Brandt On Leadership -- Dumb And Dumber

Dec. 21, 2004
Winners of the 'dumb bosses' contest are stunningly stupid.

The results of the first-ever National Dumb Bosses Day (scheduled for Aug. 23) Contest are in, and they're, well, staggeringly dumb. Readers have responded with countless tales of low-rent chicanery, petty viciousness and astounding boobhood; thank you for both your candor and for all the laughs your bottom-of-the-barrel managers provided. I could comment -- noting, for example, that nominations for willful stupidity and emotional insensitivity far outnumbered those in other categories -- but in truth, the stories speak for themselves. Below you'll find our winners in each category (sorry, no prizes except for the satisfaction of knowing that your dumb boss' misdeeds have been publicly exposed). With some editing but no further adieu: Emotional Insensitivity (co-winners): From DM: I got my start in human resources at a manufacturing company; my direct supervisor was a vice president. Early in my career he called and said he would like to hire a "handicapped" individual. I agreed that this was an admirable goal and offered to assist. I mentioned the local Easter Seals rehab facility along with some of the mental health facilities in our area My boss's reply? "I don't want to get involved with any druggies or alkies, and I don't want to be bothered with any of this accessibility stuff. Maybe you can find me someone with a small hand or a wooden leg." From CB: I had the dubious pleasure of working at a large manufacturer where one of the workers keeled over and died of a massive heart attack on the line. Later that day, the shop manager noticed that the now-deceased employee hadn't punched out. He asked why. One of the line workers heard the question and told him that the worker had "punched out permanently." When the shop manager asked what he meant, the employee replied, "He died, you %$$@. They wheeled him out of here this morning." Said the manager: "Oh." Later we learned that shop manager had marked the guy's time card to show he didn't work the full day, so that he wouldn't get paid for the time he was dead. Ignorant Greed: From SR: An owner felt that we were drinking too much coffee, so he bought smaller Styrofoam cups figuring we would drink less. Then he discovered that the stir sticks were too long and knocked the cups over. This man sat in the lunch room and cut the sticks in half (there are about 1,000 per box). Unfortunately, they were now too short and he had to throw all of them away. Great savings plan! Willful Stupidity: From DM: A few years back we were evaluated on our Quality of Work, Quantity of Work, and Attendance & Safety. When my boss handed me my year-end evaluation, I was quite pleased to see checkmarks in the "excellent" box for each category. However, my delight turned to confusion when he explained I would not get a raise because my Quantity of Work was too high. He went on to say that I should slow down and pace myself, so that he wouldn't have to keep so busy finding me things to do. Funnier yet, his boss signed it, too, and it resides in my history folder. Utter Cluelessness: From BH: I worked for a dumb boss years back. One day I asked a drafting intern (20-year-old woman) if she understood a particular project and her assigned tasks. My boss overheard and said: "Of course Angie understands. She has a pornographic memory!" This boss also had his desk positioned against a glass wall. When he fell asleep at his computer -- which was often -- his finger would press a key on the keyboard and his entire screen would be filled with the letter EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE or whatever key he happened to be typing as he nodded. We would all walk by and shake our heads. Everything turned out all right in the end, though. He was promoted to plant manager. John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, is CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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