The Bad Boss

In the context of a project, the ''bad'' or difficult boss shows up in two relationships: between the PM and his or her supervisor and between the PM and the project personnel. The PM may have a bad boss who interferes with and fails to support the activities of the PM. The project staff, similarly, may have a bad boss (the PM or CSE) who has few of the attributes discussed earlier in this chapter. Beyond the realm of these attributes, the boss may be a ''pathologic'' type who sabotages his or her people at every turn.

Although there are numerous studies and descriptions of bad bosses, a particularly interesting treatise is presented by Robert Bramson [5.7], who identifies seven bad boss types, namely:

1. Hostile-aggressives

2. Complainers

3. Silent and unresponsives

4. Super-agreeables

5. Know-it-all experts

6. Negativists

7. Indecisives

Bramson describes the hostile-aggressives as Sherman tanks, snipers, or exploders. Such bosses are not likely to be sympathetic to the many problems that invariably arise on a project. Instead, they are prone to being actively abusive and to run over all people who are perceived to have caused the problem or who are not able to provide an instantaneous solution. Interactions with such a boss are enervating and leave one either exhausted or extremely angry. Hostile-aggressives are very toxic people.

The complainers tend to find everything incomplete and inadequate and adopt the position that all would be well if only he or she had competent people on the job. The complainer can also be less negative about immediate subordinates, but focused instead on his or her boss and other people in the enterprise that are not cooperating and doing their jobs. This type of person prefers to be a victim and contaminates all who would listen with incessant complaining. In its most virulent form, the targets of the complaints are the subordinates.

The silent and unresponsive bosses appear to soak up inputs and requests for help but provide no feedback or assistance. In distinction to the hostile-aggressives, these people may be passive aggressives or they may be simply unable to keep up with the numerous issues and problems of project management. Their own inadequacy may be reflected in their unresponsiveness because they may be fearful of appearing to be stupid or uninformed.

Super-agreeables are pleasant to a fault and avoid ruffling feathers and confronting difficult situations and people. They therefore refuse to deal with controversial issues for fear of making someone else angry or, indeed, coping with their own submerged anger. Because many project-oriented problems require straight talk and confrontation of problems, such bosses are likely to be of no help whatsoever. At best, they may be empathetic but will not engage in even a minor battle to move a project forward. As PMs, super-agreeables find it extremely difficult to carry out a complex negotiation with a customer or with superiors.

The know-it-all expert tends to undermine the work of all subordinates. Either as PM or CSE, this type of boss frustrates subordinates by always having the ''best'' answer to a problem, whether it be administrative or technical in nature. This behavior pattern oftens leads to a ''clamming up'' by subordinates because they perceive the boss as someone who is not able to listen to and elicit a variety of opinions and solutions. ''Because the boss knows all the answers,'' they reason, ''let's withold our views and any constructive thinking about the problem.'' This, of course, can lead to disaster in terms of putting best efforts forward, which, in turn, leads to sabotaging a project.

The negativists cannot find something good in anything that is done on a project. They embody this negative attitude that causes subordinates to avoid interactions with them. They reflect the opposite of a can-do viewpoint and therefore can be deadly in dealing with customers as well as subordinates. This type of behavior, of course, takes its toll on a project staff and inevitably leads to loss of interest, productivity, and performance. Subordinates want to transfer to a different project as soon as possible.

Indecisive bosses are invariably frustrating because they cannot bring themselves to a point of closure. By trying to keep all options open all the time, they fail to commit themselves and therefore fail to make progress. Such bosses are often fearful of making mistakes, which paralyzes them as well as the overall project. Projects run by such bosses tend to bog down and overrun schedule. They often also want to ''study a problem to death,'' leading to serious diminishing returns and missing key milestones. Subordinates soon learn that they should make decisions themselves and ask for forgiveness rather than permission, if they have the wherewithall to do so.

If you have a boss that scores very low with respect to the attribute evaluation of Table 5.1, or fits one of the seven types just discussed, you have a serious problem. If you are a PM, the success of your project is in some jeopardy. If you are a worker on a project, you are likely to be frustrated and be engaged in a project that almost certainly will fail. The question that presents itself then becomes: What can you do to more effectively ''manage your boss'' so as to minimize your frustration and anger and maximize the chances of your own personal success and the success of your project?

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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