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LOEWEN: Exorcising the toxic manager

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
April 23, 2014 - 6:59 AM

'TAKE HEART. IF YOU STAND YOUR GROUND, YOU'LL PROBABLY BE FINE.'

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
nah, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
And he hands you a dime
And he asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
Nah… I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more

(Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm”)

Toxic Managers. Bad Bosses. They proliferate like dung beetles on the carrion heap of Capitalism in its dying, final stages.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, gentle reader.

Not all bosses are the bane of their employees’ existence. In my own experience, managers and other bosses have been mentors, encouragers, highly-charged cheerleaders who understand human nature and lead with the visionary acuity of a clairvoyant. My current boss is one of these rare breeds; and I am lucky to have his ear and his sage counsel when I need it. He’s a Mensch.

But then there are the baddies. And, whoa Nelly, some of their antics beggar belief.

Sometimes it’s difficult to identify the Bad Boss. If the business you walk into seems like a bustling, positive place, with smiling employees who look you in the eye with a cheery hello, chances are they have a pretty decent dude or dudette at the helm steering the ship without drama.

There’s a saying amongst the Business Bobs and Bettys of our time, that you get promoted to your lowest level of incompetence. And it’s a saying that has some merit to it.

All too often, however, the fine filters in the Human Resources department haven’t done their due diligence and a business gets saddled with a baddy who will eventually flog the place into a soul-shattered old nag. These are the Toxic Managers. They cannot be forgiven for being simply out of their depth, incompetent. These bosses are thinly-disguised psychopaths, and pariahs to the employees they intend to destroy during their reign of terror.

If any of you, folks, happen to work beneath one of these wankers, you have my deepest sympathy. Life is too short to feel sick and depressed about rising each morning for yet another round of brow-beating at the hands of a Baddy Boss.

Let me tell you about only one of these Putzes, and you’ll appreciate your own good boss for the saint that he or she may be.

A friend of mine, let’s call him “Everett,”  has been languishing under the tyrannical rule of a Toxic Manager for over a year now. He manages a location of one of the nation’s stores with an iron fist steelier than the Kaiser’s, and a heart smaller than a shrew’s. Let’s call him “Dick Satan.”

Before Satan’s arrival at the shop, the place went without a General Manager for several months before a new manager was found to replace the much-loved predecessor. And business continued apace, more or less uninterrupted, as a well-managed business should. Customers came and left happy that they had been well-served by sales professionals who knew their stuff. Somehow, the administrative and sales staff ran the place by the books, brokered any collegial disputes with equanimity and grace, and generally manifested the business philosophy of the corporate head office.

And then Dick Satan darkened the doorstep.

Casting his cold eyes across his new domain, an overhead light triggering an eye-catching glint atop his freshly-polished pate, the employees gathered to meet their new Man. Rumour had it that he’d achieved great success in another industry, and was now eager to translate these other-worldly lessons-learnt into the new context of Everett’s workplace.

No doubt, gentle reader, you can tell where we’re headin’ here, and it ain’t “Heaven’s Door.”

After a couple months of working under Satan’s ever watchful eye, professional sales people of long standing began leaving the well-regarded shop. They were tired of the micro-managing, the nit-picking, the inability to grasp the most elementary aspects of the various systems needed to make a large going concern a large going concern.

They smarted at Satan’s favouritism on the sales floor, honouring one colleague with a bauble of recognition while publicly berating another colleague in front of employees and customers alike.

Some senior sales associates left to work for the competition, while others simply decided that they’d had enough and maybe it was time to take an early retirement.

Perhaps the most vicious insult sustained by my long-suffering friend, Everett, came a few months back when he was called into Satan’s lair for yet another micro-managerial stripping down, with its inevitable “write up” for breaching some petty policy. Everett’s “file” of write-ups had long passed the three-strikes-and-you’re-out standard of most managers and was by now a teetering Tower Of Babel, spilling out over Dick Satan’s desk when Everett entered the sour-milk stench of The Office.

“You know,” Dick Satan began, his pointy shoes crossed on top of his write-up and yogurt-container strewn desk, “none of your colleagues even like you…”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Everett asked, incredulous.

“Ya. It’s true. They say you’re too aggressive, you’re too competitive,” droned Satan.

“Well, I am the top-producer here, Dick, and a member of the store’s exclusive Kompany Kryptonite Klub. Maybe there’s a little jealousy out there; but I know my colleagues, and we get along just fine…”

“Uh, I don’t think so, pal. See this here list?” Dick Satan raised a crooked finger, tapping it on an official-looking transcript of all of Everett’s alleged deficiencies. “This here list says something different, champ.”

In this blessed moment, Everett grew a pair. He’d had enough.

Even a violence-denying Doukhobor would have responded the same, as Everett slowly approached the seated Satan and, within inches of his mug, screamed, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT? HUH? WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”

And with that, Satan seemed to shrivel into silence. “And as for your goddamn write-ups, I ain’t signing another one. EVER! And I’m not quitting, SIR!” And with that, Everett turned on his heel and left The Office, a wafting of fresh air greeting him with seeming applause.

Now, gentle reader, please don’t be alarmed.

Everett still works in the same joint and Dick Satan continues to preside over his Pit. But he limps with a little more caution around his employees. For his part, Everett hasn’t been asked to sign another self-condemning write-up; and old Satan has been revealed for the schoolyard bully that he is: a wuss who will do nothing, nada, zippo, if someone has the tenacity to preserve one’s dignity.

So, for the record, gentle reader:

If you find yourself working for one of the Toxic Managers out there, take heart. If you stand your ground, you’ll probably be fine. Eventually your bossy Baddy will perish under the weight of his or her own misdeeds. And if the Baddy stays put and you truly need to change  jobs, research the outfit you’re thinking of jumping into first; OR, start up a new business of your own.

I hear there’s a new field about to explode out there, and you’ll never run out of clients. The new career is called “Corporate Exorcist” and it will take you global, Daddio. Get in there while the gettin’s good.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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