The Cure for Horrible Bosses
In the recent film comedy Horrible Bosses, three truly dreadful managers make their employees’ lives miserable. The first is a cruel executive who dangles a promotion in front of a subordinate as bait, only to snatch it away once his stupid demands have been met. The second is a mean cokehead who inherits the family business from his kindly deceased father. The third is an orthodontist who sexually harasses her assistant, threatening to tell his fiancée that it’s his fault. The victims in the movie can’t quit. They need the jobs. Instead, they compose elaborate, farcical plots to eliminate the bosses. In real life, horrible bosses are the stuffff of tragedy, not comedy. Workplace discontent is no joke. Some sur- veys show that as many as half of American workers feel low levels of work engagement, stemming in part from poor management. It’s not insults that cause the greatest harm, but rather cal- lousness about people’s time. Horrible bosses want control. They expect subordinates to be on call 24/7 and to hit unre- alistic deadlines with limited re- sources.Whentheworkproduct is delivered, horrible bosses may ignore it for long intervals, mak- ing it clear that the deadline was artificial and the stress unnecessary. To minimize the impact of hor- rible bosses, companies can ensure thatperformancereviewsarebasedon objective measures, not subjective ones. They can examine tasks and workloads for relevance and fairness. They can offffer training to teach respectful behavior. They can police sexual harassment and make flexibility a right. But formal processes go only so far. Employees sometimes fifind themselves worse off when they use offi- cial complaint mechanisms. The best cure for horrible bosses is al- ternative relationships and collaboration. Organizations that foster strong, multi- dimensional relationships among col- leagues weaken the control of a single au- It’s not insults that cause the greatest harm, but rather...
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