Twice in the last week I’ve heard about “idiot bosses” (all right, maybe more than twice, and if you don’t believe me check out the polls at the bottom of the page). Being the inquisitive guy I am, I probed for the root cause of such comments. Rather than simply asking what the cause is, I decided to probe the symptoms first.
“Tell me more about this idiot boss.”
“I’m so fed up with him. He’s always on top of everything I do. He nags at me. Sometimes he even goes behind my back on things that I’m responsible for. It seems like everything I do is constantly under a microscope.”
“Like how?” (I know – I sounded like a Valley Girl on that one).
“The other night I was getting ready to leave and he actually called my cell as I walked out of the building because he wanted to discuss something that happened earlier that morning. He sometimes goes to members of my team, asks them what they’re doing, and then reprioritizes their work or even gives them new projects I’m not aware of. On top of that, he doesn’t even tell me he’s done this and I find out after the fact that my team’s priorities have changed.”
“Wow. That’s pretty bad. Lemme tell you what I think you can do here.”
“The way I see it, there are a few things you need to think about and a few ways you can handle this. First, have you ever thought about the fact that it might be you?” This question took him by surprise and hit him harder than Seth Petruzelli hit Kimbo Slice.
“Here’s the thing – if your boss is prioritizing work on your team and handing out assignments, maybe he’s doing it because you’re not. Look – admission is the first step to remission. You have to take a hard look at the boss’ behavior from his standpoint. He’s doing this for a reason and that reason might be because he has to do the work since you’re not.”
Here’s the lesson folks – before attributing the problem to someone else, be sure to be introspective and ensure you’re not the root cause. Your boss might be excessively detail oriented because you’re not and someone has to pick up the slack. In this case, I knew this guy as well as the boss so I knew the issue was on the boss’ side of the equation. Here are the choices if you’re in this same situation:
Your boss might be behaving in this manner because they’ve always done it that way. They may have had subordinates in the past who required such microscopic management or they were so apathetic they didn’t care if the boss went around them. Heck, maybe they were so lazy (or cagey) they enjoyed letting the boss do their job so they could play Boxhead Zombie Wars on the web.
It’s your job to let the boss know what boundaries you’re comfortable with. Go to them and let them know you’d prefer to manage your team directly. You want to set their priorities with your boss’ input. Most bosses want to be good bosses. If you help them do that and let them know what behavior is helpful or harmful, they’re likely to readily adopt those boundaries. If they don’t, you could always go with a higher risk, more direct approach.
Some bosses need to “get involved” because they aren’t comfortable that they know what’s going on. Maybe their boss is asking them a lot of questions and they don’t have the answers so they have to go seek them out. Either way, this behavior might be the result of being ill-informed.
Manage up. Proactively provide them the information you know they want and need. Give it to them before they ask for it. It will keep them “out of your stuff” and they’ll appreciate it. For many bosses, the last thing in the world they want to do is your job. If you demonstrate to them you’re doing it, they’re less likely to take on those responsibilities themselves.
Control freaks abound. The better you manage them, the less of a freak they’ll become. And if they’re not freaks, it’s more likely they’ll be better leaders.
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC