The Muppet Show. Working for a bad boss.

September 5, 2017

Let’s face it, we’ve all worked for some right muppets.


There’s no other way of putting it. There’s no point dressing it up or applying lipstick to the pig.

There are some bad managers out there and there are some people who should be allowed nowhere near a leadership position.

Unfortunately, they manage it. They slip through the net. They sneak through the interview process. They get promoted. They scale the ladder. They make it.

And then they proceed to make your life – our lives – a living hell.

Here are my top five bad bosses. It’s my very real rogue’s gallery. I’ve worked for all of these. But let’s face it, I’m not unique. We’ve all worked for one, more or all of them, or for a combination of them.

Here they are. My top five doozies. The Muppet Show.


The Tough Guy

The Managing Director of a software company I worked for walked around the room with a baseball bat in his hand after very visibly chaining the door closed with a chain and padlock. He informed the organisation that we’d missed our targets and it wouldn’t happen again.


The un-Motivator

The boss who takes it all way too seriously in the name of motivation. At a large global IT company, the Sales Manager always used military analogies in an attempt to motivate the team. The best example was him telling us that ‘we needed to fire missiles into our competitors’ sandpit’. Needless to say it was far from motivating.


The Lipsticked Pig

This is the type of boss who is afraid to give bad news. They come in many forms. From the outright liar to the type who dresses up bad stuff and tries to make it sound better than it is.

I worked for a law firm in Marketing and on my first day in the role I was told by the managing partner that there was someone in the form doing the same job. He’s been there for years and they hadn’t the heart to tell him he wasn’t do a good job. I was asked to find a way to work with him.


The Boss without Boundaries

I worked for a manager who crossed the line between leader, friend and unfortunately lover. He had a reputation in the company for (should we say) inappropriate relationships with staff. These often led to awkward situations, low morale and staff turnover. Invariably, because he was in a leadership role it was the staff beneath him who left. Over time it created a very toxic environment.

And finally … let me introduce you to ‘the worst boss I’ve ever encountered’.


The Active Avoider or the non-manager

I walked as an HR Manager in the UK and one of the managers in the Business Unit essentially avoided making decisions. This might sound great – but it caused absolute chaos. The team did whatever they liked.

There were no rules / guidelines or expectations set. For example, one team member took his entire family to Disneyland in Paris for a week on the company credit card. He absolutely thought that this was OK. His manager had let so many other expenses through that it had just escalated over the years. The entire culture of the team was dysfunctional because the leader didn’t lead. And the company had allowed this to continue.


Dealing with a bad boss

Now that I’ve done the intro’s, it’s worth me spending some time on providing some tips on how to deal with one or more of these muppets.


Hopefully there’s something in these tips that resonates and helps.


  1. Be self-aware. You need to define your own boundaries and your own value system. This is critical. You need to work out what is acceptable to you, what you can cope with and what you can’t. If you take the un-Motivator. The boss who thinks he’s motivating but really isn’t. Can you live with it? Or not.


Ultimately it’s about being aware of your own drivers and red lines.


  1. Of course, some management behaviours are absolutely beyond the red line. Harassment, bullying etc. In these cases, I would urge the employee to share his or her experiences and feelings with a colleague, an HR person or another leader in the organisation.


If the organisation tolerates this type of behaviour ultimately you may need to leave.


  1. I think that clear, concise and direct feedback and communication is critical. My advice is to focus on how a specific behaviour makes you feel and to provide suggestions about how thinsg might be handled different.


For example, if you’re being micromanaged. You could say something like,


“When you check up on my work very hour it makes me feel that you don’t trust that I’m capable of doing this. How about we agree that I’ll send you an update on progress every Friday at 2pm. That way you’ll see that I’m on top of the project and I’ll feel more trusted.”


I think that offering alternate ways of managing and working is always a good idea.


I’d also very strongly recommend finding a mentor. Mentors are great for bouncing ideas off, venting to, asking direction from and picking brains.  Mentors can really help with coping mechanisms it situations of poor management.


Ultimately, it comes back to my point about Self Awareness. What can you let go and where is your red line? If you’re red line is continually crossed and there is no sign of improvement it might be time to move on. In the example of the law firm that had failed to tell me that someone else was in the same role, I left after four weeks. The situation was untenable – my red line had been crossed.


When your red line is crossed it’s time to turn off The Muppet Show!


About the author:

David PichDavid Pich is Chief Executive of the Institute of Managers and Leaders, Australia and New Zealand.

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