You Either Laugh or Lose Your Mind

A while back, I wrote an article about bad bosses. I received dozens of add-ons to my original list. I thought it would be fun to sift through the mailbag and let you folks write today’s column.

The Pal. On the surface, The Pal looks to be the best boss around — no request is too great for him, from afternoons off to ergonomic chairs and lunch dates that are expensed. Beware, because when the time comes for credit or a promotion, The Pal is looking out for No. 1; and, in his world, past favors — no matter how small — absolve him of any bigtime favors he owes you.

The Flirt. For me, this boss was female but this type can come in both flavors. The Flirt pushes the envelope of acceptable office politics in a way only she can, mostly because she is very attractive. You’re always “sweetie,” and finishing her work or forgetting her mistakes only costs this person a batted eye or a neck rub. It’s all fun and games, and the street goes both ways; but look out when real work issues arise. The Flirt is most likely not equipped to deal with real management problems and may not even be able to handle real work.

The Nutty Professor. This person has spent 30 years in some field, has jumped to the Net, and thinks she is God and everyone else is the village idiot because she has all of this experience in some completely different area. Unfortunately, this person usually holds the purse strings as well, so no matter how badly it needs to be done, no one can question this person’s authority. And it’s happening more and more every day.

The Anal-Retentive Control Freak. I was the marketing communications director, and he was the VP of marketing to whom I reported. He was such a micromanager that my signature authority was set at $25! I couldn’t buy a box of paper for the copier without his say-so, let alone sign off on the invoices from the ad agency or the trade publications in which we advertised.

But my favorite anecdote is this: We had just concluded the annual sales meeting, and he and I were standing in the lobby of a hotel while 200 sales reps were getting into charter buses to be taken on a tour of our new plant. It was drizzling outside, so I said I’d go out and tell the bus drivers to leave. He spun on his heel and, with a look of rage on his face, stretched out his arm and blocked my way to the door with the clipboard he carried and said, “They won’t listen to you,” and marched outside.

It gets better. He walked up to the lead bus, knocked on the door, and gave the driver the “Westward Ho, the Wagons” signal. He did the same thing to the second and third buses. By this time, the driver of the fourth bus saw the pattern and started to pull away on his own. The VP walked into the middle of the street to stop the fourth bus, then walked over to the door and repeated his signal.

I lasted 5 months with that a**hole, and 15 years later I’m still amazed I made it that far.

Those are the highlights from some great letters. I guess we all have to keep our sense of humor in the middle of this uncertain job market. Have a great day, and send me your boss-type descriptions anytime at peter@stickyideas.com.

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