Why Does It Seem There Are So Many Bad Bosses Out There?

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A good friend texted me the other day about his job, specifically about how much he hates it.

Why does he hate it? I’ll give you one guess … go ahead, guess. (Insert theme song to the game show Jeopardy here.)

Correct! His boss sucks.

The same week, I had a conversation with another friend who’d been fired after working for a bully boss, and then later, I had another conversation with a different friend who declared her (former) manager to be “the worst.”

Yes, good managers are in high demand

Now, I know these people and you don’t, so I’ll ask that you take my word for it that their perceptions of their bosses’ leadership skills is accurate. And say what you will, there has to be something to the fact that 70 percent of U.S. workers either can’t stand work or are completely disengaged.

Contrary to what some may believe — even some on the enlightened website that is TLNT — all this discontent can’t be boiled down to the unjustified grumbling of the talentless, bottom 50 percent of the workforce who should just shut up or go work somewhere else already.

Instead, it seems like effective leadership is at an all-time low, as though good managers have all but up and died off — like the dinosaurs, except it’s worse, because who the heck needs a dinosaur?

Good managers, however, are very much needed.

And so I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes management so hard that so many get it so wrong, and the conclusion I’ve reached is this: good management requires a denial of the self, and people either don’t know how or don’t want to do that.

Are you a “people person?”

If you’ve followed any debate amongst HR folks about the future of the profession, you’ll have read someone, somewhere pitching a fit at the idea that anyone would enter the fold because he or she is a “people person.”

The expression makes me cringe whenever I hear it too, but not because I think it’s stupid to focus on people and not profits.

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I cringe because, when it comes to good management, liking people is besides the damn point. A good manager needs to love people, not just like ‘em, to do a good job.

Loving people means putting aside your crap for their benefit.

Why most every boss is terrible

And by crap I mean your impatience, your annoyance, your anxiety, your ego, your pride, your vanity, your ambitions, your selfishness, your fear, your cowardice, your desire to look important, your insecurities, your distaste for conflict, your need to be right, you biases, your prejudices — all that crap.

And it’s hard for most and nearly impossible for some. But more troubling, we’re often taught that accommodation and compromise is for chumps and that strong, effective leaders are decisive, unwavering, and not terribly concerned with what others think.

And that’s my 2 cents for why, by and large, nearly everyone I know is managed by someone who’s kind of a terrible boss.

What do you think?

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.

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