5 Lessons Learned From Bad Bosses

Posted on September 11, 2012.

They say there are two things certain in life- death and taxes. I would argue there’s a third- working for a bad boss.  And since I just wrote about how to get rid of a bad boss, I thought you might be able to learn something from them before they go.

So here are the lessons I learned from bad bosses:

1.    Stop talking about yourself.  I met my 5th boss in as many years for coffee when he came to town.  It was my first introduction. I thought he’d want to hear about our market, the team, our pipeline, etc. Nope. He wanted to spend the 90 minutes he had telling me about himself, his background, his childhood, his personal losses and challenges. It was uncomfortable at best, and annoying at worse. Plus he left town knowing nothing about his new market and new team.

2.    Give credit where credit is due. I had a boss that asked us to work every weekend and most nights putting together a major program and the training required to execute it. Guess who took the credit?  I’ve had more than one boss do this and yes, they did get ahead and are still climbing the ladder. But is this the kind of boss you want to be? Will you be able to attract top talent when you need to?

3.    Learn to delegate. Admittedly, early in my management career, I had a hard time letting go. It’s really hard to accept that someone else can do the same job a different way and have the same positive outcome. Only after a lot of feedback (to which I am eternally grateful), did I realize I needed to let it go. The added bonus to learning to delegate is how much time it frees up.

4.    Be honest. My friend had a boss that always told her how great she was, but she was never given a promotion opportunity. What she didn’t know was that in the talent planning sessions, this boss (my peer) would throw her under the bus. What is so hard about being honest about someone’s strengths and weaknesses?

5.    Check your moodiness at the door. Many years ago, I had a boss that came in every morning, went in his office and closed the door.  Everyone walked on eggshells because you didn’t know from one day to the next if he was in a good mood or out of control.  You couldn’t ask a question when the door was closed. It was a horrible environment. No matter how bad a day you’re having, as a manager, you need to stay on an even keel. People that work for you need to be able to depend you being consistent and approachable.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all worked for the best managers and mentors? The reality is that few ever will, so if you can’t model yourself after a great boss, learn from the worst.