Bosses from hell-A A +A
Friday, August 10, 2012
"DETAILS of your incompetence do not interest me."
The line famously belongs to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in the bad boss movie The Devil Wears Prada.
Or how about this: “You. Have. No. Brain… If you were in my toilet, I wouldn't bother flushing it.”
That's Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) talking to his office assistant in Swimming with Sharks.
These two could be your bosses, too (in which case the only counsel I can offer is to never run out of antidepressants, dear).
Horrible bosses are in movies ever since because, as you correctly guessed, they’re as real as ulcer, or hair loss -- maladies you are likely to suffer from an obnoxious superior.
And there are a lot of abusive bosses out there, says the Development Dimensions International (DDI), a respected global leadership training consultancy. Here are the findings of a survey conducted by the firm on 1,200 workers around the world:
1 in 3 employees don't think their boss is effective at his or her job; 40 percent said their boss handles workplace conflict effectively only sometimes or never; 35 percent said their boss listened to their work-related concerns only sometimes or never; 34 percent of bosses play, or are perceived to play, favorites; 1 in 3 said their boss actually damages their self-esteem.
But what exactly are the damaging effects of an abusive boss?
Well, for one, it’s bad for business. It’s a given that a smug, scheming, mean spirited boss will scare away crucially valuable staff, decrease team output and destabilize morale.
The undeniable fact is that good leadership is by and large the determinant of employee efficiency. Zenger/Folkman, another leadership development consultancy in the US, found a straight-line correlation between the levels of employee effectiveness and the leadership styles of their supervisors. The Zenger/Folkman study involving 2,865 leaders in a large financial services company concludes that “the better the leader, the more engaged the staff.”
Conversely, employees found to have low commitment levels are those that toil under the worst leaders, according to the Zenger/Folkman study, while the most committed ones were being supervised by the best leaders. It also said that company perks offered to retain indispensable talents and increase engagement won’t do much in the presence of a bad, bad boss.
And what does lack of motivation among employees do but lower overall productivity? Low productivity means anemic profits—even losses. The problem does not end there. The company’s reputation (read: its very existence) is put in a precarious situation, as employee-related problems spills over to the sacred lounge of the customers. It’s practically logic but many studies have repeatedly shown that profits are tied to customer satisfaction, which is tied to high personnel engagement.
Bad bosses are really bad news, but some of us are stuck with them (I, on the other hand, is blessed with an editor-boss who dishes good advice and only complains a little when I miss a deadline). It’s a pity because unless the boss is running some sadomasochistic spa, subordinates only want to be treated with dignity, honesty and respect. Who doesn’t?
But there will always be odious employers, be it a Miranda Presley or a Buddy Ackerman, or a Darth Vader.
The flesh-and-blood versions could be a mixture of some of these cinematic characters. At least the not-so affable but sophisticatedly chic Miranda is not as bad as she’s fearsome: her main flaw seems to be that she doesn’t understand why the lower-life forms under her red high-heels must have a personal life. Combine Miranda with John Milton (Al Pacino) in The Devil’s Advocate and Franklin Hart Jr (Dabney Coleman) in '9 to 5', and you’ll easily find the Soviet-era KGB headquarters a saner workplace.
In these hard economic times, fleeing from a devil incarnate of a boss may not be an option. But if an abused employee has the courage and the means to do so, there is always the exit interview.
There lays the chance for the maltreated proletariat to play the "bad" employee -- yes, by being brutally honest about why you are leaving.
Mr. Adorador is the former editor in chief of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro. He now works as a freelance communications specialist
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 11, 2012.