employer asked for references after I’d already been hired, good bosses from TV and movies, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My new employer just asked for my references — after we’d set a start date and I quit my old job

I’m in the process of changing jobs. The new company made me a firm offer and I accepted. My start date at the new company is soon, and they have confirmed plane tickets and hotel reservations for me to fly up to their office for training (they’re opening a new office in my city, but until then I’ll be telecommuting). The gist is, the new job is a “done deal.” My last day at my old job is tomorrow.

I just got an email from the internal recruiter / HR person asking for me to submit references, which — as far as I can tell — makes no sense, and makes me worried that either the job isn’t as much of a “done deal” as I thought or that something’s weird about this company (if they need to ask about that long after the appropriate time).

I replied to the email saying “sure, here are some references” and attempted to call to get clarification about the issue, but I got the HR person’s voicemail so I just left a message saying that I had questions and asking her to call me back. What are your thoughts on the issue?

Incidentally, I had three interviews with this company (phone interview with the HR person, technical phone interview, and was flown in for an in-person interview) and, although I was prepared with references, I was never asked for them and didn’t think to provide them proactively.

Yeah, some companies have a horrible policy of doing background checks — including references — after a job offer is accepted. This is ridiculous for many reasons, including that it totally defeats the point of reference-checking (which isn’t just to get a yay or nay but to actually get nuanced information about people to help make the hiring decision), as well as that it’s incredibly unfair to candidates, who in many cases have already resigned their jobs because they assumed the offer was a done deal.

I’d say this: “Is your offer not final and/or are there remaining contingencies attached to it? My understanding was that it was a formal offer and I gave noticed after we finalized our agreement, so I’m of course concerned to receive this email. Can you shed any light?”

It’s too late now, but in the future I’d carefully read any offer paperwork for mentions of contingencies like this. You can also ask directly, “Are there any outstanding contingencies before the offer is final?”

2. I’ve been promoted to manage my difficult friend

I have recently been promoted to team leader over an older and longer employed colleague who I would also call a friend. I am now her team leader. She has always been very easily distracted, surfing the internet, making personal calls and chatting to colleagues and her previous boss didn’t tackle the issue in the 10+ years she has worked here. She has recently announced that she is pregnant, and the personal calls and internet surfing have cranked up a gear as she sorts everything out for the new baby.

She’s always taken any criticism very personally and gets very defensive if you try and broach the subject. She will also be a bad mood for days, refusing to speak to anyone which affects the whole atmosphere of our very small office. I am really struggling with how to bring this up without World War Three kicking off and ruining our friendship? (She generally gets all the work done that’s required, albeit slightly rushed).

Your goal can’t be to preserve the friendship; that’s a conflict of interest with doing your job. You’re her manager, so you can no longer be her friend. Friendly, yes, but not friends.

Doing your job as her manager means that you need to sit down with her and talk forthrightly about what you need to see from her, and how that differs from what you’re seeing currently. If she becomes defensive, you need to address that too, since it’s not an option for her to just not get feedback. And if she refuses to speak to people or is otherwise unpleasant, you need to address that too, because that’s an unacceptable way for her to behave. You’ll also need to be ready to impose consequences if the feedback doesn’t get you the changes you need. (And frankly, I’d start preparing yourself for the possibility that you may need to let her go at some point, because this is not the behavior of someone you want on your staff.)

3. My professor is a partner at the company I want to apply to

I recently graduated college (I’m 45) and have been looking for employment in my field. I discovered the perfect company and devoured its website, the last section of which featured team bios. Imagine my surprise when I learned that one of the senior partners listed is a former professor (I had three classes with him).

I immediately emailed this professor, expressing my interest in the company and requesting a meeting or phone call to discuss my professional background and its applicability. I sent the email to his university .edu account 10 days ago but have not received a reply. It would be out of character for this professor to not respond, so I am assuming that he has not accessed this email account because school is not in session.

What’s my next move? Do I contact him at this company? I know that he also has his own consultancy and travels internationally for speaking engagements, so I’m not sure how often he’s on site…a voicemail message might also go unanswered. Do I try to contact HR, and somehow mention that I know him? Or do I simply submit my resume and cover letter to the company and hope for the best? I graduated first in my class and that would be the first thing I mention in this particular cover letter…my hope is that HR would be curious enough to contact the professor.

Is there an actual job opening you’re interested in, or is it more general interest in the company? If there’s an opening for a job you want, apply right now; otherwise, while you try to resolve this, you risk it disappearing. It’s fine to mention in your cover letter that this guy recently taught you.

After that — or if there’s not a particular opening — yes, email him at his non-.edu address, or try LinkedIn. When you do, be up-front that you’re interested in working there — you don’t want to sound like you’re requesting an informational interview when you’re actually seeking a job.

4. Good bosses from TV and movies

I know you’ve touched a few times on poor management in books, TV, etc., (and I hope no one is managing like they do on Game of Thrones), and how media isn’t something to model your work life after. But can you point to any TV or movies that demonstrate good management, sane workplace dynamics, a congenial and functional workplace, and so on? I know it doesn’t make for good entertainment, but is there anything you’ve watched and thought “that’s exactly what I would do” and admired?

So much the opposite. TV and movies are rife with terrible management presented as if it’s fine, and it is infuriating.

I racked my brain to answer this question, and I’m still not coming up with anything. I do feel like Tom Colicchio, restauranteur and judge on Top Chef, is probably a good manager, but I’m basing that on little more than gut. Oh, and Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica. But I’m reaching here.

5. Update: Should I pay for a travel charge stemming from my mistake so that my boss doesn’t know about it?

Thank you for running my question! The comments from the commenters were really helpful as well, and I decided to tell my manager about the charge and explain why it happened. I also told him about some ideas for improving the process so this would be less likely to happen again. Here’s his response: “Sounds like a plan. Go ahead and expense the cancelled travel as mentioned. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

{ 308 comments… read them below }

      1. PSophie Pseudonym

        What about Laura Roslin as a leader? She’s definitely good at making the hard decisions.

              1. CreationEdge

                I don’t know that I could say Weir. Technically she was “in charge”, but it felt a lot more like Sheppard was making all the decisions. She had so much potential, but the writers really wasted her abilities as a diplomatic leader.

                Anyone, I came to follow-up because I thought it was funny how many of the responses to #4 are from Sci-fi shows! I feel that once you look past the fantastic tech you tend to find more realistic portrayals of people in Sci-fi than you do in other fiction genres, which is what draws me to Sci-fi in the first place. If the story has only fancy technology or alien cultures then it falls flat.

    1. Liza

      I agree with you about Hammond! He looks out for his people, and he makes unpopular decisions when he needs to. And I think I remember him changing his mind a time or two when he got additional information that showed his first decision was wrong.

    2. Charlotte Lucas

      General Hammond immediately sprung to mind for me, too! Also, he reminds me of my late uncle – who also had been a military man stationed in Colorado Springs… hmmm….

  1. AMT

    I always thought Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager had a fantastic management style. Am I the only one who liked that series?

    1. Turanga Leela

      I can’t see Captain Janeway now without thinking she should have a Russian accent.

    2. Sherm

      How about Jean-Luc Picard? “Make it so.” Faith in his employees, with high expectations.

        1. E.R

          Yep, he’s resourceful, knowledgeable, cares about his fleet, makes the tough decisions.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Jean-Luc was the first person I thought of! Cared about his crew (fought for them, and would do anything to protect them if necessary) but treated them like competent adults.

      2. Rebecca

        Haha, I don’t even watch much Star Trek (but my husband does), but for some reason Captain Picard was the first person that came to mind! I feel like his crew always had a lot of respect for him, too.

        Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrG4JnrN5GA (Sorry, this makes me laugh every time I watch it!)

    3. Knitting Cat Lady

      Janeway’s management style was rather horrible, though. Much of it was induced by really bad writing. Like the way the prime directive is treated…

    4. Vex

      No love for The Sisko? Granted, he had the advantage of being an actual living Messiah to many of his direct reports, but he did manage his people through a handover of power from the previous occupying military, utilized the skills of nontraditional team members like Quark and Garak, remained professional about the shifting allegiances of the Klingons, and modeled a healthy work/life balance. Admittedly, there was that time he “accidentally” participated in a political assassination, but hey, nobody’s perfect…

      1. Expendable Redshirt

        Sisko was an awesome manager of DS9. How many people could direct such a large, multicultural “business” during an armed conflict?

        Though the aspect of religion on DS9 makes it an odd workplace.

        “my boss is a living prophet. Should we pray to him for the speedy arrival of the next cargo shipment?”

        1. Vex

          “My boss is considered a figure of religious worship for 50% of my coworkers. Is this legal?”

          1. The Expendable Redshirt

            “My co-workers are part of a Pah Wraith cult and are laying curses everywhere. What can I do?”

      2. MsM

        At least he took responsibility for it!

        …Privately, and then erased the logs, but still.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Love for The Sisko!

        It’s between him and Jean Luc (although DS9 wins hands down for me overall).

        Interesting that Star Fleet has a lot of good management examples. If it didn’t sound like such a Big Job, I’d rewatch everything with an eye just to that.

      4. Waffles

        Garak as a “nontraditional team member”… I’m dying of laughter over here. There’s a fellow I worked with who knew all the goings-on in the office, both professionally and socially, in both our remote office and at HQ. He had a very vague job description and seemingly nebulous tie to things like managers and goals. Now I can’t not see that guy as Garak.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Break for complete geek out:

          Garak is my favorite Star Trek character ever.

          The villains in DS9 were not good managers.

          Gul Dukat was all over the place. Vedek Winn was terribly weak, transparent in her power grab and did not inspire loyalty from anyone.

          Opaka, the good Kai, was magnificent.

          Hmmm. I’d have to think about the Female Changeling as the leader of the Dominion. Terrible “person” but she might have been a good manager. For you know, evil.

          1. Waffles

            This thread is making me think of who the corollary of all the characters on DS9 are from my work history.. I definitely worked for a Kai Winn once.

            There are a ton of industries that could use someone like the female changeling.. Though I don’t know about linking in the workplace.

          2. Vex

            I LOVED GARAK.

            I was also going to cite the Founders as very effective managers, but I’m not sure having your subordinates be expendable clones and/or drug-dependent are best practices.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Yup, see that’s where I’m torn on the Founders.

              They ran a very efficient system. So well planned out. And, they created an excellent culture for their changeling members. “No Changeling has ever harmed another”. << great culture.

              The expendable clones, well, that was a very efficient hiring practice? The pipeline was always full.

      5. Kay

        YES. Sisko FTW. He had a good feedback style, too, and was actually warm and compassionate but didn’t really cross the friends line (except maybe with Dax, but that was a very particular set of circumstances). Deeply sympathetic character who could turn into a badass at the drop of a hat. He also arguably had the most difficult circumstances of any of the Star Trek captains – yes, including Janeway.

        I would argue that the assassination bit actually shows him as an outstanding military leader – he hired the guy who could make the tough call, when he knew it needed to be made, and realized it was necessary after the fact.

        This whole conversation is hitting some kind of geek nexus for me. :)

    5. Excel Slayer

      I like how nobody’s mentioned Kirk.
      Getting employees killed on a regaular basis = bad management.

      1. MsM

        Or Archer. Did nobody in Starfleet think to ask themselves, “Hey, should we really put the guy who can’t even hide how much he dislikes Vulcans from his Vulcan first officer in a position where he’ll be handling most of our first contacts?”

        1. Rebecca

          Haha, I don’t watch much Star Trek (as I said above), so when I saw Archer my first thought was Sterling Archer. Um, worst boss ever!

      2. Kyrielle

        Kirk had MAJOR delegation problems. This is the guy who would go make teapots himself instead of letting his entire department of teapot-makers do it.

        …that’s ignoring all his other problems, because if the ship had had a duck club, he’d have been quacking along.

      3. AnotherFed

        Kirk also hooked up with someone new every other show. And some of them then turned out to be evil and attempting to destroy the Enterprise, or perfectly nice but key to keeping the normal timeline of the universe. Not such great judgement!

      4. The Strand

        Look, I will put in a word for Kirk then.

        Watch the show “Balance of Terror” and see how he manages the racist Lt. Styles (yes, I pulled that name from memory) who immediately blames Spock for their predicament. In “The Corbomite Maneuver” he manages a high-strung, impatient lieutenant and gives him a chance to go into a field that suits him better.

        In “The Immunity Syndome” he makes a tough decision between sending one of his two closest friends and advisors into a fatal situation. In “The Tholian Web” he gives Spock and McCoy terrific advice on how to work with one another when he’s not there.

        To see really bad management, check out “The Doomsday Machine” and “Patterns of Force” … and it’s not Kirk in either.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      I think all the Star Trek captains were great examples of dealing with new and difficult situations…except maybe Kirk. He was kind of the Tony Stark of the Federation officers. (Might as well go full geek, right?) The rest really did regularly deal with stuff that was challenging and unforeseen and morally ambiguous, all the things that are the most scary about being a manager, IMO.

      Madam Secretary has been interesting in that regard, too. Although I doubt any of us will manage at her level, I like the way the show handles staff and work/life issues.

    7. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I love Captain Janeway.

      She was hobbled by circumstances and got way too involved with her crew personally. I’m looking at you Chakotay.

      I need to rewatch this. It’s been a few years and now I miss her.

      1. The Strand

        The writing did go all over the place, but can we really blame Janeway’s leadership from deviating from “by the book Starfleet”? When you’re on the precipice of running a generation ship, you’re not just their military leader, you’re their mama and the head of the new society you’re trying to build.

    8. Lizzy May

      I like her as a character, but she’s an awful leader. She’s inconsistent, plays favourites and her decision making process is all over the place.

      Give me Picard or Sisko any day.

  2. Turanga Leela

    For #4: How about Adam Schiff from the original Law & Order? He was respectful of his ADAs, and he explained his decisions, but he was the boss and they listened to him.

    Actually, that show had good workplace dynamics in general. Lieutenant Van Buren, anyone?

        1. Vex

          Me too.

          Recently on SVU, Donal Logue played a character who temporarily replaced Cragen (before Donal got hired away by Gotham). He was only there a short while but he was quickly climbing into the ranks of awesome L&O bosses.

          Granted, I feel like I could put up with a lot from even my worst real-life managers if they were played by Donal Logue.

      1. Karyn

        The irony to me is that Olivia seems like she’s kind of a terrible manager. She lets her own personal affections get in the way of doing what’s ethical in a lot of cases (see also: Nick Amaro). I actually suspect that Rafael Barba would be a good manager – tough but fair, with just enough humanness to be a decent person. But that’s my affection for Raul Esparza showing.

    1. AcidMeFlux

      Yes, Van Buren. Also Captain Gates from Castle. Hard-ass, but very professional.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I’ll cosign on most all of L & O management.

      Except, Jack McCoy. Are you kidding me with the always getting involved with is underlings? That was a thing they wrote. Not just about Claire. It was a long standing pattern.

      I think Cragen and VanBuren are great examples. I’ve been rewatching SVU lately (all seasons on Hulu Plus!!), and Cragen has been consistently terrific. He inspires his people, supports his people and chews his people out when they need to be chewed out. Meloni isn’t easy to manage!

      1. Mike C.

        The thing that really pisses me off about McCoy is the number of times he clearly abused his powers as an agent of the court, and then later on lectures someone underneath him for doing the exact same thing.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I agree with you.

          He was written flawed, he was well played flawed and, he was very flawed. I think the casual viewer missed that entirely.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I have a crush on Jack McCoy, flaws and all. I also dated someone for a while — a federal prosecutor, no less — who was basically a Jack McCoy. It was awesome.

        1. K.

          My friend ran into Sam Waterson in a bathroom a few months ago. He said he refrained from going “Jack McCoy!” but he was thinking it – and when he texted me about it, I replied “You saw Jack McCoy?!”

    3. AcidMeFlux

      Thinking of Law and Order and L&O: Criminal Intent (not so much SVU), what I also liked was the tendency to resist “shipping”. In TV land colleagues boink away with few repercussions, and I think we all know that IRL it’s just a road to disaster.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Re SVU, viewers shipped Benson and Stabler constantly, but in my recent rewatch (through 12 seasons, I’ve never watched Stabler’s last ep and found I couldn’t this time through either)…in my recent rewatch, I put a keen eye to what was actually on my screen in their relationship. Neither the writers nor the actors put romantic tension in there. They did present a “work marriage”, a deep partnership and sometimes addressed outside concerns about what was between them, but they played it straight without “will they or won’t they, oh it is so tempting” suggestions.

        1. Sassy Intern

          If anything, their relationship was familial. They were like brother and sister more than boyfriend and girlfriend. Totally trusting one another, but never with romantic intentions.

        2. AcidMeFlux

          Yes, but in the absence of Mariska Hargitay (for various pregnancies) the producers took advantage of Benson’s down-time for undercover work,etcand threw in Connie Neilsen as Dani Beck, and the sparks flew with Elliot. And Danny Pino (as Steibler’s replacement) has crossed the line in at least one major plot line).

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            The Dani Beck plot line annoyed me as did Jo Marlowe (Sharon Stone). If that was the best SVU writers could do with shipping Meloni, it’s good they stayed away from it most of the time.

            You know what was awesome borderline sexual harassment? Elizabeth Donnelly (Judith Light) when she made (I think she was a judge at that point in the story line) a strong overture to Stabler that was mostly tongue in cheek? Her action and his reaction were out-of-character-except-not-really. Fleshed them both out.

            Might not have been borderline. Was definitely inappropriate. But funny.

            1. Karyn

              I refer to most SVU writing as “garbage writing.” When I can see the twist coming halfway through the episode, I want to throw things through my TV. Example: William Lewis breaking out of jail and forcing Olivia to recant her statement publicly.

    4. Cheryl Becker

      Love me some Star Trek, but glad we finally got off that kick and on to some other possibilities. The question wasn’t about “good bosses from Star Trek” but “good bosses from TV and movies”!

    5. Rebecca

      Oh, great point! I loved Lt. Van Buren, she really was a great example of a good manager. Her officers respected her and she wasn’t afraid to hold people’s feet to the fire either. And they didn’t sugar coat that it was hard for her as a minority and a woman.

      Man, I miss OG Law and Order. It wasn’t really the same after Jerry Orbach was gone. :(

  3. So Very Anonymous

    This will date me, but I’ve always heard “Barney Miller” (my mom’s favorite show) as a good example of good management.

    1. Heartlover

      I was also going to say Captain Barney Miller (show of the same name) and Captain Frank Furillo (Hill Street Blues), though the latter did have a relationship with the Assistant D.A.

  4. Steve G

    As per bosses in TV, anyone who comes up with a good role model is a genius, I’d love to dissect the bad bosses. I am thinking about Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny, George and Florence from the Jeffersons (boundaries people!), Karen and Grace from Will and Grace, Tim Allen in Home Improvement (how much can you abuse a subordinate!), and George Clooney managing the factory workers in early episodes of Roseann (allow a little flexibility and don’t date subordinates!). There are a litany of interesting bad or mediocre bosses to analyze!

    1. afiendishthingy

      Oh man, Booker was the worst. Except for the guy who came after him, he was even grosser.

      1. Steve G

        Roseann had many bad bosses, I think that was a theme of the show. There was the overly cooshie, patronizing one in the hair salon, and the one who ran the restaurant in the mall……..

    2. UKAnon

      If we’re going with don’t date subordinates then Jerry McGuire has to be up there.

    3. Julia

      I just watched an episode of The Nanny this morning and holy turtle. On the other hand, I wouldn’t call their arrangement work.

    4. Cactus

      I was trying to think of boss characters on ER who did their jobs well–I think Anspaugh’s probably the best example.

      1. Collarbone High

        I recently rewatched the ER ep where Kerry Weaver insisted they safeguard patient privacy by using codes rather than chief complaints on the whiteboard behind the desk. The staff hated it and at the end of the ep, Greene was a hero when he erased all the codes and went back to the old system … now, of course, we know Weaver was tuned in to the school of thought that would eventually become HIPAA. Kerry was abrasive, but she was forward-thinking and made a lot of the hard, unpopular decisions that kept the hospital in compliance.

        (BTW, if you ever want to get really drunk really fast, read up on HIPAA and then watch any episode of ER, drinking whenever you see what would now be a HIPAA violation. You’ll end up in an actual ER by the second act break.)

  5. UKAnon

    I always thought C J Cregg was a pretty good manager, especially considering the frankly unbelievable workplace she sometimes found herself in.

    Not so much Malcolm Tucker, amazing television as he makes.

    1. Claire

      I was going to suggest Pres Bartlet.
      His loyalty to his staff especially Mrs Landingham. How he nurtured Charlie.
      He definitely had some issues. Torn about what happened with Toby but did show compassion in the end.

      1. UKAnon

        Toby’s end was probably the worst thing about that show. Bartlet was pretty awesome too, though. Although we never saw it I think we’re supposed to think Leo was good too. I always think Josh was quite horrendous as a boss though.

          1. Karyn

            AGREED. Josh was so mean to Donna half the time – despite the turn toward romantic tension, I want to murder him most of the time for how he talks to her. Toby, despite being an ass in general, always seemed very good to his people – remember how he hired that woman who was a janitor to be his assistant? It’s like he saw the potential in people.

            Leo McGarry is, however, the best boss ever. Like Cragen, he chewed his people out when they needed it, but was also fair and didn’t hold a grudge.

        1. Karyn

          Toby never would have betrayed the president that way. Even Richard Schiff said it.

    1. Cynthia R

      Yes, I came here to write that, because she really sees the strengths in her team and knows how to bring out the best in them.

      Other TV bosses I would love to work for: Captain Picard and Lorelei Gilmore.

      1. Julia

        Lorelai maybe, depending on her mood. She can channel her mother pretty badly sometimes.

      2. TheLazyB

        Lorelai?! God no. Love the Gilmore Girls but in real life she’d drive me crazy in any context :)

          1. Charlotte Lucas

            Still better than Paris, who did have one of the more memorable leadership breakdowns in TV…

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Sometimes. Sometimes she’s awesome. Other times she’s incredibly self-involved and completely unable to take in other points of view. And when that happens she drags everyone else along with her, like making the whole office go camping when none of them want to.

      I love her as a character but I think I’d go bonkers with her as my boss.

      1. K.

        She’d bug me too. She’s really pushy and that constant cheer would bug. And there would be a lot of forced teamwork activities, which I don’t care for. Spend the weekend camping with my department (although that episode is hilarious)? No thank you.

    3. MegEB

      Sometimes I love her, but other times she drives me bananas. I got really mad at her in the sixth season when Ann said she was quitting and Leslie freaked out. And sometimes she gets these ridiculous ideas she won’t let go of, and the whole office gets dragged into it.

    4. Snowglobe

      In a way, I think Ron Swanson may be a better manager. He’s terrible at his job, because he hates dealing with the public, but he treats his employees respectfully (even when he disagrees with them philosophically), gives them responsibilities commensurate with their strengths, and helps them to grow professionally. He is quick to give his staff credit for their successes, and accepts the blame when something goes wrong. I’d love to work for a Ron Swanson.

      1. Tomato Frog

        That’s what I was thinking. He finds good people, gives them room to do their jobs, and backs them up.

      2. blueiphone

        I was just thinking of Ron Swanson too, now that I’ve started watching Parks and Rec (yes, I’m always late to the party). I could see how, on a day-to-day basis, his “I hate everything about my job” stance and super-hands-off approach could grate BUT: he always has his employees’ backs when the chips are down. He’s the main reason I keep coming back to the show on Netflix.

      3. Jindy

        Definitely Ron Swanson! Although I’ve always thought I would personally enjoy working for Jack Donaghy.

  6. Artemesia

    I used to teach leadership and it would drive me nuts that so many students equate ‘leadership’ with shouting at people during maudlin half time speeches.

    1. Al Lo

      Agreed. Between the personality types, the challenges of having people live and work together, the high stress and irregular hours, and the mixing of religious calling and vocational calling, there’s a lot there to handle, but she’s an excellent example.

    2. Anon1234

      FYI, Jenny Agutter is is “The Buccaneers” playing a fallen woman. It’s a great watch just to see her.

      1. AJS

        I’ve liked Jenny Agutter a long time, going all the way back to The Railway Children and, especially Walkabout.

    3. blueiphone

      Ooh yes, Sister Julienne! Another terrific TV boss. In fact, I’d want a Sister Julienne for every aspect of my life– work problems, life problems, etc. I was so excited to see Jenny Agutter in Captain America: Winter Soldier last year and wished she had more screen time.

    4. So Very Anonymous

      Oh, yes. Especially because it’s clear that even she can get a little overwhelmed and need to step back.

    5. Enid

      I know this is way old (catching up on AAM), but I can’t resist offering my agreement. When I read the question I FELT like there was someone I’d seen recently whose management I admired, but I couldn’t think of it; it was Sister Julienne!

  7. Grey

    Adam Braverman from “Parenthood” was a really good boss/manager.

    There’s too many candidates for the worst, but I’d probably go with Blake from “Glengarry Glen Ross”.

    1. Meg Murry

      I think he was really good when he was at the shoe factory, but he struggled to make the transition from boss to business partner. Then again, his partnership was with family, which is always tricky. I’m curious how he handled being head of a school, especially if there we issues between the teachers and his son, or difficult parents and teachers.

      I think in earlier seasons Cam on Bones did a pretty good job of being a firm but fair manager, despite dealing with a lot of “brilliant jerks” – she needed them for their brilliance, and helped make them less jerk-ish. But then she started dating a subordinate, and that’s on the NO, just NO list in my book.

      Not a boss, but Lester on the Wire was a good mentor/teacher to Prez and the others. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy was also a good mentor/teacher but not really a great boss – too much yelling and calling her interns/residents idiots.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I agree re Braverman.

        I was so frustrated when he lost it with the new opportunity. I wanted to email him with advice.

        Cam turned TERRIBLE. What the hell? She was great and then the writers wrecked her character. I spend half the time she’s on screen yelling at my teevee.

        (Um, does anybody notice that so far I’ve been able to discuss every TV character in detail? Wanna guess what I do with my spare time?)

      2. A Dispatcher

        Oooh The Wire – I think Lt (and later higher ranks) Daniels would definitely qualify as a good boss.

        1. Meg Murry

          Not in season 1, when he basically told everyone he didn’t care about their case and hated being assigned to the task force.

          Plus there is the whole issue of him having corruption in his past – I would be concerned that I would be painted with suspicion of being crooked by working under him.

          1. A Dispatcher

            Has been a bit, but IIRC, it was only a few episodes in that he (despite really not caring for the task force, which pretty much anyone *w0uld* have been angry at being assigned to in the beginning) went at it with brass to make it into a real investigation versus the BS exercise in humoring a judge/getting a few quick arrests/seizures it had first been intended to be. Despite being given a team of “humps” to work with, he almost immediately backs them up (like when Prez, Herk and Carver act like idiots at the towers).

    2. Turanga Leela

      For the worst, I suggest Zapp Brannigan. (And it’s not just because of my name! I can’t think of anyone on TV who would be worse to work for.)

      1. Dynamic Beige

        Because I am old… Arthur Carlson, the son of Momma Carlson, owner of the radio station WKRP. Bad family dynamics, weak manager who just stays in his office and hides with his fishing gear. At one point, he has a conversation with his receptionist about where would be the best place to install another door so he can flee if someone is looking for him. Then, of course, the cast of oddballs that Andy is brought in to try and fix in order to improve the station’s ratings.

        1. eleven of our most annoying lawyers

          I know Art Carlson came off as inept, but given the situation, I think he was a genius at delegation: Andy took care of the business, while Jennifer handled the office. And he certainly instilled a sense of loyalty into his employees.

      2. Mints

        Zapp Brannigan is really terrible! Oh that’s a good one
        The professor isn’t great, or Mom. That show is full of bad bosses

  8. Al Lo

    Coach Taylor, particularly extrapolating to managing young employees and interns? His role always seemed like more than a teacher; a cross between a mentor, teacher, and employer.

    1. K.

      I LOVE COACH TAYLOR, like I want to marry Coach Taylor (and be Tami Taylor), but I think he was better with the players than his coaching staff. Then again, they didn’t really show him with the coaching staff (aside from the Mac racism debacle) because the show was more focused on the players.

        1. Rebecca

          To be fair, Riggins is pretty dreamy. I’m sure not even Coach Taylor is immune to his charms.

  9. Shell

    Oh man, I was amazed to see I recognized one of the examples! (I am so culturally ignorant it’s sad.)

    I love Battlestar Galactica (though I never finished it), but I’m not sure if I’d agree he was a great manager. He was pretty good towards everyone else, but I distinctly remember he had a very big soft spot for Kara Thrace and treated her like a daughter. Admittedly it wasn’t as if they can really fire her, since she was an exceptional pilot and they were short on pilots and people in general anyway, so there were caps on discipline (forbidden executions out of the airlock aside). But Kara had lots of problematic behaviour (insubordination, showing up inebriated, etc.) that never got addressed, and I remember Lee resenting Kara because she seemed to get away with everything and managed to still steal the show anyway because she was that exceptional.

    I am probably thinking too hard about this. :)

    1. Sarahnova

      That’s a good point; Adama’s Achilles heel was his weak spot for Starbuck. He was great in so many ways though. Anyone remember his memory exercises for remembering everyone’s name? “Jaffee brings my coffee. Jaffee brings my coffee”.

      And when he made Kat CAG again as she was dying from radiation poisoning.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      He definitely treated Kara like a daughter rather than an employee. But I’m going to argue that that humanized him, and that even great bosses have flaws; Kara was his weakness.

      1. Shell

        That’s fair. And it’s hard to avoid the conflict in interest when he was the final word on military matters, and that there wasn’t an abundance of people to swap out on the chain of command.

        I still remember Commander Adama and Lee’s conversation about leadership and command after Commander Gardner died aboard the Pegasus; “he was used to dealing with machines. Command is about people.” Still gives me happy chills, even years later.

      2. Anx

        I also think that the situation eliminated the potential for appropriate work/life separation. It was obvious to me that at times he would try to hold Tighe and Thrace to a fairer standard, but he really struggled with it, and often failed to. The ramifications of any personal fallout could be just as great as those of a professional one.

    3. WorkingFromCafeInCA

      What about how Adama managed Colonel Tigh? I seem to remember he overlooked and forgave a lot of serious issues with Tigh.

      (Of course they were besties and I loved that about them! Tigh loved Adama SO much, that’s what ultimately kept him in line).

    4. The Strand

      No, I totally agree with you. I think another weakness was his behavior towards his superior, in the beginning of the show, when he was bucking against President Roslin and the civilian leadership.

      Sometimes he didn’t focus enough on the “unspoken culture” on the ship and that caused problems, which is why one of his most loyal people eventually turned on him (trying to avoid spoilers since you didn’t finish it: by the way, the last episode is total crap).

  10. Carpe Librarium

    #5: I am so glad this turned out so well for you.
    It must have been a huge relief to get that hiccup sorted out, plus the added benefit of your boss being receptive to your suggestions to prevent future occurrences.
    Yay for you!

    1. Retail Lifer

      That one really stressed me out! I would jave freaked out if I was in that situation. So glad it worked out!

  11. Mephisto

    Am I misreading question 3? I don’t think there is an actual job opening here, just an eager would-be applicant. Which would explain why the professor is lagging on responding.

    1. The Number of the Counting Shall Be 3

      Question #3 is mine. I discovered this company when I saw an outdated job posting on an Internet employment board. The company is not actively recruiting now, but there was verbiage in the ad to the tune of “We’re always searching for the right people to join our team.”

      1. Dr. Speakeasy

        I’d wait a bit on getting a response (it’s not that we don’t check our emails during the summer but if you’re not a priority you may have to wait) but then reach out through the appropriate (business related) channels. In a lot of universities you aren’t supposed to use university facilities (including email) to conduct outside business.

        1. The Number of the Counting Shall Be 3

          I hadn’t considered the appropriateness of using university resources for non-university business. Duly noted, thank you. Oddly, I can’t locate this professor on LinkedIn, so my next attempt at contact will be via the dream company.

  12. Merry and Bright

    #1 is quite interesting because in the UK it is quite normal for a job offer to be made subject to good/satisfactory references. If bad references show up before your start date the job offer can be withdrawn. If you have actually started then you can be fired.

    Sometimes you see in a job ad that ‘references will be taken up prior to interview’ but this is stated because it isn’t the norm. One reason is that in the UK there is more emphasis on getting references to cover X years rather than the actual number of references, and your new employer would nearly always expect a reference from your current employer. So if your current employer started getting reference requests they would know you were job-hunting.

    I totally see your reasoning, Alison (as usual!). I love seeing the differences and similarities in the different cultures. I can see pros and cons for both systems.

    1. Uyulala

      In the US, it’ s not commonly done before interview. It is usually after interview but before offer.

    2. Anonannah

      Also in the UK I have never had a reference check be anything but just confirming you worked where you said you did and had the right title. Never an American style check where the hiring manager speaks to current or previous managers. So as long as you didn’t lie about anything on your CV you’re pretty safe.

      1. UKAnon

        I have had substantive references, but like Merry and Bright always after hiring – as far as I know, they ask for substantive references to confirm why they hired you (has XYZ skills, is good at ABC) in case of future questions or challenges over the hiring process.

      2. Brightwanderer

        I think there’s also a tendency to rely on written references in the UK more – every reference I’ve ever requested for casual workers, we’ve expected to receive a paragraph in email from the referee. As part of an (amicable) layoff a few years back my severance agreement involved them writing my reference and showing it to me in advance to confirm that that was what they would be sending out in future if requested.

    3. misspiggy

      Ah, yes, but in the UK, contract law means that if you accept a written or verbal offer and they don’t say anywhere that it’s subject to references, you’ve made a contract and they can’t withdraw the job without compensating you.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        but most if not all jobs have a probationary period written in to the contact, where the firm reserves the right to terminate you within the first three – six months. So all they have to do is exercise their right to terminate your employment with in the time frame and protection for unfair dismissal only kicks in after two years being employed so if you get terminated there’s not much change of damages for breach of contract.

        1. misspiggy

          Yes indeed – but if that information about probation wasn’t provided, as appears to be the case for this OP, the employee would have some protection. I just find it mind-boggling that employees in the US seem to have to deal with so much uncertainty and risk as a matter of course.

          1. Apollo Warbucks

            My point is that the OP would have no more protection in this case if they were in the UK. The US doesn’t need probation, because they have at will employment (expect in Montana and unionised employees), the UK have the probation clause in contracts to offer employers some protection from bad hires. Probation is such a standard clause in contracts I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be in contact for a professional job and even if it isn’t the employee has no right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal until they have worked at the company for two years. So I can hire someone in the UK have them work a month and then decide to call their references and then dismiss them and there is nothing that the employee can do.

            It’s just a different method for achieving the same end result of firing someone when they are new to a job.

            I’m in the UK and love the employment law we have and the protection they give works, but we still have bad employers and crappy firms that treat people badly and the US has good companies that treat workers well. I’m not sure I’d like uncertainty either but I bet a lot of American’s would say they don’t like government interference with private enterprise.

            1. Merry and Bright

              The exception of course is that it is illegal to sack anyone at any time on gender, age, race grounds etc. Other stuff incudes union activity and AWR disputes. Only a crappy employer would do that of course.

  13. Kathy

    #1 our company just started doing background checks (clients required it). The first one I ended up figuring out 3 days after the employee (a file clerk) started, and the second one a couple of days before a higher level employee started, but at that point, he was well committed to us. My question is, when is the appropriate time to run a background check? our plan was to run it after the offer, before the first day, but I can see that would be awkward if something comes up.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      If background checks are important to you / your client then they should be done before the first day as if they turn up a reason not to employ someone it’s not fair to have them leave their old job and then let them go from the new job.

      I would say that you should make an offer, contingent on passing a background check. That way people know not to hand their notice in as they don’t have a firm offer, but one is coming soon assuming the check comes back clean.

    2. Meg Murry

      I would say you make a contingent offer, but don’t set a start date or push the person to give their notice until after it all comes through. Or you do it before the offer and you do the background check on your top 2 candidates, so if something comes up on the first you can go with the second choice.
      I’d only do before offer if you don’t have to contact the candidates current employer – if the current employer is part of the check, I think it’s only right to give an offer first, but let the person know about he contingency and make sure they would accept before contacting current employers.

    3. jhhj

      Except in some weird specific circumstances (typically government), you can’t give a firm offer and then say “oh but you failed the background check” without being huge jerks. You can give a contingent offer, and assume they will quit their old job only once you’ve confirmed they passed the background check and it’s a firm offer.

      1. Meg Murry

        The problem I’ve seen with this though is that a lot of offers are contingent upon the background check, but they still push for you to set a start date 2 weeks out – which means you are quitting before the background check comes through, and if you push not to set a start date until the background check is done it sets up a “whoa, what are we going to find in this background check?!?” mentality

        1. jhhj

          I’ve heard enough scary stories about background checks that find things other people did, or don’t find things that you did (jobs, education), that I am sure I could easily make an argument on those lines.

          1. RMRIC0

            Yeah, they’re not necessarily done with great due diligence depending on the vendors used (since people typically want these things fast and cheap) and there can be errors that crop in if you have a very common name.

    4. abby

      We make the offer contingent on a successful background check. We make this contingent offer far enough in advance that we can run the background check and firm the offer in time for the applicant to give notice to their employer. Often we do not set the first day until we firm the offer.

      Previously, we were running background checks before the offer, but that was expensive (they did not always accept the offer) and we had to get specific consent, which added a lot of paperwork to the recruiting process and required us to collected sensitive information that we did not need.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Before the offer. Or you make the offer contingent on the check, and you tell the candidate clearly not to give notice or set a start date until it’s done. The basic principle is that you don’t want people resigning their jobs because you made them an offer, if there’s still a chance you might rescind that offer.

    6. Kathy

      Thanks . Luckily the higher level candidate had a clear background check. Now the recruiters are aware of the background check requirement so hopefully it will come up sooner in the process.

  14. Elder Dog

    #2 – if your employee gets all her work done, why is her surfing and personal phone calling a problem? Is it affecting morale or something?
    If this were my employee I’d ask her to try to get things done in a more timely manner so she isn’t rushed, and I might move some of her deadlines so she gets things done sooner, but I wouldn’t complain about things that aren’t problems.
    If you really feel you have to say something, base it on what’s good for her – if she got things done sooner, you could assign her more responsibilities, which could result in her moving up or at least a raise.

    1. Just Visiting

      Yeah, I see myself in #2. I prefer working “rush” to working methodically (I should have been a firefighter), and I do get defensive if my “style” is criticized because not everyone is the same. My current manager at least seems to recognize this and gives me more actual work to do (not busywork) but it has been a real problem in the past. Nothing puts me in a foul mood like spending two hours working at hyper-speed and the remaining six keeping a desk warm. It sounds to me like the coworker in #2 isn’t being used to her full potential, assuming the rushed work is also good work.

      1. Artemesia

        Or from another perspective, they are overstaffed if she doesn’t have work that usually keeps her occupied. If I had someone working 2 hours of 8, I’d rethink whether I needed them.

        1. Pennalynn Lott

          The thing is, some people *can* get 8 hours of work done in 2 hours (or 4, or whatever). But if you ask them to work at that pace for a solid 8 hours, they will burn out. Mightily. That has happened to me in the past. My bosses saw how much I got done when I was “in the flow”, and then told me I needed to be doing that every minute of every day, or else I wasn’t working to my full potential. I ended up in the hospital from the stress.

          I also can’t just throttle down and plod through the day, parceling out my energy so that I work at a slow, consistent pace. At least, not if I want to churn out quality work.

    2. The #2 Team Leader

      #2 was my question, there are a few issues with the phone calls and internet surfing. We’re a small company with a maxiumum of 9 people in the office at one time. When only one person is making personal calls and surfing the internet it causes frictions between other employees who find it irritaing and get annoyed because they dont do it. I’m also under pressure from my boss to do something about it (even though he didn’t really tackle the problem before my role was created). Also because she leaves at 2.45 she can get all stressed and flaps in the last hour about getting everything done. Even though she does generally get everything done there is resentment from employees having to cover anything that comes in of hers after 2.45 if they’ve seen her surfing the internet most of the morning.

      Thank you for publishing my question Alison. Whilst I wouldn’t have the authority to get rid of her and my boss (the MD) would never do it either (she’s worked for them since they started the company and they would never sack her) it has made me realise that even though the short term consequences of facing up to the problem and speaking with her may be unpleasant, it is my job to do it and it does have to be done. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it though!

      1. jhhj

        Personal calls are annoying because they’re distracting to everyone else.

        Internet surfing is not actually distracting to other people. And I don’t get the relationship between “farts around online in the morning” and “ends work early so other people are responsible for things that come in when she is not even scheduled to work”. Either this is actually their work, not hers, or it is her work and can be there waiting for her the next morning.

        Does “generally” mean that she often enough doesn’t get things done before she leaves that would have been done had she been working in the morning? That is a problem.

        1. The #2 Team Leader

          We’re a finance broker and although she leaves at 2.45 if a new customer comes in from one of her accounts needing a quote or underwriting it cannot wait until the next day and it will be done by someone else. It just breeds resentment amongst others who have to cover these things when she leaves if they have seen her on the internet all morning (and she has been talking about what she’s looking at). I know that they would have to be doing these tasks whether she’s been on the internet or not but I know that people resent doing them.

          By generally I mean that 9 times out of 10 she gets all the minimum done. And it isnt like there isnt enough work. There are always jobs around the office that can be done and I’ve tried increasing her workload only to be moaned at for sending her too much!

          1. YandO

            How does her workload compare to the other team members?

            Also, does she not work full time? Do other employees have flexible hours? How does this work?

            I think their resentment might be more about her having flexible hours than about her time management. It does not matter what she doe sin the morning, she cannot magically do a task she did not know existed before she left.

            1. catsAreCool

              I don’t know about that. If someone has flexible hours but gets the job done and works hard, I’m not sure I’d worry about it. If a co-worker spends all day on personal calls and internet, I’d be irritated. Come to think of it, I used to have a co-worker who spent a lot of time doing nothing, and I was very very irritated, but part of that was because management had me work on things that he hadn’t done that had become emergencies.

          2. Artemesia

            Then the talk needs to be double barreled making clear that the surfing and personal alls are both distracting and inappropriate and tasking her with some new responsibilities since she seems to have so much free time. At the first twinge of whining about too much work, a second talk about her responsibilities and work and not play needs to be happening should occur.

            Unfortunately you apparently have a weak boss, so your first task is to discuss this with him or her so that you know you are supported in this. To not be willing to fire an employee who won’t work is poison to the environment. If she whines about increased work load is he doing to back you up? Without the threat of dismissal it is hard to rein in this kind of behavior. The ‘or else’ does not have to be articulated, but if it is not there in the background and the boss is weak, you may have more problems. So before talking with her, it is time to talk to the boss again about this with stress on how it is affecting everyone else in the office.

        2. Traveler

          I disagree with the internet surfing bit. While I am sure if the person is conscious about it, it can be a non issue, but there are plenty of ways it is. I’ve had to be near the internet surfer that doesn’t wear headphones, that gasps or laughs at things, that has to read bits out loud, hums along, or insists that anyone within close enough distance comes over and watches/reads what they are looking at. All of that is distracting.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Lookit, if nobody is willing to get rid of her then you are going to be toothless in fixing the problem. All you are going to have is grief. There’s no magic fix it wand that you get from being promoted to team leader.

        You need to not assume but flat out ask your boss, if this situation doesn’t improve, are you willing to terminate the employee. If things get worse and not better, are you willing to terminate the employee. If the answer really is no (I think it might not be) but if it really is no, measure your expectations and the boss’s expectations about what miracles you can perform.

        Without an end consequence, why should the employee change her longstanding behavior?

        1. FJ

          Reminds me of a phrase a coworker used about some contracts that were going poorly. Other party wasn’t working on our projects, and all we had was “Well, if you don’t deliver on time, we will be REALLY SAD.” As much I wish people would just do the things they agree to, sometimes that level of formal threat can be useful.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            I am using that, REALLY SAD.

            The thing is, you don’t have to start out threatening someone’s job, but if you’re set out to change things, you can’t do that knowing that all of the power rests on the other party’s willingness to cooperate.

            I am hoping it is just the OP thinks the other party would never be fired and that’s not the reality.

      3. catsAreCool

        “there is resentment from employees having to cover anything that comes in of hers after 2.45 if they’ve seen her surfing the internet most of the morning.” Yeah, I’d be resentful, too.

      4. Jessie

        I’m wondering if she has enough work to do?

        After speaking with her, I would be inclined to start to increase her workload so she has less and less time to surf the web and otherwise be unproductive.

  15. FiveWheels

    Best TV manager was Captain Sheridan from Babylon 5, no doubt in my mind.

    Though Paul Lewisham from Boston Legal gets an honorary mention for remaining sane in a wonderfully dysfunctional workplace.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady

      His predecessor, Jeffrey Sinclair, was pretty awesome too!

      The way he handled the dock worker strike was excellent.

        1. The Strand

          Hey, he was qualified to lead all the Castes!

          (see what I did there?)

          Honestly, I was just yesterday reading about Michael O’Hare. I had not read, before then, the revelation of his being mentally ill and needing to leave the show, or jms (the show-runner) revealing the information about it shortly after his death at a Phoenix conference. It is nice to know that Sinclair was also well liked by other viewers.

    2. Karyn

      Paul Lewiston was the perfect match for Denny Crane. It was like seeing opposite sides of a coin. I do think Shirley was a good boss, too, although she crossed into borderline sexual harassment with Alan on a number of occasions.

      That said, despite his penchant for sexually harassing his staff, Alan seemed like an otherwise good boss. Willing to stick up for people who deserved it (and even some who didn’t), but also willing to push people when they needed it (e.g. Jerry).

    3. The Strand

      So glad I wasn’t the only one ready to post this. I would happily work for a Sheridan or Delenn ANY day, especially after Delenn got out of that habit of telling people only what they needed to know, Minbari-style.

      Commander Ivanova would be more difficult to work for, especially before her first cup of coffee, but you could see that her people were loyal to her because of her passion and hard work. On the other hand you could say the same for Bester.

      B5 also gets good marks for showing, with Dr. Stephen Franklin, exactly what can happen when a top manager lets his or her personal problems begin to interfere with their work. And, how dicey it is for an assistant manager to have to step up and get other people involved.

      I wouldn’t want to work for Londo, or for Kosh. Uh, especially the second Kosh.

  16. anon attorney

    Lieutenant Giardello in Homicide – protected his team from the worst of office politics, mentored and dished out tough love when required. Otherwise let his team get on with the job.

    Honorary mention to SSA Hotchner in Criminal Minds. Yeah, I like my police procedurals…

  17. Violetta

    Captain Holt on Brooklyn 99! In the first episode he becomes the manager of a team who have been allowed to behave terribly for years

    1. Elkay

      Yes! It’s interesting that lots of commenters are picking police, probably because very few of us actually have experience of working in the police so we don’t see the nuances of bad management.

      1. A Dispatcher

        I think also partially because in police procedurals you’re generally not relying on the Boss’s actions to move the story along much/be an amusing story point, etc. They’re written to be good bosses because the drama is coming from elsewhere. Brooklyn 99 is an exception to both of those, but it’s also a comedy which is rare for that genre. Holt most certainly does seem to be a great boss though. He has figured out exactly how to motivate his team in ways unique to each of them.

        Though there certainly are bad TV police bosses as well. Pretty much anyone on Dexter for instance…

        1. RMRIC0

          Also, just the sheer number of police shows that are on TV – I feel like they’re 90 percent of shows (especially of those that center around a workplace).

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Yes!

      Plus he looks and sounds so much like Andre Braugher, he automatically attracts followers.

    3. Turanga Leela

      Oh, good point. High standards and no nonsense, but also real warmth and humor. Actual not dissimilar from Lt Daniels in the Wire, whom somebody mentioned above—he starts out seeming cold, but eventually is the kind of boss employees stay loyal to.

    4. Mints

      Oh good one! Peralta is a good cop, but needs some gentle wrangling.

      (I wonder who the new Captain will be? The last episode was way too much of a cliffhanger for me)

  18. Lizabeth (call me hop along)

    Atticus Finch? But he’s probably an example of a really decent human being rather than a manager.

    1. Sarahnova

      He doesn’t actually manage anyone, as I recall! He’s a great dad (and lawyer, and human being), but for all we know, he’d be a rubbish manager. :)

  19. Elizabeth the Ginger

    Mrs Hughes from Downton Abbey. She’s firm and clear in her expectations, but deeply compassionate and treats each person individually depending on their own situation. She also skillfully mediates conflicts between others.

    1. RVA Cat

      Mrs. Hughes is a fabulous boss.

      Interesting that Downton also features a great example of Incompetent Boss, Family Business edition in Earl Robert.

    2. Monodon monoceros

      She’s excellent at handling her co-manager, Carson, as well. He’s not a terrible boss, but much too rigid and “rules are rules” so I wouldn’t want to work for him!

      1. Manders

        Yes! Carson’s not only rigid, he clearly plays favorites and ignores employees’ entirely reasonable complaints. I remember a scene where Jimmy was complaining that Carson was making the staff work at a charity event without pay–Carson was acting like Jimmy was just being a whiner, but I remember thinking, “I wouldn’t want to do that either!”

        Mrs. Hughes is excellent, though.

    3. Traveler

      (Spoiler Alert) Except she’s now also engaged to another manager. Could get complicated.

  20. Rebecca

    #2 – I don’t envy your position. I can tell you that if you don’t rein in your friend, whether she’s your actual friend or just perceived as a friend, the rest of the team will resent it. This has been going on in our office for years. Manager’s friend can really do just about anything, has the lightest work load, when she makes mistakes others are asked to fix them, work is shifted away, and all the while it’s personal phone calls, web surfing, shopping online, you name it. When asked if she completed a task, it’s always “I was just about to get to that”. When mistakes are made, and she’s confronted, she pouts, slams things around, threatens to quit, cries, etc. and nothing changes. Of course our manager states that she doesn’t treat anyone differently from anyone else. Riiiggghhhttt…just keep thinkin’ that.

    1. The #2 Team Leader

      Hi Rebecca
      This is exactly the problem it’s causing in the office with everyone else. I need to be thinking about the problem and how it’s affecting the office and not just her. Whilst we may get a few days or a week of tantrums and a bad atmosphere it wont last forever and everyone else will (eventually) thank me for it!
      Thanks

      1. Sunshine Brite

        Absolutely, especially if she’s going to be so tantrum-y over doing her job.

  21. LuvzALaugh

    #1 I had this happen as well. However, since I could not afford to be jobless if the new offer fell through. (They wanted me to accept an offer complete with a start date two weeks out that was contingent upon successful reference, background and credit report check. They literally wanted me to resign from current job that day and confirm I was starting before the checks were done. (cost saving???bad strategy…)I have a significant student loan balance so the credit check worried me). I countered by stating that it was not in my best interest to accept the offer and tender my resignation at current job if there was a chance I could still be rejected. They were not willing to move the start date so they compromisied with completing all the prescreenings within 24 hours so I could accept the offer after I knew I passed and resign from current position without worrying new offer wasn’t solid……..current job countered and I ended up staying (I know that is not in line with advise however the issues were addressed and remedied….no complaints so far….a little buyer’s remorse wondering what could have been at times but sometimes we all wonder about the grass on the other side I guess)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      And, yes, I have watched this. The power of Netflix.

      I agree with Ted generally although too much sex in the workplace. Like literally in the workplace.

    2. Heather

      He was a good boss but his boss (the character played by Portia) was horrible. But she was really funny.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      SUCH a great show. Lem! Linda! Ted’s awesome daughter whose name I forgot! Sigh…

    4. AnotherFed

      No way! He was pressuring his employees to buy all his daughter’s wrapping paper! And then there was the office affair and the barely-not-affair with Linda.

  22. Sunshine Brite

    What do you think of the different turnaround shows that try and teach people management skills or try to id a good manager in the bunch? I love the Profit and Bar Rescue. I want to catch one of Marcus Lemonis’s speaking engagements sometime.

    Of the fictional shows I watch, love that Battlestar was mentioned. My husband’s all mad at the 100 right now, we just finished the 1st season and I’m like they’re supposed to be teens which comes with whining and everyone’s in love. Hmmm, I think so many shows pick fun at bosses it’s hard to think of some more that we haven’t mentioned already. Artie’s pretty good from Warehouse 13 but sometimes plays outside the rules himself.

    1. Ad Astra

      Bar Rescue is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday, and it does seem like the managers learn a lot over the course of the show. The weird thing is, Jon Taffer is a terrible manager. He’s constantly screaming and name calling. In the newer seasons, he’s even berating bar owners who are being cooperative and listening to what he has to say — probably because the TV execs told him to turn up the drama.

      1. Sunshine Brite

        Oh for sure! It’s like, does this really warrant screaming? It’s not even a pests or fire hazard or super drunk employee situation lol. It’s most definitely for tv.

      2. PEBCAK

        Have you ever checked out the blogs that follow up on the bars? His success rate is really, really low.

        1. Sunshine Brite

          They come to him in so much debt and already so behind that I have no idea how any of them stay open. One was 2 million in debt before the show came, it was closed in like 2 weeks. None of them are in any position to actually stay open so the fact that any do is pretty good.

    2. Mints

      Oh, how about Gordon Ramsay? I don’t know if this makes me look delusional, but I would like him as a boss. I know 1000% that when he yelled at me I would cry. But like, he also is really clear on expectations, and is generally super helpful when people are willing to learn.

      1. Jillociraptor

        Oh yes! He makes such huge investments in people who are willing to listen and grow. I would definitely work for Gordon Ramsay.

    3. Liza

      I LOVE Warehouse 13 (and I’m sad it’s over!) but I disagree with you about Artie–I love him as a character, but I think as a boss he’s only passable. I see him as a good agent who ended up in charge of the Warehouse by default, but without any particular talent or training in managing people.

      Although come to think of it, we do occasionally see that he was trying… I’m thinking of the time he asked Myka to let Pete think he was in charge, and asked Pete to let Myka think she was. :-)

    4. ChelseaNH

      It hasn’t been around for a while, but Tabatha from Tabatha’s Salon Takeover seemed like a good manager. She was clear about her expectations, encouraged employees to develop their skills and didn’t suffer fools, but she was never mean. Plus she really knew the business, but she wasn’t afraid to consult others when something was outside her area of expertise.

  23. Dot Warner

    #4: Are we including reality TV? If we are, The Profit is a great lesson for any would-be manager or entrepreneur.

    1. Sunshine Brite

      Both lessons of the good and the bad. My husband likes the super feel good episodes. I like the episodes where I’m screaming at the screen for Marcus to back away slowly and run and the results of the better episodes. He finds a good mix with plenty in the middle between the two.

    2. nicole

      Yes! I love Marcus Lemonis. He speaks his mind but is always respectful (yet doesn’t let people walk all over him), he cares about people, and he’s good at what he does. I have a lot of admiration for him and the way he carries himself. He’s definitely a good role model for anyone in management.

    3. Mary (in PA)

      If reality TV counts, then I’m putting in a vote for Deadliest Catch – both for good and bad management styles. I find that aspect of the show even more interesting than the actual crab fishing!

  24. Ad Astra

    I like the management style of Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds, but I’m not sure he’s totally pulling it off. His job cost him his marriage, and he doesn’t set a good example as far as work/life balance goes. On the other hand, I don’t think any of the agents expected a good work/life balance when they joined the BAU. I hope they’re handsomely paid.

    1. Malissa

      I think Dino Rossi is the better manager on that show. He’s much more even tempered and stable in that crazy environment. He also knows when to push his team and when to give them space.

      1. Karyn

        I often wish David Rossi was a real person. I’d like to drink wine and hear about his life.

    2. Jenna Maroney

      I literally just came here to see if anyone had shouted out Hotch! He knows his team really well and knows when to cut them slack and when to take them to task, or even when to do both at the same time, which is important given that they work in such an emotionally demanding field. He’s also open to hearing candid feedback, and although he’s not exactly the most emotionally expressive person by nature, his team definitely knows how much he values them. I also think that we see him learn from his mistakes and grow over the seasons, especially after Gideon (who was really a toxic coworker IMO) left. Plus, his team has a very impressive success rate. It is true that the BAU is not known for solid work/life balance, but I think that’s something all the characters on that show kind of subconsciously crave in a job.

  25. Dreaming of Self-employment

    Why has no one mentioned Cuddy from House? She got stuff done and managed the unmanageable better than anyone else.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Can’t cosign Cuddy.

      She let House run all over her even before they were involved.

    2. Chriama

      B.S. let him do whatever he wanted, committed perjury to cover up his drug habit, discusses way too much of her personal life with him, *dated* him, and was driven off by his psycho act of driving a car into her office (and replaced by a dude). House was one of the most sexist, misogynistic examples of a male dominance fantasy I’ve ever watched, and Cuddy’s character was a disgrace to professional women everywhere.

      1. hermit crab

        Oh, poor Henry. My favorite MASH episodes are the ones where Potter overlaps with Frank. Potter is like, “I know we are in a comedy here, but you have been getting away with WHAT???”

    1. M*A*S*H Fan

      One of the best! Was searching to see if someone mentioned him.

      Now I’ll continue looking for Isaac from Sports Night.

    2. The Strand

      Yes. You also see some contrast between the way that Burns and Hawkeye/BJ treated their colleagues in the operating theatre.

      And you know, quite honestly, Margaret became a more competent, likable, solid manager than “Hot Lips” had been. She stopped blowing up over nothing and became someone you could imagine people would work hard and feel loyal to.

      “The Nurses” was a great turning point for her. If you have an irritable boss, maybe you do just need to offer a “lousy cup of coffee”.

  26. Retail Lifer

    OP #1, I’ve worked for companies that did this, although not on purpose. In my case, sometimes we interviewd a person and offered them a job without feeling the need to check references. It was a formality that we had the reference check info in their employee file, though, and there was at least one time where we forgot to get that info in advance. We never actually called any of them; we just needed that info on a form in their file for HR audit purposes.

    1. Retail Lifer

      Now that I think about it, we regularly checked references and did a background check after the fact at another company, too, because the third party company we had to use to do them was so slow that we would lose candidates. We always made it clear that the hiring was conditional upon nothing negative coming back. “Negative” only meant no undiclosed criminal charges in the background check and that the info they gave us regarding length of employment, title, and pay were correct.

  27. Macedon

    #4. A good share of wise sage / mentor types, to be honest. I mean, most of them end up dead, but.

    …Gandalf trained his group of misfits, reconciled team differences, guided them through a tough assignment on a hard deadline and lived?

    Sort of? Maybe?

      1. Macedon

        I like to think of it as an extended period of testing his team’s post-training autonomy.

  28. Helena

    I feel like Tim Gunn would be a great manager. Honest and fair, and with a lot of compassion for his employees (even as he’s pointing out their mistakes.)

      1. RVA Cat

        Actually all of the Face/Off judges are pretty good, but then they are working professionals in their industry.

        1. PriorityZero

          I know Lois Burwell (Season 7 Judge) a bit and she seems like a great manager.

          But anyone who can handle the large crew and tight deadlines needed to do makeup for a large film production needs to be a great project manager and a great people manager.

    1. So Very Anonymous

      Oh, yes, Tim Gunn, absolutely. I’d bet he was a wonderful teacher, too.

  29. Relosa

    I totally read “running my question” in #5 as “ruining my question” and almost grabbed the popcorn.

  30. AnotherFed

    Speaking of terrible managers, how about Minister Fudge from Harry Potter? I can’t think of any good managers there (Dumbledore seems to have serious judgement issues with his hiring choices for professors…), but maybe Shacklebolt wasn’t too bad?

  31. Sara M

    The Mother Abbess from Sound of Music. :) She helps Maria find a better profession for her personality. Also, she conducts business meetings in song.

  32. Commentor

    #4. I thought Kevin Spacey’s character in Margin Call was a good boss. He fought for his team behind the scenes, was honest and transparent about what he was expecting of them, and even came up with incentives that were meaningful.

    1. A Bug!

      Kevin Spacey alone probably offers enough source material for a whole article covering the whole spectrum from “good boss” to “Horrible Boss(es)”!

      (I couldn’t resist the movie tie-in joke, but I think House of Cards would probably be the far end of that side of the spectrum.)

  33. Manders

    From a book series, not a TV show: Sam Vimes in the Discworld novels did a great job of turning around a struggling organization, although he did overlook some major incompetence from his employees.

    1. Chriama

      Sam Vines! He was a great example to his team, willing to learn and change his behaviour, devoted to justice but also pragmatic… Definitely my favourite fictional boss.

      1. Chriama

        And when your boss is the former head of an assassin’s guild, I think you get bonus points for not giving in to corruption.

        1. Manders

          Most certainly! Vetinari would be a terrifying boss.

          I love the way the Watch grows and changes over the course of the series. In the first book they’re barely managing to stay alive; by the last book he has the system running so efficiently that he’s complaining about feeling unnecessary.

  34. Chickaletta

    #4 Has anyone mentioned Mrs. Hughes? If I had to work in an old English manor, I’d want to work for someone like her. Down to earth and no-frills, do your work, mind your own business, and you’ll be fine kind of manager. Has the respect of all kinds of personalities. Kind and understanding when needed to be. Mr. Carson is a little too rules-oriented and cold. But Ms. Huges? Sure, why not.

  35. Question Mark

    How about Diane Lockhart from The Good Wife? She’s fair, honest and supports her team. But she’s tough and can make the difficult decisions without getting emotional.

    1. Karyn

      THIS. I was about to post a comment about her. She was way better than Will Gardner (HE’S NOT DEAD, HE’S PLAYING BASKETBALL). I also thought that Nathan Lane’s character from that series would have made a great manager.

    2. The Strand

      What about the Good Wife herself? She handles herself and her people with a lot of aplomb.

  36. blueiphone

    My last contribution for “good TV bosses” for today: Special Agent Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds. Now I haven’t watched the show in several seasons and it seems like everyone in that department is up in each other’s business all the time. And maybe that’s how that type of job goes and/or it makes for good TV but in real life, I’d hate that much mixing of work and home life. BUT: I think Hotch is good at supporting his team, helping them grow, etc. In fact, when I rewatch some episodes, it bugs me how many times the rest of the CM team is pretty darn rude to Hotch, considering he’s their boss.

  37. Elizabeth West

    I’ve only seen Season 1 so far (I got behind in autumn while in the UK), but I would say Agent Phil Coulson from SHIELD is a good boss. He goes to bat for his team and he isn’t afraid to do the dirty work right along with them. He gave Skye a chance and is also tough when they screw up. And, he’s a total badass. I freaking love that guy.

    Season 2 is on Netflix now so I can get caught up. :D

  38. Buffay the Vampire Layer

    I’m late to the party today but for #4 I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Violet, DoraLee, and Judy from 9 to 5!

  39. Erin

    #4 – Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife? Maybe?

    #5 – Thank you for the update! I had advised you to go the other way but I am super happy to be wrong. That’s so great, and now you don’t have this hanging over your shoulder.

  40. Juni

    A little kooky, but ultimately Jimmy James from News Radio was a good boss. He took care of his staff and was there for them when it counted, and he did a good job of balancing their needs and his own bosses at the network. Veronica Palmer of Better Off Ted was also a good boss, for all her sitcom foibles. She had a hard job managing people who had very disparate work roles. Nevermind freezing that guy. (It’s hard to find good boss examples in sitcoms!)

  41. Oogledorf

    I’m not sure if anyone mentioned it but DragonFly Inn from Gilmore girls didnt seem like that terrible of a place to work.

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