Andy Schulkind has worked for some pretty horrible people in the past. But here’s how he’s managed to take home some excellent lessons from this experience anyway.
I’ve been working as a leader for 35 years. I was young when I started. I had a couple of good men who worked for me but instead of throwing me under the bus, they must have seen my potential and became mentors. I was very lucky and I learned a lot from them. As my career continued it wasn’t always that way. I reflected this past weekend about every insufferable manager for whom I’ve had the privilege of working. In my professional career I have worked for some of the most incompetent, egotistical, narcissistic, cruel, and ethically challenged people on the planet. Gender plays no role in the demography. Bad bosses apparently are equal opportunity PITAs.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane of the Worst Bosses to work for. You might have run into them (wishing you were doing about 50 mph).
The Station Manager (Master Motivator): After winning the day part radio ratings in our market for the first time in 5 years, I asked the Station Manager for a $10 per week raise (1970s dollars). His motivating response, “You know I could find 500 people out there tomorrow who would work for $10 a week less than you. You’re lucky you have a job. Now don’t bother me again.” Inspirational, wasn’t he?
The Superintendent of Administration (Always Inclusive): This icon of superiority never looked you in the eye or talked directly to you, only through (his words) “his underlings.” I once asked him a direct question. His response was, “I don’t talk to people at your level.” Hmmm, I was standing on the same level as he was. I was just taller, by about eight inches.
The Entrepreneur (Commitment to Employees): I should have seen this one coming when a peer was fired because she couldn’t work 70 hours that week because she had no daycare. I took a two week vacation and was told when I returned that I was being fired because “I lacked the commitment to keeping this business running.” Since I was a part owner and responsible for all sales, at least I got a hefty check from her buying me out of the business.
The Absentee Station Owner (Empowering): It’s hard to develop a relationship with your boss when he works 200 miles away from you. All of his communications were typed by his executive assistant, but his comments were of the colored highlighter/magic marker variety. I think they took all the sharp objects away from him. He micromanaged, and second and third guessed and was consistently inconsistent. Did I mention that he micromanaged? His ethical highlight…never having enough cash in the company bank account to cover everyone’s paychecks. Did I mention that he micromanaged? I hope he’s living in a cardboard box somewhere in a cold climate.
The Production Manager (Recognition): You could never do enough, work hard enough, and do the right thing at the right time. When you did offer up a good solution or idea, he would be the first to implement it and, of course, take credit for it. He always stood behind his employees, but only in a large room.
Madame Vice President (Advancement Opportunities): This individual left the company during hard times and then staged a triumphant return where she could be seen as savior. Always one to indicate that she “took a big pay cut to return,” she lauded the virtues of austerity, headcount reduction and improved efficiency. She refused to performance manage conflicts among her direct reports, and demonstrated favoritism whenever possible. When I completed my executive MBA I asked what opportunities there might be for me within the organization. She paused, looked in deep thought and said, “I have nothing for you.” Always ambitious, she climbed the corporate ladder and pulled it up behind her.
It was a privilege to work for these people, because I learned how to become a good leader, by not acting like any of them.
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