Most monsters are frightening but fictional. However, we sometimes encounter a person who seems to have been pulled directly from our nightmares, and this is especially frightening when that person turns out to be our boss. A broad range of traits can make a manager seem monstrous, but that doesn't mean they're unique in their awfulness. In fact, it can be comforting to note that plenty of employees have to deal with nightmare bosses every day.
"These days there are websites where you can post horror stories about your boss, commiserate with other long-suffering subordinates or even e-mail your boss an anonymous letter telling him or her just how ineffectual he or she is," CFO Daily News explains. "Seems there's an epidemic of bad bosses out there."
The workplace can be a surprisingly spooky place. According to a survey from CareerBuilder.com, 18 percent of workers described their workplace as frightening. Based on a poll of 4,000 employees, here are the most common types of monsters — not all of them bad — workers said their bosses resemble:
- Glenda the Good Witch — Someone liked and respected by nearly everyone in the office (20 percent);
- The Wolf Man — A boss who's fine one minute and then terrible the next (11 percent);
- The Invisible Man — People notice that this boss is never around (10 percent);
- Casper the Friendly Ghost — A boss who is eager to help others, but is often misunderstood (9 percent);
- Dracula — This boss simply sucks the life out his employees (6 percent);
- Wicked Witch of the West — Unlike Glenda, this boss is conniving and has an army of underlings performing dirty work (5 percent);
- The Mummy — A slow-moving boss with an ancient management style (4 percent);
- The Grim Reaper — One who is constantly delivering bad news and inspiring fear among the staff (3 percent); and
- Frankenstein — A boss who's green with envy (1 percent).
Although many employees are dissatisfied with work conditions, problems with their bosses generally stem from a handful of specific problems that point to a fundamental disconnect between management and staff. An inability to listen is one of the key factors preventing a boss from engaging with employees.
"On one hand, there is the blabbermouth theory of leadership. In Western cultures, the person who talks the most is viewed as having the highest status. And interrupting people is a way to seize power," Robert Sutton, a professor in Stanford University's department of management science and engineering, told Inc.com. "Certainly talking is more pleasant than listening. But most bosses ought to shut up and listen more."
Listening is crucial not only because it improves relationships with employees, but also because it allows a manager to pick up on workplace details that he or she may not have noticed (or wanted to notice) before.
"One thing most bad managers have in common is they're not consciously aware that they're bad managers," BNET explains. "And if they are aware of it on some level, they're probably not willing to admit it to anyone, least of all themselves. That's because nobody wants to believe they're the problem."
So, as a manager, how can you tell if your employees view you as a bad boss? Sutton, writing at the AMEX OPEN Forum, offers the following signs that your reputation as a manager may be slipping:
- You look out for yourself and everyone else is an afterthought;
- You're hard on your workers because you think they'll screw up without your "guidance";
- You transmit but don't receive, mostly just pretending to listen to others;
- You never say "thanks" or "please" because it's a waste of time;
- You're a stickler for punishment, so your workers know when they make a mistake they'll pay for it;
- You never mess up, or in other words, never admit to messing up;
- You take all the credit, regardless of how much you contributed to the work;
- You don't tolerate dissent, making life hard for anyone who dares to disagree with you;
- You focus on your top performers, making sure they get the best of everything while everyone else is ignored;
- You only care about the big ideas, because the small stuff, like implementation or practical considerations, are beneath you; and
- You don't care what it's like to work for you, and if employees are dissatisfied, too bad.
No one wants to be a bad boss, but these traits can be hard to recognize in oneself. When performance begins to lag, employees become disinterested in their work or the atmosphere in the workplace becomes noticeably uncomfortable, signs point to a problem that management needs to address.
"You can tell if you're making mistakes as a leader because things go wrong — not just one catastrophic computer snafu but repeated errors," CNN.com explains. "Bad bosses turn away from these realities. They don't discuss problems; they just hunker down and hope the issue will go away. It won't. Untreated, a minor concern becomes a major issue becomes a catastrophe."
So what qualities define a good boss? According a recent survey from staffing firm Adecco, the types of leadership employees most desired were "visionary" (23 percent) and "democratic," (23 percent) meaning that workers want managers who set out clear, achievable goals and accomplish them with close collaboration and feedback from their employees. Moreover, 88 percent of employees said a good boss jumps right in to important projects and helps the team get the job done.
"Ultimately, the secret to being a 'best boss' isn't all that mysterious — employees respect bosses who work as hard as they do," Adecco explains. "They value constructive criticism regarding their work and they appreciate having a friendly relationship with their boss, but they don't feel the need to be 'friends' outside of work (or even online) with them. Employees want a boss who encourages a healthy work-life balance, while also practicing what they preach in leading by example."