How Would You Describe Your Boss?

Last Updated Aug 17, 2009 1:59 PM EDT

Once at a party, a bunch of my employees told my wife they felt sorry for her because she was married to me. I believe words like "controlling," "overbearing," and "difficult" were also thrown around. Also "saint" -- to describe my wife, not me.

I know, that sounds risky for them, but I'm sure they knew I'm not a vindictive person and that I could handle it, as long as it was the truth. And it was. As a manager, I've been called a bully, someone who doesn't suffer fools lightly, and other descriptive phrases that BNET would rather I didn't use.

Sure, I have a few good attributes too or I wouldn't have been an effective manager for 20 plus years. Nobody's perfect, and in any relationship, there's good and bad. As I've said before, management teams are a veritable Petri dish of conflict - it's a wonder how anything gets done at all. But things do get done. We somehow manage to work together in spite of our issues. For example:


Here's how I would describe three CEOs I worked for:
  • Lurch. What can I say; he really looked like Lurch from The Adam's Family. More relevant to the discussion is that he was also an incredibly mean, nasty, abusive jerk, which Lurch wasn't.
  • Narcissist with a huge but fragile ego and ADD who loved to hear himself talk.
  • Control freak with a selective memory and a one-dimensional thought process that would limit his ability to scale and scale with the organization.
Harsh, I know. But all things considered and hard as it was, I did manage to have good working relationships with two of these guys (can you guess which two?). And that's sort of the point. Rarely was I given any "negative" feedback directly, to my face, and the same goes for how I felt about these three CEOs.

That raises some intriguing questions:
  1. Why is that? I mean, why do employees, even senior-level managers and executives, have such a hard time telling their bosses how they feel about them?
  2. Is everyone better off that way - not communicating the cold, hard truth and just trying to make the best of it? Or would both parties be better off "airing it out?"
  3. Of course, now that I shared, you have to reciprocate: how would you describe your boss or a boss from your past? And how have employees described you, either directly or indirectly?
Also check out:

CEOs Need Mentors, Not Yes-Men (That Means You!)
Are You a Management Survivor?
Five Ways for Managers to Resolve Conflict

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