Bad Boss BS: “Don’t worry, I’ve sorted that for you.”

What do you do when your boss represents more of a threat than an asset to your work?

Four 2d characters have various expressions as a three-dimensional “bad boss” character approaches like a rolling pin or steam roller.

A loose cannon isn’t simply a dead weight.

A loose cannon isn’t simply a dead weight. It’s a dangerous force that can imbalance work, flatten enthusiasm, damage alliances, add unpredictability during unsteady moments and generally make life harder. A bad boss can have this effect on your work for a number of reasons. Like most bad-boss interventions, the key to understanding what we can do to help the situation is to diagnose it. Given what you know of the boss, what are the dangers they pose to your work and progress?

Manage them like a stakeholder

  1. Supporter/Opponent — is the boss a supporter or opponent of the work or your approach/recommendations? Do they agree or disagree with your short term or longer term recommendations? If they object, why? And how might you overcome their objections to turn them into a supporter
  2. Know/Don’t know — what do they need to know to be a useful advocate of the work (or know enough not to make it harder)? Bosses often won’t want all the details. But what’s the vital information and beliefs they need to have grasped in order to mitigate the risk of derailing the work?
  3. Sphere of activity & influence — what are the key forums and relationships that the boss has access to which can unlock or block progress to the work? Is there a meeting where the work might be discussed? Is there a person that they might meet between meetings that could be an ally or an opponent of the work?
A “bad boss” that looks like a rolling pin has seemingly flattened a person — a chalk outline marks where the crime was committed.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to a bad boss flattening your project or ambitions.

Please Participate

If you’ve had an experience of a bad boss, have a story to share or want advice, you can participate in this series by sending a message to @danramsden or completing this contributor form. I’m hoping to build a community around the experience of bad bosses — and share advice and practical adaptations so that we remain effective. There’ll be at least one post every week. If you have something to share, please get in touch.



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I'm a Creative director at the BBC. I like words, design, data and magic. These are all my own views (apart from retweets. I borrowed those to look clever.)