Monthly Archives: April 2012

Bad Bosses are Your Fault

Yes, bad bosses are the fault of their subordinates.  

Before we begin, I know this post is going to be controversial and that many will disagree.  I’d love your comments and feedback.

There are a lot of bad bosses in this world.  I don’t know the percentage of bosses that are “bad,” but it should be close to zero and it is not.   First, let me define a bad boss.   A bad boss isn’t someone that is imperfect or has flaws (we all do).  A bad boss is someone that is not growing their subordinates and does not have the respect from most of their subordinates. 

In a perfect world, bad bosses shouldn’t exist.  It is a market failure.  Most people think bad bosses exist because they suck-up to their supervisors.  That’s not entirely true.  The main reason bad bosses exist is because their subordinates tolerate them.

While “toleration” is often a good thing, we should be intolerant of bad bosses.  They are destructive on organizations, on people’s happiness, and they can sap creativity and productivity.

If you have a bad boss, it is your duty to make sure that he or she is either no longer bad or no longer a boss.  This is because most people who are not a subordinate will rarely be able to judge if someone is a bad boss.   As the subordinate, it is your job to make the change: for the good of the organization and the good of society.

Bad bosses shouldn’t exist.

If you have a bad boss, you should follow these three steps:

  1. Try to make them a better boss.  Work with the boss to make him/her better.  Give them feedback and try to change them.  This is hard and most bad bosses are bad because they cannot improve (and likely do not take feedback well).
  2. Get them demoted, reallocated, or fired.  Many bad bosses are bad because they are in over their head.  They got promoted to a role they should not have and they don’t feel comfortable there.  You should let a bad boss know they are in the wrong position and you are going to work within the organization to change their role.
  3. Quit.  If you cannot change them or move them, your only remaining option is to quit.  That doesn’t mean you need to quit the company entirely (it could mean you get yourself transferred to a new boss), but you should never work for a bad boss (it will stifle your development).   And if everyone who works for a bad boss leaves, the bad boss would eventually get replaced.