Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Barry the Dictator

One of my favorite "career" books ever is The No Asshole Rule, by Bob Sutton. http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/ Not only did it change my life, but it has changed my view of the environments in which I have worked. I have had my share of experiences as a manager within organizations where the ends justify the means. Without the no asshole rule, it's easy to become sucked into the bad boss vortex. Once you're in, trying to get by with nice-guy tactics is a bit like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn at the top of Niagara Falls. It's a losing proposition. You expend all your energy just to keep your head above water to avoid drowning.

In fact, after reading The No Asshole Rule I realized that it wasn't just me; I wasn't just overly sensitive or over-reacting; maybe I did have the constitution to continue as an executive, after all. I wasn't alone in my intolerance to workplace bullying. So I have stood up to a few a-holes myself. Sometimes it has gone in my favor, and sometimes it hasn't. But that's the END of the story. I'll get there eventually. What never ceases to amaze me is how many people have bad boss stories and how many of those stories end with the boss staying in place and the employee leaving. What a waste of time and talent.

Bad Boss Move #2: Insult Your Subordinates' Intelligence. After a year as the VP of Marketing for a large national professional services firm, I was told I would be getting a new boss. We'll call him Barry the Dictator. In the second week as the new boss, Barry called a team meeting for my peer- the VP of Sales, his local team members, my local team members and me. All of us are experienced and seasoned professionals. The group already met on a regular basis, both informally and formally, before he joined. There was no agenda for Barry's meeting, so there could be no preparation. He opened the meeting with, "Well, like a General, I don't get to pick my soldiers, but I guess we'll have to make do with what we have." Good opener. Only I would have replaced "general" with the word dictator. Great way to build motivation and loyalty. He then proceeded to set out his "rules of engagement", which included the fact that he forbids closed door conversations or phone calls unless he is included in them and that he enforces a 12-hour email reply policy. Anyone who does not reply to all emails in less than 12 hours will be seen to be negligent in his/her job. He began timing our replies to his various emails sent after the meeting. Any email that went back and forth more than twice required either a phone call or a physical walk to the other person's office. Never mind that most of the team received hundreds of emails per day from team members all over the country. At that point, he had not received more than a dozen emails. He insisted on being copied on every email sent, to ensure his involvement in all things. He created work for sport. The guy was a case study for Bob Sutton's No Asshole Rule book.

No comments: