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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 13, 2006

Making boss' flaws public can have severe drawbacks

By Andrea Kay

If you think your boss treats you badly, be careful how you let him or her in on your sentiments. One group of workers that wasn't too thrilled with management made their feelings known on the company bulletin board, and now they're feeling the sting of retribution.

The workers wouldn't identify themselves or their place of work in the e-mail they sent me for fear of more retaliation. But apparently someone posted for all to see a column I wrote about how people feel about their bosses a column in which bosses didn't get glowing marks.

"It created such a stir all the managers took it personally and were very offended," writes this person. One manager called each employee into the office or on the telephone "asking if we knew who put it on the wall. He did this after telling people it was 'insubordination and that employees will be fired.' "

The article referred to the biggest frustration people say they have at work as "idiot bosses." Definitions ranged from a boss "who doesn't have a clue as to how to do his job" and "not being able to solve problems when you come to them with issues" to "being insensitive to people around them." Insensitivity included a manager who berates you in front of others to exert power to the woman who subjects her staff to daily details of her in vitro process.

There are other kinds of bosses that I didn't touch upon, such as bullies, perfectionists, micromanagers, devious game players, alcoholics, abusers and harassers. Under the category of bad bosses, there's even such a thing as a party boss who wants his employees to have fun.

While there are other more objective ways to assess "badness," for workers, "the subjective measure what they think of the boss is what counts," says Gina Graham Scott, author of "A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses."

So how do you let your boss know he or she is misbehaving? It depends on the circumstances, your style and your boss. It's best to find a balanced solution that calls for the greatest chance for success, she says. Figure out when to follow the rules and when to bend or break them, when to be forceful and when to back down. Consider whether the problem affects others or just you to decide when to act on your own or to seek alliances to negotiate with your boss.

The person who wrote me said the article "hit the nail on the head and the bosses were breathing fire and steam for a while after that." Referring to one particular manager, the writer said, "Rather than taking a look at himself and perhaps not wanting to be the type of manager in your article, he has made the situation at work unbearable in that many of us do not want to continue working there."

Granted, it sounds as if this manager could use some pointers on handling negative feedback. But keep this in mind when thinking through your strategy for communicating with your boss: They don't like to be embarrassed. The public posting of this article clearly did that. And sadly, they seem to have missed the whole point these workers were trying to make.