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Horror Stories and Happy Tales of Other People’s Bosses

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Peter Drucker, famous management consultant, once wrote that “Almost everybody has a boss.” What varies is how people perceive their supervisors.

Inside IUPUI, the web magazine for faculty and staff at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, ran an article in honor of the annual holiday “Boss’s Day.” They featured three sets of reader-submitted stories about managers: some good, some bad, and some ugly.

People Working in Cubicles

© Flickr user Moresheth

The Good

Most of the pieces in the first section are heartwarming. One notes:

About a week after the surgery, I received a card in the mail. I opened it thinking that it was a get-well card, which it was, but it was also so much more. In it, my boss had included a number of gift cards to all of the fast-food restaurants in my town. He said that this way I didn’t have to worry about cooking, and I could just worry about healing and getting better. This was such a touching gesture that really showed what a caring individual he was, and it also made me feel appreciated for all of the effort that I put into my job.

Some of the others that are “good stories” illustrate the nature of office culture perhaps more than they are stories about good bosses. It’s a well-known fact that we often spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our friends and family. People joke about having work spouses. The reason this happens is that many workplaces have a stronger emphasis on social dynamics than they do on productivity.

The Bad

The piece includes some particularly awful examples of bosses behaving badly, such as:

Many bosses operate with a “carrot and stick” approach: reward good behaviors with the “carrot” and punish bad behaviors with the “stick.” My old boss simply used the stick. Everyone knew that if she came to your office, you were getting yelled at. On one occasion, a younger new employee had created problems the day before. When the boss entered her office the next morning, the new employee immediately started crying, knowing she was in trouble.

It’s amazing that people don’t know that screaming at people is not effective in the long run. It’s even more astounding that people like this get promoted to management. But it gets worse:

I worked in a dental office that was privately owned. The dentist was very adamant that no one was allowed to take off work unless he was off — which meant if you were sick, you came to work and wore a mask the whole day.

We know that presenteeism is bad for business. And of course, it’s bad for coworkers, vendors, and customers to come into the office when you’re not feeling well. How could anyone suggest this?

The Ugly

What’s even worse than that? This:

In one of my previous positions at another college, I had an EXTREME micromanager for a boss. He always wanted to know where I was at all times. Anytime he sent me an email to share some information with me, he would then come to my office to ask me if I got his email, and he would then recite the entire email to me, as if I couldn’t read!!

There’s a real risk that you might be a micromanager and not know it. Hopefully you realize that if you’re making sure people got your email and then reading it out loud, you can recognize your behavior is over the line.

There are too many work environments out there that are openly hostile. But don’t wait for the next National Boss’s Day to address yours. If you’re concerned about your workplace culture, please reach out to our consultants today.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 1 day ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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