A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses

I've read many books on management, relationships, and dealing with "challenging people". I certainly respect Gini Scott's approach to this issue. Gini has written a series of fictional accounts involving "stereotypical" bosses. One boss is a pass-the-buck boss. Another boss is scatterbrained. A third boss won't provide backup. For each boss Gini creates an entire story with an employee. The boss is doing X and Y and Z, and what should the employee do? Gini offers a series of responses and suggests the best choice.

On one hand this is a great approach for people who like to think very concretely. You hear in great detail about Margie, an employee who had a "psycho hose beast" boss named Veronica. Veronica would call Margie at all hours, even when Margie was sick, even when Margie was on her honeymoon. Margie got tired of this intrusive behavior. Margie considered several options, and then took one. The entire chapter on "intrusive" bosses is focused on this situation between Margie and Veronica.

The problem with this approach is that it is FAR too specific. You hear about what Veronica is doing to Margie - but what if your boss isn't that exact same way? You can try to make guesses about how you should react in your situation, but you aren't getting any guidance. You have to extrapolate, on your own, how to make this one-specific-scenario fit your own needs. If you're lucky and your situation does match up, then you're set. If you're less lucky, then you are on your own.

There is of course some helpful information in here that you can use when interacting with people of all walks of life, not just bosses. If you have someone who *should* have authority but is disinclined to use it (a "no-boss boss") then go ahead and take on the responsibility yourself. Communicate so people know you're there to help, and dive in. If your problem is a scatter-brained boss, work with written lists and send email confirmations. That way you stay clear on what the path is. If your boss isn't providing fair treatment to everyone, document the issues and then ask gently to brainstorm on ways to fix the issue. If your boss nit-picks too much, then develop documented guidelines and agree that things done in this way will be considered acceptable.

However, I also find advice in here that I'm less fond of. With clueless bosses, apparently you're supposed to explain to him - when he has a stupid idea - just why it is stupid. I imagine if I went to any boss of mine and told him his idea was stupid (and why) that I would not get a favorable result. In another section a boss is maligned for providing constructive feedback with criticism. Apparently bosses should solely criticize if something is wrong. I feel quite the opposite way. If an employee is heading in the wrong direction, you make sure they realize they're on the wrong path, but you can do it by praising their other talents at the same time. The key is to make it constructive criticism, not a personal attack.

In general, I simply find the scenarios far too specific. I enjoy my other books far more, where they talk about types of problem bosses in a more general way, talk about a variety of ways the "bad trait" can happen in a workplace and discuss all of the ways to deal with it.

This is a good book to have as part of an overall library on dealing with issues, but I would definitely not start here. I'd read several other books to get a more solid grounding, and then use this as a cute "novelization" style supplement for a few extra tips.

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