Boss Stories
Bad Bosses

The Initiative Killer

In my previous job I worked for the Psycho-Boss from another planet. The company was a nationally-recognized health insurance provider and I had been there for several years before my boss's boss approached me and asked me if I'd like a big challenge. The challenge was to turn around a department that had been in a downward spiral for several years. No one inside the company had anything good to say about this particular department. The upside was a promotion and valuable experience. I took Psycho-Boss up on his offer. As I had little contact with him in previous years I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The first year and a half I put in 70-hour workweeks. The effort paid off and the department was back on its feet and we received compliments from other departments and upper management on a weekly basis.

Psycho-Boss seemed pleased at first. As time went on, my employees and I had the department running like a well oiled machine but PB started finding fault with just about everything I did. I noticed several other of his department managers were in much better standing with him even though their departments lurched from crisis to crisis. His secretary started showing up every morning and walked around the department "to keep and eye on us". We were never told exactly what part of our job performance needed improvement and it had a demoralizing effect on the department. I decided to meet her at the door each day and ask her questions such as "how can I help you" or "are you looking for something in particular." This didn't go over very well with Psycho-Boss. I received a memo shortly thereafter, stating I was to report to him every morning promptly at 9:00 "until things improved". Every morning I received a thorough chewing out even though he couldn't tell me exactly what I was doing wrong. The better things ran the angrier he became. I even went back to school for my Masters degree and he found fault with that. He told me "I didn't do it right like he did". To this day I have no idea what he meant by that statement.

One day I decided to try an experiment. At the 9:00 meeting I went in and acted totally confused and professed to being unable to solve a particular business problem. I told him I knew he could solve it because he was so much more experienced and knowledgeable about these types of things than I was. I continued laying it on thicker and thicker, telling him how much I admired his managerial talents. The yelling ceased and he started smiling and I was his new best friend. The next day I went in and acted in a confident manner and immediately received another chewing out.

The last straw was when he came into the department and announced to my employees that any time they had a problem with me his door was wide open and he was ready to listen. In the next days 9:00 chewing out session I asked if it wouldn't be a better idea if my employees came to me first so I had a chance to solve the problem. The result was more yelling and screaming. I then asked if I had the same luxury of by passing him and going straight to his boss. He responded with a vicious verbal assault and told me in no uncertain terms that if I ever went over his head I'd be fired on the spot.

I now had 4 years of strong management experience plus my graduate degree and a professional certification. I contacted a company in need of someone with my experience and they made me a very, very attractive offer. Needless to say I accepted it immediately. When I went in for my next 9:00 meeting I handed Psych-Boss my 2 week notice. He started clapping his hands and stamping his feet all the while he was saying how much he'd miss me. When I pointed out the mixed message he was sending, his face turned bright red and he said the meeting was over. I've never been happier to leave a job in all my life.

with anyone who did a good job or showed any initiative.

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