Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Working Life: The Boss Hater:
How to recognize them and what to do about them!

The Radio Show Recap...

In this segment of “The Working Life,” Mary discussed the negative effects "boss haters" can have on organizational life. Whether you work with a boss hater (as a boss or a peer) it is important to understand that their negativity can have very adverse consequences for productivity and team morale.

The boss-hater is as common in offices as the bad apple, and can be just as demoralizing and destabilizing to a productive organization. The boss-hater is the person who has never worked with someone they respect. They trash talk the boss and use lots of “you” and “they” statements. They often accuse the boss of nepotism, cronyism or favoritism. They are not team players, they complain a lot, they use loaded messages, and they fume or ramble on at meetings and never praise anyone’s work.

In essence, they use the language of blame where everything is the boss’ fault. They are blamers who have fallen into the “victim” role. Boss-haters often shy away from leadership and authority themselves, refusing to take responsibility for events or circumstances.

Sometimes a boss hater is just the person who is simply able to articulate that their boss is, in fact, an idiot, but more often, the boss-hater has a real and disruptive aversion to authority figures. Some people may an ideological problem with authority or with “the man” as they said in the 70’s. For these people, hating the boss is more about how their own perception of authority is related to their value system. Other boss haters have a deeper psychological and personal reaction to authority, power and success. For these people, the boss often represents something that the individual doesn’t have but wants: success, power, authority, control, visibility, respect.

The problem is that the boss-hater’s aversion and negativity becomes a problem for the team or organization. Psychological studies have shown that emotions can be contagious in working groups and organizations -- negative and positive emotions can spread like wildfire. Like the bad apple, a boss hater who spews negativity can actually infect other workers, bringing down morale and productivity and creating a negative work environment. Boss haters can have “sticky” personalities, the kind of people who are actually very influential among their co-workers.

What to do about the boss-hater
If you are a boss, a manager or a supervisor and you have a boss hater on your team you’ve got to confront the person. Meet with him or her and try to determine the source of the problem. Does this person dislike you or has he disliked all his bosses? Does he have a real beef or is he a chronic and ideological boss-hater? Either way, the negativity has to stop.

Discussing it will help you and the employee determine the real source of the problem and will help build a better and more constructive relationship. But if you can’t find a solution, then get rid of them. While I am a big fan of owning and solving a problem–I am also a big fan of getting rid of people who don’t or won’t work out. I can’t tell you how much dysfunction and pain I see in organizations that could have been avoided if people were able to make the tough personnel decisions earlier. Keeping an employee who is miserable is not doing anybody any favors. It’s not helping the employee, the team or the organization. It’s just brings everyone down.

What if the boss-hater is you?
We’ve all had jobs where we have worked for someone who was a jerk or totally inept, or both. A bad boss can make your work more difficult, to say the least. As an employee, you have three choices: Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept and adapt to the situation. But staying in the situation and being a trash-talking morale-lowering boss-hater is not an option.

If you are being labeled a boss-hater because of the way you talk and act, then you have to take a good hard look at how you are interacting with others and learn to make some adjustments. You can change the way you say things and the way you act. Boss-haters have to realize that their behavior and perspectives are creating more negative than positive results. And if you know a boss-hater, tell them. Help them see that there is a better way to engage in the workplace. You’ll do them a favor. But for the boss-hater, make the choice: stay, go or accept the situation, just stop bringing everyone else down. Your job is in jeopardy.

To Listen to an archive of this show:

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