Well not all horrible but certainly a mixed bunch. In 30 years of corporate life, I have worked for a wide variety of Boss types and inherited some managers who were also – shall we say – varied in their abilities. Here are the different types I have encountered in career chronological order.
There was a recession on when I left University which meant jobs for grads were scarce. After a few rejections, I lucked out and got my start with a Foreign Exchange Brokerage in the City. It turned out that they needed someone quick because my (then) manager had insisted on booking a holiday and they had no one to cover him. My boss was a thorough organiser. His first piece of advice was that I had two ears and one mouth, so I should listen twice as much as I spoke. His second nugget was that I should write down every action I take so that if something went wrong, I could just do the actions in reverse to get back where I started (something I still do to this day). If it was not on a list, as part of a plan, in the correct folder, in the correct place then – for my boss – it did not exist. I can only imagine what his DIY list looked like at home.
The Unwilling Manager
My second boss was used to working alone and was good in that capacity. Then someone decided to make him a manager. He had no clue how to manage people let alone lead. I would be asked to participate on projects I knew nothing about with no guidance. I would be sent to places in Europe to meet people in branch offices with no idea what I was supposed to be contributing. This was also the first time I worked for someone who liked a drink. A lot of afternoons he would just vanish. I eventually grasped the lesson he was teaching me – do not bother him – and learnt to work without his input.
My next manager was the superhero type. Measuring success in hours worked and weekends sacrificed. Quite often I would arrive early at work to see him in his office already having ensured he was first in or just as likely, never gone home from the day before. The team’s knowledge and efforts paled in comparison to his own and he made sure we knew it.
Up next is a boss I learnt a lot from, in so much as I try to never emulate any aspect of his management style. He had no clue what we were doing and did not care. His job was to take the good news upstairs and to assure his bosses that any bad news was being dealt with severely. One Saturday night, the team and I were working late to meet a deadline when – to my immense surprise – he showed up in the office. Turns out he had left something in his desk and was not there to offer solidarity for our lost weekend. He said he would stay but he had a dinner to go to and with a “make sure it gets done”, he was gone. I also remember asking him for some advice once and – I swear this was his response – he said, “if I were you, I’d make a list of things to do and do them”.
Was also the best public speaker I have ever worked for; he could hold an audience even when talking about the most boring stuff. However, his management style was heavily informed by that of his boss which was to keep his direct reports at odds with one another so that he was the unifying factor. Responsibilities would frequently be moved about breeding resentment between us directs. He had many redeeming qualities, he understood the business, understood technology well, built decent relationships with clients and was loved by pretty much everyone in the department. He also had that elusive Teflon-like ability where fault never stuck to him, not because he deflected it but because it just didn’t. His worst trait was avoiding confrontation at all costs. One example was repeatedly telling a colleague that they were great – they were not – until such time as the clients explained he had to go, or my boss did. It came as a total shock to my colleague who had been led to believe he was doing fine.
The Supreme Being
He didn’t think he was right; he knew it. We were fortunate to be in his presence. Not for him the day-to-day grind of production problems and unhappy clients. He was there to grace us with his high intellect and superior decision making. One day, we had a widespread systems outage – systems for which he was ultimately responsible – and were gathered around various terminals trying to get things back up and running. It was stressful. Users were deeply unhappy. The Supreme Being stopped by to see what we minions were doing with a towel under his arm. He was off for a swim.
Horrible Bosses, written for The Corporate Mind, by Anon.