I have had my share of bad bosses. Ones who lied about job details to manipulate me, favored co-workers they had sex with, and disappeared suddenly without warning during the holidays. Naturally, while dealing with their poor behavior, I was upset. No employee enjoys being in these kinds of situations, but all of my bad bosses taught me a thing or two about myself, work and life.
- Trust is a gift. Regardless of a person’s title or pedigree at work, you shouldn’t trust him or her implicitly. This lesson learned from bad bosses came courtesy of a woman who seemed harmless, almost innocent. She was soft spoken, mild mannered, but a pathological liar. Because of her outward demeanor, I trusted all she said without question until I found out she was telling me to do more work than my peers, but grading me the same as them for raises.
- Always keep a paper trail. The most important lesson from bad bosses was to always keep a paper trail. After receiving a series of e-mails from a hire-up on how a task should be completed, I deleted them. After all, my memory was good. Months later, I needed them and my inability to provide these e-mails even existed made me appear inept. Paper trails are always important to keep because they help you see if you fully understood the other individual’s requests and also prove blatant lies.
- Bad bosses have bad bosses. Okay – not always – but mostly. This reality is why they act like a jerk or come across as shady. The person who they report to is disorganized, unfocused and seedy, so the bad boss just transfers this behavior on to others. This lesson learned from bad bosses came to light at a company I worked for that did massive layoffs. I couldn’t figure out why my supervisor kept switching gears on the focus of my team. After a while, I found out it was because of the person she reported to who was doing the same to her.
- The law of eventuality applies to everyone. Eventually, a bad boss will dig a hole from himself and fall in. This lesson learned from bad bosses came directly from a slick dude I thought would retire at a company. He had surrounded himself with ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’ willing to cover up his many flaws. He ended up getting fired after an outside agency came in to investigate a complaint. This event showed me that no one is exempt from getting canned, no matter how savvy he or she is at playing office politics.
- Never let a bad boss turn you into a bad employee. This last point is the hardest lesson learned from bad bosses. After leaving a particularly hairy situation, I determined not to work as hard as I usually did for employers because they didn’t seem to appreciate my efforts anyway. During this period, I took on a temp position in which later I wanted to be hired for as a regular employee. Because of my initial poor disposition, I didn’t get selected even for an interview. I quickly came to realize that I needed to get back to my usual work ethic and not let it be influenced by a negative experience.
The above are five lessons I learned from bad bosses. Get a different side to this subject by reading “How I Learned to Be a Good Boss”.
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Also see: How to Deal with a Lying Boss