What You Can Do If Your Boss Is a Jerk

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May 16, 2011

I tweeted out an article last week called “The 7 Worst Kinds of Bosses” that was taken from a article. I’m intrigued about the “Worst” boss scenarios — not that there aren’t legitimately bad bosses in the world – but someone’s bad boss might be someone else’s great boss.

Let me explain.

I’m not a person who needs much feedback; I don’t need pats on the back, I don’t need birthday cards, I don’t need a letter sent to my Mom from my Boss (who happens to be my Mom!) saying what a great worker I am. So, a great boss for me tells me what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and what the expectations are for a finished product – then gets out of my way.

Why being a boss is tough

Now, I have a buddy who I worked with for years. We were on the level in HR, just had different divisions we supported, even sat next to each other. We were opposites, but both of us did a great job.

His great boss was someone who was constantly going to checking in, giving him feedback, checking on progress along the way, giving him suggestions on other ways to do the project, etc. A little different from my Great Boss. Ironically, we had the same boss!

Being a supervisor/boss is tough for one reason: you’re going to have some people that work for you that think you’re a Rock Star, some that think you’re all right (but they’ve had better), and some that think you’re completely worthless.

The best supervisors are ones that have enough self-insight to understand this concept and never believe they are a Rock Star, and, also never believe they are a Jerk. The bosses that struggle are the ones who believe they can manage everyone one way – “this is who I am and they can like it, or leave it.” It’s just not that easy, and given those two choices, most will choose to “Leave it!”

So, what can you do as a HR Pro?

  1. Get your “Bosses” (those hiring managers who supervise) to understand what traits make them Jerks. Some 360 tools are good for this, but be careful; if the boss isn’t prepared for the feedback, this can go badly.
  2. Get the employees in the bosses’ group to realize everyone has good and bad traits, and it’s up to us to value the good and help limit the bad. A great Leader Transition meeting works very well for this, in setting leader/subordinate expectations from the very start. A transition meeting allows both sides to let each other know what they value from a leader, and, what the boss values from the worker. It will also set proper communication expectations.
  3. If you have a “Jerk” supervisor, don’t waste to much time fixing them. Adult Jerks, tend to stay Jerks. There is no training class in the world that is going to change them. So, you have two choices, and you might easily decide to go either way. One, get rid of them – employees will be happy, until the next lady comes in! Or two, deal with the turnover. Why would you put up with this? Maybe the Jerk gets great results and your organization values that. Sometimes we put up with jerks – that’s reality.

What should you NOT do as a HR Pro?

Never get on your high horse after one employee tells you their boss is a jerk. That boss might be another employee’s Rock Star, and maybe that employee is a better performer. Seek to understand their Jerkiness!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

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