“Kill my boss ? Do I dare live out the American dream ?”
American actor and writer Dan Castellaneta

Every boss has their own style and their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is rare to actually find a boss who is perfect and maybe the best that we can hope for is to find a boss who gives us enough direction to know what is expected of us, and enough freedom to enjoy doing it.

Author: ThisIsRobsLife (own work); CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: ThisIsRobsLife (own work); CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

However, there are some bosses whose weaknesses far outweigh their skills, and who will thus have a detrimental effect on your own career development and prospects, and who will remove any of the joy of being at work.

Here are some “boss types” that you should avoid, and if necessary to move on from … or as Winston Churchill would have said “from whom you should move.” Having just 1 or 2 of these characteristics may be acceptable in most bosses, but having many more suggests that your boss is probably out of his depth, and the sooner you get away from them the better it will be for your own quality of work/life.

Business is war … “The art of war” is an interesting enough book to read and has some valid snippets of advice for managers, but the boss who totally sees “business as war” is as outdated as black and white television. (see “Sun Tzu would go broke today” posted October 3, 2011). Business today is based on a complex web of alliances that go beyond the idea that business success is just based on killing all who oppose you.

Author: FrankWilliams at en.wikipedia; PD-ART permission; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: FrankWilliams at en.wikipedia; PD-ART permission; via Wikimedia Commons

The one minute manager … life is complex, the management of people is even more so, and your boss needs to be smart enough, sophisticated enough and experienced enough to be able to handle the vagaries and subtle nuances of business, and the immense complexities of people. A boss who believes that he can learn enough from reading simplistic views of business life is not smart enough to survive.

The emperor … Some bosses believe that they can never be seen to be wrong and will therefore not brook any disagreement. The boss who believes he is always right, and who will not listen to anyone else, is unlikely to drive innovation and creativity in his team. A capable manager will try and find people who are even smarter than is s/he, and will then show that they have a right to lead by listening to the opinions of his people.

Never their problem … Some managers have an ability to let responsibility for tough issues go right past them “to the keeper” (“to the backstop” for my American readers). No matter what goes wrong, it is never their responsibility and they can always find someone to “blame and shame”. A capable manager understands that if it happens on their watch, and in their team, it is always their responsibility.

Author: Stephen Turner at en.wikipedia; GFDL CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Stephen Turner at en.wikipedia; GFDL CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

No feedback … Good managers give their people constant and timely feedback. It is impossible to work for a boss who doesn’t let you know how you are doing on an ongoing basis (both good and bad). Waiting till the end of the year to find out how you have performed from a historical perspective does little in managing behaviour, and doesn’t allow people to adjust what they are doing to be acceptable.

Captain chaos … Some managers have the uncanny skill of being able to create an incredibly chaotic environment around them. I have even come across managers who will deliberately create crises, which they can then solve, as a way of proving their worth. While flexibility in a work environment is a critical catalyst for creativity, perpetual chaos is totally destructive.

The meeting organiser … I have generally found that the number of meetings and conference calls that a manager arranges is in direct inverse proportion to their skills as an executive (see “Meetings bloody meetings” posted April 18, 2011). The premise is that you have meetings to keep people informed, and to involve them in the decision process, but the reality is that managers who call meetings all the time are just trying to cover themselves in case things go wrong. Managers are paid to make decisions and take calculated risks. Most meetings are a waste of time, effort and energy.

Author: Areyn; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Areyn; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

The bureaucrat … Bureaucrats achieve little in public sector roles, and achieve even less in the private sector business environment. A manager who “does it by the book” and who lives his life totally by the terms and conditions in the “Policies and Procedures” manual will take too long to move, and today inertia is death. Doing the right thing is always more important than doing the thing right, notwithstanding the need for honesty and integrity at all times.

The politician … I hate business politicians (see “A guide to office politics” posted May 6, 2013), though I do accept that being able to manage upwards is a critical skill needed in a manager. However, managers who love listening to and spreading gossip, who love the political intrigues of a Machiavelli and who believe that “who you know and who you can manipulate” is more important than what you do and what you achieve, should be avoided like rabid dogs.

The body-bagger … Business at any cost, no matter how high is the casualty rate, is not good business and I have never tolerated managers who have been successful but have left a trail of “death and destruction” behind them on their road to achieving their goals. Good managers take everyone along with them, no matter how tough is the hill that they are storming.

To really succeed in life you should find something to do that you can really love doing, and if it means working for a boss, rather than yourself, then you need to find one that you can admire and that gives you the opportunity to stay in love with what you do. If you go through life tolerating a bad manager just because he pays you, or just because he scares you, will ultimately destroy your love of life. Find a better management role model.



  1. cnxtim says:

    I think you have missed elaborating on the important word in your title “when” and the category of a boss who can find very little good in your work and believes a continual torrent of negative feedback achieves positive results.

    Especially with this situation, the “when” is something that YOU should decide and execute with exquisite timing.

    Continuing In the spirit of Machiavelli, , “La vendetta è un piatto che va mangiato freddo”.

    Even if it costs you the best part of $500,000 in a lost bonus (not sure about that part).

  2. Paul O says:


    • cnxtim says:

      I guess the fact is I never saw them as my boss, but for sure i have some great mentors, and a few ‘also rans’.

      And only two perfect a..holes

  3. A hélice tripla é um modelo universal de inovação.

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