Don't Tolerate Crazy Bosses.

Last Updated May 14, 2007 9:41 AM EDT

A few posts ago, I launched a "worst sales manager contest."  You readers came up with some definite doozies, but the absolute best of the worst (as it were) was:

He's arrogant, he's sarcastic and he's the ultimate control freak. He fights (yes, physical slapping and kicking) with the other sales manager in the office. When one of his reps questioned him about an account that she should have ...gotten credit for, he began stalking her. He would drive by her house and take pictures with his camera phone as evidence that she wasn't working. The worst part? He parked outside of her 9 year old son's school (ostensibly to observe her picking him up after school during work hours). You've got to wonder about a grown man that will park outside a school watching small children and taking pictures. The rep quit 2 weeks later. He yells, he belittles people, he throws things. What a guy!

Indeed.  Last week on NPR, I heard an interview with author Stanley Bing, who was apparently promoting the re-release of his book Crazy Bosses.  I remember Bing well, because his book was originally released when I was doing the promotion for a book I wrote, called Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite.  My book cherry-picked the best management techniques of high tech managers from Bill Gates on down, based upon a series of in-depth interviews.  Bing’s book (which I read when I was on the book tour) forced me to look more closely at the dark side of high tech management – much of which resembles the behavior of the sales manager above.

The sad truth is that many of the most respected CEOs in high tech think nothing of screaming at subordinates and belittling employees.  However, in the NPR interview, Bing talked about this behavior in an almost apologetic way, as if it were somehow justified by the importance of their position and the stress that they experience.  I don’t buy it.  That kind of behavior creates a toxic environment that can permeate an entire organization, especially when lower level managers start imitating the screamers at the top.  And this isn’t just a high tech thing, of course.  Screamers (aka bullies) are common everywhere.

The reason that CEOs and sales managers scream at people is that they’re immature and they can get away with it.  They don’t need to scream, because they’re going to get their way anyhow. It’s childish, disgusting behavior and it's a disgrace that it's tolerated in the business world. Whenever I think of, say, Steve Jobs (reputedly a big screamer as well as the world's highest paid CEO) behaving like a two-year-old at a meeting, I think of the Eminem video where a fast-food worker blows snot into other people’s food, a behavior that shows exactly the same level of maturity and self-respect. 

Anyway, I surfaced this crazy boss stuff in my blog, because it patches a hole in the “How To Manage Your Boss” article that I wrote for BNET a few months ago.  It’s a popular piece (as are the segments accompanying it), but there have been a few complaints of the “my boss is so crazy I don’t want to get to know him/her better” variety.  This is my opportunity to give a piece of advice that should have been brought out more fully in that article: If your boss is a world-class whack-case, find another job.  Especially if you’re in sales, because if you know how to sell, you can basically work anywhere.  Why put up with that kind of crap?

Meanwhile, I wish that, just once, the mainstream business press would stop with the "CEOs are godlike" puff stuff and throw in a line like: "He screams like a spoiled toddler at internal meetings and would probably more effective if he grew up and acted like an adult."  Maybe then some of these "worst sales managers" would feel less empowered to act like bullying brats.