Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is Your Manager "Crazy"?

An email from a reader, titled "Crazy Manager":

I recently found your Great Leadership website and I really need some help. I work in a small independently owned retail shop. We only have 4 employees and we have all worked here for over 2 years. Due to seniority, one of the employees is the manager. Now, the difficulty comes from a few different areas. This woman has severe bi-polar tendencies. When she is in a bad mood, the world is ending. She also got her boyfriend a job at the store. Lets just call her Jane to make things easier. Jane will come into work and immediately begin accusing us of not getting our work done. She will not ask questions about why things didn't get accomplished, its just straight to the complaining. She also treats us like children, even her boyfriend at times, talking down to us. Her computer skills are lacking but she refuses to allow any of the other employees to help her. Jane will begin projects, get frustrated and then expect everyone to pick up after her. Her needs always come first, with no consideration to the rest of us. She is creating a poisonous work environment. She constantly complains about how no one respects her, but how can we when she acts this way? These issues have been brought up to the owner, but we don't know what to do. The owner will never fire her, and a demotion will only cause her to lash out at the rest of us. How do you resolve such big personality issues without someone loosing their job? None of us want to quit because we love this job, but we cannot continue as we are.

I hereby declare that this will be my last "help, my boss is crazy" post. Believe me, my heart truly goes out to you people, but I'm sorry, I can't help you. These managers need way more than I can provide -like an anonymous EAP referral. I'm in the business of helping current and aspiring leaders develop - the ones that want to.
I'm not a shrink, so if a manager has a mental health issue, they need to get professional medical help.

In the case above, "Jane" should never have been put in a leadership role. She's a disaster. Why in the world was she allowed to hire her boyfriend? And why is the owner OK with this nonsense, perhaps the business at risk?

I've responded to similar letters and written about crazy and bad managers here, here, here, here, and here. It seems there's a awful lot of them around. Here's one theory: maybe you have to be crazy to become a manager; and it you're not, being a manager can make you crazy.

Anyway, the options are always about the same:

1. Do what you can to make the situation better, i.e., help her become a better manager.
It sounds like you've tired to help Jane improve her computer skills, and she won't accept the help. Most of the leader's I've worked with are very open to constructive feedback and willing to change, but again, these are "normal", mature individuals. For this type of manager, here's a good post from SmartBlog on Workforce called 5 Ways to Manage Your Boss Better.

2. Go to the manager's manager, or HR, your union rep, or seek outside representation.
It sounds like you're taken the issue to the owner.... have others? Are customers complaining? If she really is that bad, it will catch up to her and she will eventually implode. You might just have to cope and wait it out.

3. Get out. Find another job.
From what you've described (a "poisonous" work environment), it's hard for me to understand how you and your co-workers could love this job.
Sometimes people fear change so much they are willing to put up with all kinds of abuse (just like in abusive relationships). Why not explore other opportunities? What is it about this job that you like so much? Use that for your criteria in finding another job. You have options, and you deserve better than this. There are lot's of excellent career websites and resources to help in your job search.

I wish you all the best!

The original post included a list of "Management Mental Illnesses", intended to be a humorous list of dysfunctional management behaviors labeled as mental diseases. It was in poor taste and I apologize if I offended anyone or did anything to perpetuate a negative stereotype. That's not my blogging style and I should have shown better judgement.


Debashish Brahma said...

Yes, you sometimes come across Crazy Boss; I had a Boss like that he always used to think he was RIGHT.

As he is a BOSS he's OK, everybody under him is not O.K. that is the reason why he is our Boss.

At times you have Crazy Boss like that, and many of them are "CREDIT STEALERS' deliberately they will find faults in you.

They can't communicate in Adult -Adult mode, their communication is Parent -Child mode.

They themselves are problem child.

Janna Rust said...

The one thing that comes to my mind about the situation described, aside from "why are these people staying at this job" is a thought about the manager and a quote I just read recently.

The thought from the quote goes something like this. The people who aren't aware of the problem don't have the solution to the problem. This manager is clueless, and so is the owner apparently. Too many people are promoted for the wrong reasons and into the wrong positions. Then...the damage is done, costing lots of time and energy in the process of dealing with the one wrong decision.

Great post. And I loved your mental health/management definitions too! :)

Dan McCarthy said...

Debashish -
Thanks for sharing that!

Janna -
Thanks. You have a good point. It also reminds me of the frog in the frying pan story.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Good suggestions that could pretty well apply to dealing with unreasonable people generally.

G Neil said...

When you have to drag yourself to work and feel like it's "poisonous" while you're there is no way to work. But, right now it may be tough to just go out and find another one. If you really can't stand working for this person, you should be actively looking for a new job somewhere else. I'm a big believer in karma, if this crazy boss doesn't lose her job now, she will soon.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the owner is too embarrassed to do anything because they feel it was their fault the person was promoted and don't want to 'punish' that person for their own faults.

One situation was so bad that the owner/manager came in before his secretary, waited till she went to lunch to come out of his office and stayed in until she left.

Anonymous said...

In some cases, and probably most cases, owners are really concerned with the bottom line. Is the manager producing desired results? That's all that matters to them. And from a managerial stand point, they have to maintain an "I know best" attitude, because otherwise, employees will consistently *try* them, and such conflict looks like the manager can't manage his or her staff.