Brandt On Leadership -- Dumb Bosses Day

Dec. 21, 2004
Celebrating the paranoid, irrational, grasping fool inside all of us.

All of us have had Dumb Bosses. And most of us have been Dumb Bosses, at one time or another. (Note: If you think you haven't, then you already are, by definition, a Dumb Boss.) Yet in a calendar full of appreciation days (Secretary's Day, Grandparents Day, National Cumquat Awareness Day), where is the day to thank those idiots who made parts of our careers unbearable? The imbeciles without whose grating personalities and boneheaded decision-making we might never have left unhappy jobs? When, too, do we celebrate the Inner Dumb Boss that most of us fight? That paranoid, irrational, grasping fool whose first impulse is always to do the wrong thing, held back only by his fear of doing anything that might arouse his own Dumb Boss? I realize that there already is a Bosses Day (Oct. 16), but let's face it, that's for suck ups who think a free lunch or a pair of insipid bookends might grease a promotion their way. I'm proposing the Real Deal: Let's make Aug. 23 the first annual National Dumb Bosses Day. But I'll need your help in making it the Dumbest Success ever. First, as to why Aug. 23: For no good reason, in the spirit of Dumb Bosses everywhere, except that it's on a Monday, most of your co-workers will be on vacation, and you'll have to be at work anyway. Second, as for why I need your help: I want your Dumb Boss Stories to help celebrate Dumb Bosses Day. Send them to me at [email protected], and in a subsequent issue I'll print the best story from each of four Dumb categories, including: Emotional Insensitivity: Best example: It's the close friend of mine who, in trying to appear sympathetic, asked an employee how his mother was feeling after her recent cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately for my friend, he remembered what had happened to the poor woman even as the words escaped his lips. His employee simply stared in disbelief. "Well," the employee finally said, "She's dead." Ignorant Greed: This category appeals to the Dumb Boss who manages, in his thirst for money, attention and credit for all things good and profitable, to torpedo his own ambition. Special consideration will be given to those managers who attempt to steal their subordinates' ideas, projects, promotions or bonuses, only to end up ruining their own careers, departments or companies. Willful Stupidity: For the boss whose ego, vanity and impenetrable self-confidence regarding customer needs makes him A) completely ignore an important new customer trend, and/or B) completely disregard the opinions of staff who actually talk to (and understand) customers. My personal favorite was a CEO who bought a company in a completely different line of business, then announced to his new staff that he didn't need them or to understand their particular industry, because he knew so much about success in general. Revenues have fallen nearly 70% (so far). Utter Cluelessness: This is a sort of combination catch-all and MVP category, offering an opportunity to either recognize a unique Dumb Boss Achievement or, through a variety of career anecdotes, a Dumb Boss Hall of Fame Candidate. Special consideration will be given to those executives whose Clouseau-like paths through the halls of commerce have left the greatest swath of comic destruction. That's it. Send me your stories and celebrate Dumb Bosses Day in the best way possible: Revenge. And don't take him or her to lunch! 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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