Everyone hates their boss, but we learn to cope. But a few type of people make your life really, really hard. While these qualities may also exist in your colleagues, they become more dangerous when the person reach positions of power. Your co-workers might simply irritate you, a boss can do real harm.
So without much ado, here are the most evil bosses, and how to fight them.
1. The Dragon
Jimmy was walking down to the accounts dungeon, when he felt a breath of hot and stale breath. And before he knew it, the Dragon was standing before him.
“Jimmy,” the Dragon bellowed, “Where be the report thy were to send me?”
Jimmy moved back in terror. “I..I..I was… busy…”
The Dragon smelled his fear and moved forward. “Jimmy, my boy, this won’t do.”
The Dragon wants immediate attention. He will threaten and abuse you if you try to ignore him. The more you try to hide, the more aggressive the dragon will get.
The Dragon only wants one thing: To do things his way. If you get in the way, you will be crushed. And it will your fault.
How do fight the dragon — Actually, the dragon is the easiest to fight. As long as he doesn’t go into verbal abuse or outright bullying, the dragon can be managed.
Dragons have a very controlling nature. They want to be on top at all times. Have you ever seen people who snivel and make excuses? Perhaps from your school/college days? Well, that’s how the dragon sees you. The more you try to hide from them, they more they think you’re a slacker, and the harder they will come after you. It doesn’t help that many dragons have imposing bodies as well. One dragon I knew was 6 foot 2 inches, and really heavy. And he always cornered you on the stair corners. So what do you do to fight a dragon?
Stand your ground. While you might be terrified, stay calm. The dragon will sense fear, and really move in for the kill.
Talk to the dragon logically. This will show the dragon you are in control.
If the dragon makes an unreasonable request, say so. If you stand your ground and explain your position, the dragon will leave you and find someone else to scare.
Cultural issues The problem is that many people who see themselves as friendly may come across as dragons in a different culture. Different countries and cultures have different rules on how direct you can be. So be careful of judging others, as you maybe seen as the dragon by people under you.
Jimmy suddenly straightened himself. “Sorry, Sir Dragon. I was distracted by the new sales presentation.”
“I want the report by five pm today.” The Dragon moved in closer, to scare Jimmy. But Jimmy stood his ground.
“Sorry, sir, but I have to finish another report. But you will certainly have it by lunch tomorrow.”
The Dragon stared at him for a few seconds, and Jimmy wondered if he was going to be eaten. But then the Dragon turned away. “Very well. I’ll expect your report by lunch. Let’s hope you do a good job.”
2. The Ninja
While most people are scared of dragons, I think the ninja is more dangerous. What’s a ninja?
Jimmy finished his presentation. “And that’s how, by using a proper testing rig, we will save ourselves a lot of time fixing bugs in the field.”
Down the row, the Bob smirked. “Yeah, Jimmy. You sure know about fixing bugs, don’t you? I guess you are the expert.”
Jimmy looked at him in frustration. This was the third time Bob had made fun of him.
Ninjas will surprise attack you, embarrass you when you are the weakest, and try to put you down. If you complain, they’ll just laugh it off. “Just kidding, old boy. Don’t take it so seriously.”
The jibes and insults can really bring you down.
How to fight the Ninja? Learn from the best. School teachers. They often have to deal with this type of behaviour from students. So what do you do?
Ninjas work by hiding in the shadows. Bring them out into the open. If a ninja makes fun of you, don’t allow them to move on. If you are in a meeting, stop the meeting, and ask them to explain. Don’t move on until they do.
If ninjas try to hide, you may need to become the dragon. Dragons and ninjas are enemies, as one believes in open attack, the other in a cowardly back stabbing. Corner the ninja, and refuse to back down until s/he comes clear. Be polite, as you don’t want to be seen as a bully.
Jimmy looked at Bob.
“What do you mean by that, Bob? That I cause the most bugs?”
“Well, I do remember your name had the most bugs on the list. But that’s not important. Let’s move on.”
Jimmy killed the Powerpoint presentation. “No, Bob, let’s not. I’d like to find out what’s bothering you, so we can find a solution.”
“It’s nothing important. Let it go.”
“No Bob. If I remember correctly, out of the three critical bugs, two were assigned to you. Is that not correct?”
Bob is sweating by now. “But you had more bugs than all of us.”
“That’s because I was working with integrating the code with the other team. This throws up a lot of bugs. Would you like to do this job in the future?”
Bob wipes his sweat. “Ummm.”
Kevin the product manage steps forward. “I think what Jimmy is saying is, we need better testing procedures, rather than blaming each other. Continue with your presentation, Jimmy.”
Bob shakes his head in agreement. “Yes. Let’s form a task team to find the best way to integrate with other teams.”
3. The Whiner
Jimmy was trying to finish his work, when he saw Alec walking towards him. He cursed mentally. The whole day would be wasted now. And he turned out to be right.
“Jimmy, the server is down again.”
“Sorry Alec, but IT maintain the servers. I just code on them.”
“But why does nothing work?”
“Well, IT did say they were doing some rewiring, and we might have a few connection losses.”
“But this is wrong! Nothing in this company works. You want to do work, but the servers never work. Even if they were online, our computers are too slow. They take forty five minutes to compile. And then we get a cryptic error, which takes another hour to debug. And then if go for a coffee, you find the machine is broken.”
You look at Alec, wondering what he expects you to do. It’s clear he expects you to fix this.
“We should fix this. Someone should take initiative and fix this properly. We are a multi billion dollar company. I can’t believe we waste hours just standing around, waiting for the code to compile or the servers to come online. Blah blah blah.”
Jimmy felt his eyelids going heavy. He suppressed a yawn.
Like dragons, Whiners also like to be in control. But they lack the courage, and feel helpless all the time. So they whine and complain to anyone who will listen.
The problem with whining is, it gets irritating real soon. Even if the whiner has some really good points, they get ignored in all the other garbage. If the whiner does make a suggestion that will save the company millions, it will be ignored like everything else s/he says.
While it will usually be your co-workers who will be the whiners, sometimes, even bosses turn into them. This is usually the worst combination, as a boss who feels helpless is the worst person to make decisions. Trust me, they’ll make you yearn for a bullying dragon.
My father had a boss who was a whiner. His chair was broken, and went to see his boss to have it replaced. The boss started whining. “What can I do? My own table is broken. But no one fixes it. I have been working from a broken table for the last two weeks.”
Father said that since he had the control of the budget, why didn’t he just call someone to fix it? But all he got was more whining. My father then had to go to the bosses’ boss to get the chair fixed.
Now you might be thinking, what’s the difference between normal complaining and whining? I could explain, or I could let the experts handle it. Professor Rarity wrote an excellent scientific paper that shows exactly how complaining is different from whining :
And before you laugh, it’s perfectly normal for people in their thirties to watch My Little Pony.
How to fight the Whiner: The first thing is, don’t agree with them, or get them to explain. Because once a whiner starts, there’s no stopping him.
Interrupt the whiner, by calling his name repeatedly, if necessary. Then force them to focus on the one problem that is the most critical. If the whiner won’t focus, you may have to ask them (politely) to leave. But it shouldn’t come to that. Get the whiner to focus on one main problem, and fix that.
Alec had been going on for minutes, when Jimmy decided to intervene.
“Alec. Alec. Alec. Stop talking.”
Alec stopped, surprised to hear his name being repeated.
“What is the main problem?” said Jimmy.
“Nothing works in this company. I have been trying…”
“Alec. Alec. What’s the main problem?”
“I can’t compile my code! I have to check my code in by 5, or I’ll be in trouble. We are doing a customer build today, and I can’t test anything, because I can’t compile it! My PC runs Windows, but the code only compiles on Linux. And the Linux server is down.”
“I see. I have a virtual machine copy of the server. Will that do?”
For the first time, Alec smiled. “Perfect. That’ll really help.”
And Alec left, leaving Jimmy alone to finish his own work.
4. The Gandalf
Jimmy went to see Matt, the product manager.
“Matt, last year you looked at the Linux server problem. Can I see your results please?”
“No. It’s not gonna work. Trust me. You are better off trying something else.”
Jimmy walked away frustrated. He would have preferred if Matt had let him decide if the results are useless.
Gandalf’s are known for one main thing: Saying no to everything. Their only job is to slow you and frustrate you.
Gandalfs are frustrated with life, and negativity and fear avoidance seem to be their only guiding principles. It can be very irritating dealing with them.
How to fight a Gandalf There are two possible ways:
- Bureaucracy can actually help you here. Email everyone involved with a simple message: “I can’t finish my work unless ABC gives me what I need.” Be warned that this might lead to bad blood.
- A slightly better way is to work with the Gandalf. Their negativity is born from hard experience and failure. Rather than pick a fight, you could try and work around them. It will require patience, but it’s a win-win situation
Jimmy went to see Matt again. “Matt, I’m really stuck. I have to see your report.”
“I told you, it won’t help you.”
“That’s fine. I’ll see it anyway.”
“It’ll confuse you.”
“That’s fine. I’m really stuck, and I need to show some progress.”
Matt stops his work. “How about this. Meet me in the canteen in fifteen minutes. I’ll summarize what I did, and why it won’t help you. And then you can decide how you want to proceed. How’s that?”
Jimmy nodded. “Thanks Matt. See you in a bit.”
Want to know more? This is an edited and cut down article taken from my book, Stop Hating Your Job and Take Control of Your Life