Boss Horror Stories and What We Can All Learn From Them

Boss Horror Stories and What We Can All Learn From Them

Why do people quit jobs? Many business leaders believe that “good people have options” or that “millennials don’t commit for long”.

To build a growing and performing organization, we need to dig deeper and understand why people leave. We asked over thirty Nairobi professionals about their experiences with bosses that made them quit. We were shocked hearing what people had to say – these are true horror stories:

 

The Blaming and Defensive Boss:

“I quit. It was the worst experience. My boss was a micro-manager, played the blame game, and overall there was a lack of leadership by management in the company.”

“My boss was very defensive of her actions and always blamed the other party”.

The Boss Who Held Me Back:

“She will not let me go for professional training! She has no college degree, she hates people with degrees”.

The Boss Who Expects Too Much:

“Being thrown into the deep end work with tasks that I had no knowledge of, yet my boss expected the best outcome or performance!”

“She would always delegate huge tasks last minute with important partners then would expect results without me having any experience”

“Very mean. Asked me to babysit for her autistic child with no prior idea of how.”

The “Bully” Boss (30% of the respondents’ bosses fall here!):

“Mood swings, she terrified everyone once she was having a bad day”

“I was called a ‘mental case’ after I challenged the opinion of my boss”

The ‘Sleep With Me and Get A Job’ Boss:

“I once had a boss who wanted to give me a job only if I accepted to sleep with him. I couldn’t believe it since he was a family friend”

“He asked me out and then didn’t call me for jobs after I stopped going out with him”

 

Dear bosses,

Are you one of the above?

Even if you’re not, it’s important for you to know what employees go through out there and to be empathetic. This means that you have to actively and consciously display the behaviours and values of a proper and humane boss. Some of your behaviours might be interpreted as abusive, even if you wouldn’t want to be called as such. So below our suggestions for being a well-meaning boss.

1) What does this mean for you as a boss when you handle job seekers?

  • Always hold interviews in an office and only during the day. Make no suggestive remarks, jokes and compliments, especially towards the opposite sex. Avoid looking ‘sleezy’ at all costs and remain professional at all times. If you can’t keep it together when hiring, have a second interviewer joining you. Also, strongly consider going for counselling, as this matter is likely to affect you in how you manage people as well.
  • With new hires, be very clear about certain expectations of the job that are beyond the typical work environment, for example: working hours, weekend work, travel and any specific physical and mental exposure the job brings: Is it especially hot or cold? Are there lots of failure situations based on the type of business you run? What type of pressure should they expect from clients, the team, investors and even you? New hires should be aware of this information when making their choice to accept your offer, to avoid any surprises in the future.

2) What implications does this have for relationships and culture in your office?

  • Have an open door policy where people can come and ask you any questions or offer their opinions. Give coaching and advice on people’s work when they need or want it.
  • Steer clear of ‘Blame Games’ and ‘Guilt Tripping’ at all costs. I repeat, don’t look for culprits and who to blame if something goes wrong, at least not in the heat of the moment. Instead, be solution-oriented, if a project went off-track put all energy (your own and the team’s) towards getting it back on track. The time for feedback and a debrief is later, when people are more calm and everyone (including yourself) is less likely to be defensive and aggressive.

3) What does it mean for your ideal management approach?

  • Take care of your own physical health and mental well-being. Take time out if you feel that you are getting to the edge. Avoid anger outbursts and mood swings in the office.
  • Make performance expectations clear through conversations with each individual you manage, and put them in writing.
  • Give corrective feedback in private. Simply point out the behaviour you need to start or stop, but avoid passing judgement.
  • Do all you can to gather honest feedback from your team. If no-one gives you feedback or honest feedback, you might have a problem. Make sure to schedule these feedback mechanisms on a regular basis to elude tensions building up in the office.
  • For more tips on being an approachable boss and shaping your management approach, take a look at our blog post, “how to get your people to focus on their work”

Dear Job Seekers and Talent,

We were overwhelmed by hearing what you go through at work. In reality, many of you need the salary, so you might choose to stay even if you are truly unhappy in your job and with your manager. We encourage you to take charge of your own experience and prevent yourself from getting stuck in the victim mind-set as it can affect your performance, CV, and even your mental health.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Leave when you have to. In the end, your mental and physical well-being are very important and matters more than your job.
  • Know your rights when it comes to salary, sexual harassment, leave, working hours etc. Read the Employment Act and attend forums where you can learn more from seasoned HR professionals and labour lawyers. All HR policies need to be in compliance with current labour laws. If there are no HR policies in your organization, then the labour laws will prevail.
  • Despite your frustrations, ensure you stay professional. Focus on bringing results and ensure that people besides your boss see your performance, attitude and skills (clients, colleagues, partners, suppliers etc.). Once you apply for new jobs, you will need recommendations, references, and a CV listing your results and achievements.
  • In the same line, getting a new job might take time. As you’re in this impossible job and you feel that you are not growing professionally, remember that no interviewer will be impressed by hearing that your boss undermined you and therefore you had no results in a whole year. Think through how else you can position your profile towards potential employers. For example, you can run projects and build achievements in the volunteering space, or you can enrol onto online courses to sharpen your skills.
  • How can you manage upwards and possibly turn around you and your boss’s relationship? Schedule meetings with your boss, report to him about your work and achievements, prepare and run the agenda if your manager won’t do it, clarify your role and what is expected of you. Take minutes of what was discussed and share this via email with your boss to ensure there is a track record of conversations. Communicate upwards if projects are delayed in advance to avoid an angry blow-up. We have a lot more tips on our blog post ‘Scared of approaching your boss, 5 tips to make communicating with your boss easier’ read it here.
  • Always remember, you have options, you are not trapped! Stay positive, surround yourself with people with a ‘can do’ attitude. Think creatively through your options, whether it’s employment, self-employment or free-lancing. Consider how you can manage your personal budget better in order to save up money. Sometimes an extended leave can help you see your options more clearly. Think about what’s best for you not just professionally but also for your mental well-being and happiness.

If you are currently in a bad boss situation at work and you’re thinking of leaving or switching careers entirely, sign up here for our Career Masters Program. This program will give you the skills and the confidence to take bolder steps towards your dreams in life.

We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about these boss horror stories. If you’ve had an experience of your own with a bad boss, please share your story with us in the comments!