Chances are when you read the headline to this article, someone popped into your head. Most of us have had experiences with bad bosses in our lives and vividly remember the hostile work environments these bad leaders fostered for everyone in the office. Maybe they constantly kept you late, talked down to you, or treated you like you were more replaceable than a frayed, dirt-stained shoelace — basically your own personal version of The Office’s Michael Scott. What I think bosses like this (and Michael Scott) don’t fully understand is when they treat their employees badly, it negatively affects every aspect of their organization.
Fortunately for my writing, though unfortunate for him, my boss, Chad Q. Brown, has endless anecdotes when it comes to dealing with bad bosses. He was formerly employed at a startup company and his boss was like a real-life, more malicious Michael Scott. So, here’s a compilation of some of my personal favorite examples of how a bad boss can absolutely ruin the culture within an organization. And, to go off our earlier allusion, we’ll call this real-life bad boss Scott.
Uh…we’d like to get paid, please.
On more than one occasion Chad Q. would have to call/ email/ pester Scott in any way he could in order to wrangle his paycheck. It was a small company and the boss was in charge of payroll, but would often forget to do it while he was traveling or if he was simply too busy. There were multiple months where his employees would get their checks over a week late not because of lack of funds, but because their boss didn’t view paying his workers as a top priority. Chad Q. says the late payments wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if their boss had communicated that fact beforehand. But, they never knew if their checks were coming late or on time that month, they would just find out on the first of the month when the money never made it into their account. This obviously instilled some bitterness and mild grudge-holding in their work environment, and how could it not? Once you start to believe your work is not even being valued enough to get paid, how can you be expected to work positively and effectively?
So…how am I supposed to get home?
Scott was a notoriously cheap man. He would do (and did) anything possible to cut costs, even if that meant sacrificing the care and comfort of his employees. While he did give his employees credit cards for traveling purposes, he would cap the cards at an unreasonably low amount. Chad Q. says he expected to run out of money on the credit card every time he went on a trip for the company, and he would usually just pay for the rest of his expenses out of pocket and have to be reimbursed when he returned. However, since their boss never communicated to his employees when they would be getting paid late, Chad Q. was truly stranded in a city hundreds of miles from home with no money left on the company card and not enough money in his bank account to get a rental car thanks to the lackadaisical payment priorities of his employer.
Wait…the heat doesn’t work?
Chad Q. was staying with Scott at his home the night before they were to leave for a business trip. In the morning, Scott was supposed to drive Chad Q. over three hours to an important meeting with a new potential client. So, in the wee hours of the morning, Scott and Chad Q. filed into Scott’s trusty ole’ pickup truck. Chad Q.’s in a suit prepared to give a presentation in just a few short hours. Scott’s in Carhart overalls and flannel prepared to feed the cows on the way apparently. To Chad Q.’s surprise, it’s Scott’s eyebrows that went up when the two of them saw what the other was wearing.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Scott asked incredulously. “Did you grab a blanket?”
“A blanket? What would I need a blanket for?” Chad Q. asked, confused.
Scott, who owns a multi-million dollar company, has a truck without functioning heat. And he expected Chad Q. to ride in said truck for over three hours in subfreezing weather, rather than shelling up the money for a rental car for the day. So, Chad Q. gave the presentation with chattering teeth.
Another exemplary example of the never-ending lengths Scott would go to save a dime — he didn’t even think his employees needed a bed. Whenever Chad Q. would accompany his boss on a trip, they would stay at the cheapest lodging possible. One time when he was attending an event at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the place his boss booked them a room at resembled more of a hostel then a hotel. The room had only enough space for one bed and a well-placed sink right next to where the sleeper’s head would lay. While Chad Q. understood the value of saving money wherever the company could, he also understood the value of a good night’s sleep before a long day of meetings and presentations with high-paying clients. So, he was more than a little disgruntled when his boss offered to squeeze a rollaway bed into their room instead of just getting Chad Q. a $30/night broom closet of his own.
Lots of employees are expected to share hotel rooms while on business trips, and oftentimes Chad Q. or his co-workers would have to share that room with the boss — which might not have been such a terrible situation if their boss wasn’t Scott. Chad Q. and the other salespeople of the company would usually stay out late during business trips marketing with new clients, meeting new potential buyers, and blowing off the built-up bitter steam of being under Scott’s employ. Scott encouraged his employees (and temporary roommates) to take advantage of the opportunities to make new connections while on the trip, and, so, knew they would not get back to the room until late. But, on multiple occasions, when they returned back to their shared hotel room, their boss had locked them out, latching the door to ensure even a new key card wouldn’t allow them any sleep before a long day of traveling back home.
His employees would be forced to curl up uncomfortably on some plastic couch in the hostel’s lobby or simply wait out the rest of the night until Scott would allow them back into the room. Whenever they finally did regain access to their room, Scott would play dumb, claiming he never heard them pounding on the door at the wee hours of the morning. His tired, sore-necked employees didn’t believe this for a second — he just wanted the room to himself.
Unfortunately, the stories don’t end there. There are countless more ways in which Chad Q.’s boss made him feel unappreciated, irritated, undervalued, and resentful due to actions and behavior that could easily have been avoided or executed better. And while the situations and circumstances may differ, this is something all of us can relate to. We’ve all had a boss at some point that has made us feel insignificant to the organization or like our work was completely unrecognized and unappreciated. And we can all attest to how detrimental this kind of behavior from a boss can be to our performance in a job position.
When we feel unappreciated at work, especially by our superiors, it just makes it that much more difficult to put forth our best effort day in, day out. When we hold resentments toward our leadership it makes it so much harder to foster and maintain healthy work relationships and, therefore, a happy work environment. When there’s not sufficient communication between employers and employees, then neither side is heard, and both rarely end up happy. And, on top of all this other neglect and abuse, when an employer is not even sufficiently or promptly paying their employees the agreed-upon salary — well, that’s just wrong. It’s nasty, unjust behavior that’s not right. And, when an employee doesn’t even feel valued enough to be paid on time, well then they’re probably going to seek employment elsewhere, and could their employer really even blame them?
It’s simple really — a bad boss can obliterate the happiest and healthy of work environments. When we feel that a boss isn’t treating us right or is undervaluing their employees, we don’t want to work for them. When we feel our boss is behaving inappropriately, we don’t want to work for them. When our boss doesn’t pay us the agreed-upon amount, we don’t want to work for them. When we think our boss is acting like Michael Scott, we don’t want to work for them.
So, if you’re an employee, don’t let a Michael Scott push you around — you deserve more and you can do better. You deserve an employer that appreciates you, values you, and doesn’t actively work to make your life infinitely harder than it needs to be.
And, if you yourself are a boss, then don’t be a Michael Scott. Appreciate your employees, show them you value their work and dedication. Foster a healthy work environment based on respect and communication. Oh! — And pay your workers on time. Because, if we can eliminate Michael Scott’s from the workplace, then we can make everyone’s jobs just a little bit easier.
Chad Q. Brown’s Profile is a retained consulting firm incorporating distinct team building and talent strategies utilizing proprietary technology and behavioral assessment infrastructure. Our mission — help people get better at people.
Chad Q. Brown