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Mean boss, who doesn’t have one?

mean bosses

That sweater is not just blue, it is not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean blue

Mean Boss

You don’t like your mean boss? Who does?  If you like your manager, consider yourself very lucky. But if you are one of the many people who thinks your mean boss sucks, or think your HR department sucks, then join the club and don’t expect any sympathy. We all get cut off by a stupid driver on the way to work and we all have a mean boss that doesn’t get it.  

We don’t care for our mean boss for a number of reasons and here are just a few:

Egomaniac, stupid, doesn’t care, stupid, micro manager, doesn’t know the job, doesn’t know the industry, stupid. . .  You get the picture.

I may be the Stupid HR Guy, but I would like you to consider a few things before you go off on your mean boss/manager.

When people come to me as their HR professional about their mean boss, I usually hear a very emotional rant.  I hear the word stupid, dumb-ass, and egotistical- imbecile on a very regular basis. Never mind whether or not the situation is true or not. The story may very well be true, but that is not my point.    

What I don’t hear, and this is the important part so listen up:

  • WHAT makes these mean boss a dumb ass or an imbecile?  “He is an imbecile” doesn’t tell me WHY your mean boss is an imbecile.)
  • EXAMPLES of the problem presented in a pragmatic, and businesslike manner that I can understand
  • A SOLUTION or SUGGESTION to the problem.  (not solutions or suggestions, I am not greedy)
  • The question: “Any thoughts or advice on what I can do to help the situation?

I don’t have children, but I can only imagine that when a child comes to a parent and complains “Mommy, Johnny hit me and took my candy”, the parents are going through the same thought process I am.

  • This is an emotional response
  • There is a lack of background on the situation / one-sided argument
  • I haven’t heard what has been tried to solve the situation
  • No solution  offered

Do I sound like an asshole? Yes, I am a mean boss.

Again, your mean boss may absolutely suck, but I want you to know where I, and most reasonable people are coming from.

I don’t want to solve your problem. I want to work with you to help YOU solve your problem. Sound familiar? Sound HR’esque?

A wise man taught me:  Catch a fish, feed a man for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Help me Help You deal with the mean bosses

Here is what most managers and HR folks would appreciate when approached on the topic of the mean bosses. I know I would appreciate any one of the following:

  • Come in with the situation presented in an unemotional manner vs ranting at me as if it is MY fault and I was the mean boss.
  • If you want help from me, don’t take your frustrations out on me.
  • Let me know what you have tried to do to fix the situation, or come in showing me an attitude that you are willing to at least try and remedy the situation before we move directly to “getting someone fired”.
  • Come in with the attitude that you want to help the team, the department, the company.
  • Don’t take it out on me.  Yeah, that one was on purpose.

Put yourself in my shoes:

If I came to you with an emotional rant and bitched about a situation or a person, you would probably shut down and listen halfheartedly. If you heard this 10 times a week from 10 different people week after week, you would begin to see a common them, lose your faith in humanity and then become the racist HR person and assume all employees are stupid. Sound familiar to the HR Crew rollin’ your hallways?

Believe it or not, most HR practitioners didn’t get into HR so they would have the opportunity to hear employees bitch.

A couple of thoughts:

  • I don’t know of very many managers that have been fired for being bad managers at large corporations.
  • It is much easier for smaller companies, but even there, how often do you hear about? How many crappy managers do you know? The ratio is very high.
  • You can quit this job and look for another, but there are crappy managers in every company. (As well as a few great ones)
  • Quit this job, and you need to reestablish credibility all over again with a new team and a new department head.
  • In this economy, where layoffs are a daily occurrence, you don’t want to be low person on the totem pole, and if you are, you don’t want to be that person because of a crappy manager in your past. Crappy manager “1”, you “Zero”.

The above bullet points don’t leave you with many options. Beginning to feel where I am going?

I am going to go out on a limb here and make some suggestions which I know most won’t like to hear but at the end of the day, your options are listed above.

If you have a crappy manager / mean boss, try and work through the problem.

  • Take them out for coffee or lunch and just get to know them. Not just once, but a couple of times. Make an effort. Find out what they like, find something in common.  It is a lot harder to be shitty to someone when you know them personally and share a common interest. (We want our manager to get to know US so it is hard to be shitty to US)
  • Ask your mean boss for advice. Whether it is personal or professional, everyone likes to be asked for advice, especially bosses.  After all, that is why they think they are in their role: to educate, mentor and grow their flock. Ask for advice on what type of communication they find effective, how you can help them, or the department.  If they are an expert in something outside of work, ask them for advice on that topic.
  • When you and your group go out to lunch, coffee, or a Slurpee run, make a point to invite your boss. Again, ask more than once. They will probably say no the first couple of times. (Any good manager will snap this opportunity up on the first ask (or ask for a rain check), and if yours doesn’t, take it as a sign that you have your work cut out for you.)

If you come to your HR person and let them know that you have done these things, tried to establish a relationship, talked through the situation with them, I am probably going to react very differently to the situation.

If you come to the table with some examples of what you have done to try and coach your manager through the situation, I will definitely listen.

If you come to me and I sense that you have done something and are still willing to try something else, I will find your argument very interesting. If I hear that you have already given up, and you have NO hope, I probably won’t be that motivated to help. This is just HR nature, this is human nature.

At the end of the day, the company wants problem solvers. You may not like your manager, but your mean boss stands in between you and everything you need and wants professionally so it is our job to find a way to get along with our manager.

See you at the after party,


Links to similar posts you might find interesting:

How to manage your manager

Take control of your annual review

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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