I’m on Marketplace this weekend, talking about bad bosses

I’m back on public radio’s Marketplace Money this weekend, this time talking about what to do if you have a bad boss.

You can listen to it here (the segment with me starts at 43:35, but there are some great bad boss stories starting at 41:10, including a boss who got pushed over in a porta-potty as revenge):

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Michelle*

    While I always appreciate your advice, on this, I think you were too easy on bosses. When a boss is seriously “crazy” or continually not giving her employees the attention they need and deserve, or if she is rude/stubborn/abusive, she needs to be put in her place.

    I fortunately did not have that kind of a boss at my last job, but I worked so close to my co-workers’ boss that I could hear their conversations. This boss was abusive; she ranged from passive aggressive to straight aggressive! She did not deserve to be supervising anyone! She couldn’t handle it.

    What I can infer from the employer side is that as long as that boss meets her bottom line and gets the job done, she’s good to go. That boss would schmooze her boss all the time so her supervisor never got to see the reality. I think it’s unreasonable if someone really loves their work to have to either “deal with it/find a way to accept their bosses flaws” OR leave. That’s ridiculous. Do you honestly think it isn’t perpetuating the system of bad bosses by letting this stuff go unchecked?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, the reality is that in many cases, employees don’t have a lot of options other than to find a way to work within that context or to leave. Now, in some cases, there ARE options — depending on the person’s relationship with higher-ups at their company, how good an employee they are, their company culture, and so forth. But these are such big variables that I’m very, very wary of giving blanket advice that could end up getting someone fired if the dynamics of their situation aren’t what they’d need to be for it to work. (Also keep in mind that these interviews get edited down — we talk for longer than what’s here, and then they use the parts they find the most interesting. But it’s certainly not a comprehensive take on the issue.)

  2. Michelle*

    Fair enough. I see your point and I appreciate you responding. It is a HUGE systemic issue. I think that a lot of people get thrown into supervisory roles without real training or without being prepared OR without even wanting that role.

    I think my issue deals with humanity in general. I hate the idea that a boss can get away with treating people without decency and respect. And I wonder what types of things individuals and companies can do to resolve this. Clearly this is a big topic!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Everyone always says that! I really wish I could hear the (no doubt gruff) voice you guys have in your head for me! It cracks me up to imagine what it sounds like.

      1. Julie*

        I think the more gruff voice we envision comes from the no-nonsense advice that you give here on the blog. Somehow it just seems incongruous to give that sort of advice in a sweet tone, kind of like Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter. (Note: I am NOT saying you are in any way like her — she’s evil! — only that it’s odd to hear tough advice coming from a sweet-sounding voice.)

        1. Anonymous*

          HAHA Delores Umbridge! And I doubt AAM has a thousand photos of kittens on that wall that constantly meow!

  3. Perfectshinist*

    I thought your voice would be like Batman’s in the Dark Knight movie-no nonsense and scary. You sound about as intimdating as a smurf.

  4. Taye*

    I have been looking for a job since August and have been following your blog religiously.

    I am wondering if you or the radio station have a transcript of the talk? See, I am deaf and because this is completely audio – I can’t tell what’s the person is saying.

    I would love to have a copy of the transcript if it is possible.


    P.S. If not, that’s okay. I will still follow your blog religiously! :D.

  5. CastingManager*

    Thank you for the transcript – I prefer reading when I’m on the computer.
    Great advice as usual. I especially like the “figuring out what you can live with” suggestion. There are both positives and negatives to most jobs, but determining your own deal-breaker can really put things in perspective.
    I had a part-time job a number of years ago where I had the most micro-managing boss I could imagine. It was a small office, so our desks faced each other – not even a cubicle to separate us. One example: she had different color pens for us and specified exactly which color for each part of our internal forms. When she started planning her own bridal shower for the same weekend mine was, even though she wasn’t engaged, I knew I had to escape! I’ve since had better and worse bosses for all different reasons, but she had her own brand of crazy.

  6. FrauTech*

    Hadn’t read this yet and was driving on Saturday and heard your voice! Turned the volume up, was like “oh I know who that is!”

    Great segment. I like that you gave solutions for dealing with it because too often advice givers online say things like “well just leave” and I think it’s important to recognize that while that was never a fantastic option it’s even less of a good one in this economy.

    I also think too many people think their bad boss is some anamoly. They are not. Their boss probably knows what kind of a jerk they are. Doesn’t matter. They get things done. They don’t have to kiss up to have the boss’s favor. Your boss’s boss doesn’t care how your boss treats you. I think that’s immensely important. People think there are these “bad eggs” out there that they can just work around and avoid when it tends to be institutional. I try to find ways to sympathize with the person (sometimes it is too late for this). Much like when a slacker coworker will get on your nerves, if that coworker is your best friend it will bother you less. If I can sympathize with what my boss wants, even if he or she is an ass to me, it helps me to get past the difficult moments.

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