The new farcical comedy "Horrible Bosses" highlights a sad reality of today's work force: A heck of a lot of bosses couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag.
In the movie, which stars Jennifer Aniston, three seemingly level-headed professionals plot to end their workplace woes by rubbing out their bosses. In real life, career experts tell oppressed, fed-up workers to polish their resumes and look to new horizons. "Don't seek vengeance against a bad boss," experts say. "Living well is the best revenge."
To those berated daily by an office tyrant, taking the high road probably sounds like a bunch of poppycock.
This isn't a small segment of the work force we're talking about. Bad office behavior is "extremely prevalent and growing," said Christine Porath, assistant professor of management at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.
"In 1998, 20 percent of people surveyed said that they had experienced this behavior at least once a week. By 2005, it was 48 percent," said Porath, co-author of "The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It." What's more, she said, 10 percent of workers witness poor treatment of their colleagues every day.
That's not to say all downtrodden employees take it lying down. In surveying 9,000 workers from a variety of U.S. industries, Porath and fellow researcher Christine Pearson, professor of management at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, found that nine out of 10 workers will retaliate against an office antagonist, perhaps by failing to cover their boss's back, perhaps by neglecting to mention a valuable piece of information, perhaps by badmouthing their boss to higher-ups.
But let's not concern ourselves right now with disgruntled underlings who "accidentally" misplace the PowerPoint file just moments before an abusive boss's big presentation. Instead, let's look at the battered employees who manage to thrive professionally despite a bad manager, and then later bask in the glory of rubbing their boss's face in it.
Succeeding -- and Then Feeling All Warm and Smug Inside
When Barry, a sales professional, realized that his company had accidentally overpaid him several thousand dollars over the course of a year, his less-than-benevolent boss was less than understanding that it had taken Barry so many months to notice.
"Even though I was one of his top people, he decided the best course of action was to threaten me, throwing his weight around and issuing an ultimatum," Barry wrote in an e-mail interview. "Either I pay the money back, or he'd let me go. Since I considered myself underpaid, I simply resigned. Shocked and amazed, he immediately cut the amount of money I supposedly owed in half. But having experienced a massive sense of relief the moment I quit, I wasn't about to go back."
Fast-forward several years. Since leaving his job, Barry had become a sought-after business consultant and public speaker. It was then that he had the delectable pleasure of flaunting his newfound success in front of his ex-boss.