and asks for a 63 percent pay cut from workers while the top executives enhance their own severance packages by 50 percent.

Delphi's announcement reminds me of a Vietnam-era joke. One soldier turns to another and asks, "What's the difference between the Marines and the Boy Scouts?" When the other soldier doesn't know, he responds. "The Boy Scouts have adult leadership."

As much as Delphi quickly has become the poster boys for poor leadership, unfortunately they don't seem to be the only ones lacking "adult" leadership today. According to my e-mail, today's workplace is full of bosses who seem more focused on baubles and bling than on their organization's well-being – bosses who yell, who have their own set of rules, one who even asked his assistant to type her own termination letter (a true story from one of my presentations). Management hubris seem to be all the rage (pun intended).

Think I'm exaggerating? Then listen to what people talk about on airplanes, in restaurants and on street corners. It's all about work. And the one work topic that dominates all others is bad bosses. Sorry to break this to you if you are a boss, but chances are that your employees are talking about you. And what they are saying will make your hair curl.

Which got me thinking, is there a particular group of bosses who are worse than another group? So as a community service, the nominees for worst type of boss are:

      Financial people – accountants, CFOs and finance types who are totally focused on money, usually at the expense of any ability to actually deal with people. Or in the words of my MBA Finance professor, "Cash flow is more important than your mother." At the time I thought he was joking. Having gotten to know a few CFOs, I think many of them actually think this is true.

      Sales people – marketers and sales people who are totally focused on getting people to want to buy whatever they are selling at the expense of actually listening to what people really think. A great salesperson can easily create an environment where everyone is drinking from the same batch of Kool Aid and where any voices of disagreement are silenced or discredited.

      Technical people – engineers, CTOs and techies make the worst bosses because they often favor machines over people. They like the "0" and "1" logic of computers and hate how messy actual people can be with their needs and wants. Technical people can always be looking for the logic in a situation, a logic that seldom exists when dealing with real people in a workplace.

      Legal people – lawyers. Need I say more?

Vote in our online ballot and tell us what is the worst type of boss that you've run across in your career. I'll admit that this column and poll can be considered a cheap shot; at the same time, aren't you curious to see the poll results?

Quote of the week:
"Hitting people over the head isn't leadership, it's assault." – Dwight Eisenhower

Weekly book excerpt:
From "The Cluetrain Manifesto," by Rich Levine, et. al. (Perseus, 2001)

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