11 Habits of the Worst Boss I Ever Had
TV's Ur-boss, Michael Scott of The Office, is a paradigm of what not to do as a leader--like imprisoning your staff in a conference room to prove that work is better than jail. But while there is the ring of truth in his incompetence, the actual truth is always more interesting than fiction.
Therefore, as I prepare to be a boss in my own new company, I present 11 demotivational lessons inspired by an actual Michael Scott I used to work for. I hope they provide a manifesto of poor leadership you can post, like Martin Luther's on the church door, to the whiteboard of your own Dunder Mifflin executive. Or at least that you can slide into his/her inbox when no one is looking.
1. Change your mind. Change it several times a day. When reviewing a report, be sure to make comments that run counter to previous ones. Leave the employees guessing. It keeps them alert.
2. Be sure your employees don't know what's important to you. You want the best work possible, period. You don't want them cutting corners just because something isn't very important. Everything is important. Always.
3. If you don't like it, you don't like it. You don't have to explain. They just need to make it "better." If you give them too much direction, how will they learn? For example: "I don't know what you want from me, just make the PowerPoint 'sexier.'"
4. Bring your employees along to all your meetings. But don't let them speak. By not talking, they have to listen. Just like a Dictaphone. Then they can remind you of anything you napped through.
5. Thank your employees -- but only for efforts below their skill level. "Thank you for showing up today." "Nice handwriting on that expense report." Begin the staff meeting by thanking the intern for comb-binding your files.
6. Schedule weekly "all hands" meetings that require half the employees to travel (to you, of course). Agenda: they bring you up to date on what they've been emailing you, but you've been too busy to read. Don't introduce anything new.
7. Ask your tech savvy employees to take time from their projects to set up your home computer, preferably when the maid is there. Ideally, the request includes troubleshooting your kids' iPods.
8. Agree to deadlines and then accelerate them. Ask loudly from the hallway if the document is ready at 4:59pm. Announce: "I'm here late tonight if you want to finish it up."
9. Schedule "critical" meetings a few days before Christmas. Require random employees from around the world to attend. Show up late and decide everyone can reconvene to "close the open issues" on January 2nd.
10. Send emails at 2am. On Sunday. Mark them urgent.
11. Be careful not to get too wrapped up in your employee's own goals. If you're too supportive in helping them develop, they'll leave you for another job. And that's not good management.
How about you? Do you have any bosses that have embodied any or all of my how-not-to list? Have you been guilty of any of these yourself? What do you have to add?
Editor's note: also see David's follow-up post, "I Have a Bad Boss - Help!"