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The Fine Art of 'Boss Science'

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the hot-air-rises-is-a-pretty-basic-principle dept.

Businesses 209

BoredStiff writes "NYMag has up an article that explores Boss Science and the minds of American corporate leaders. In the real world, bosses are known to suffer from a long list of social pathologies: naked aggression, credit hogging, micromanaging, bullying, you name it. Leadership research shows that subtle nasty moves like glaring and condescending comments, explicit moves like insults or put-downs, and even physical intimidation can be effective paths to power. Research also shows that employees tend to see the jerk as boss material. The article goes on to discuss some of the science bosses apply to making an operation run smoothly: 'A researcher reported that one law firm deconstructs its HR needs by personality traits. It insists on extremely bright employees who are also extremely insecure. 'They want them to think that working really hard matters,' he explains. Through this prism, personality types can even be mixed and matched to make a team function more efficiently.'"

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209 comments

Conversely (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18708265)

Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability. The danger of this is that they will not stay because they are hired away, but honestly if your employees are not being recruited by everyone else out there, they are not the best and brightest.

The Enneagram (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#18708423)

It's not just your workers, it's what the workers want out of the job. Do they want to be seen as the heros? Do they want the drama? Do they want to it to be done exactly right? Do they want to tell other people to do the work?

There are a number of books focused on that. The Enneagram covers 9 different styles.

Take that and apply the Peter Principle and you have a good understanding of why bosses are such jerks. 8 out of 9 times, they won't have the same goals that you have (and the other time they'll be in active competition with you) and they're not skilled enough to handle the situation.

Re:The Enneagram (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18708673)

It's not just your workers, it's what the workers want out of the job.

Precisely. Some folks are just in it for the paycheck, but that does not mean that they do not do their work with any lesser degree of competency. Other folks are in it to be famous while others still are doing their jobs to be influential. The trick is to create an environment where all approaches can be fostered and yet still maintain productivity, a sense of satisfaction (for you and your employees), and a positive income.

Do they want to be seen as the heros?

Heros I can take working for me. They tend to work very hard, are people pleasers and can often be trusted (they make good classified materials risks). The dangerous part about them is that they also tend to be co-dependent which for the company is not often a problem, but it leads to problems in their personal lives.

Do they want the drama?

These people I *don't* want to work with. They are always sabotaging productivity in the name of something happening where they are at the center of attention. They such cycles and personnel time up like no other with the exception of the pathological narcissist.

Do they want to it to be done exactly right?

Fine, but allow them the opportunity to see failure as a learning experience. It (failure) will happen and if you encourage a culture of insisting everything is done without mistakes, you never hear about the mistakes that end up biting you in the ass down the road.

Do they want to tell other people to do the work?

No, it is a team and if they want the glory without the work then they don't work for me.

It depends upon the job. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#18709245)

Heros I can take working for me. They tend to work very hard, are people pleasers and can often be trusted (they make good classified materials risks).

Those aren't the heros I was referring to. I'm talking about the ones who skip steps that they know aren't needed ... and then show everyone how great they are when they fix the problems. Even though those problems would have been caught earlier or prevented if all the steps had been followed. On the other hand, heros make good firefighters (real ones, who put out real fires).

These people I *don't* want to work with. They are always sabotaging productivity in the name of something happening where they are at the center of attention.

Drama r0xx0r in advertising and entertainment and fashion and so forth. If you're doing tech, drama SUCKS!

Fine, but allow them the opportunity to see failure as a learning experience.
:D
Not when you're managing a nuclear plant. (Which is also a bad match for the heros and drama queens.)

What personality types you want on your team (if you even want a team) depends more on what the job is. If you get the right mix at the right job, you won't even need a boss. But that's extremely rare.

But I think the biggest problem with that article is that it mentions some of the different types ... but then doesn't try to look at the "jerk's" relationship with those other types. What happens when you have two narcissistics on a team? They can't BOTH be the boss. What if you have two assholes? Two jerks? THREE?

And they only really covered one type: the narcissistic who won't even stick around but hops to a new job as soon as one is available.

Now imagine working for a perfectionist jerk (do it over and get it right this time).
Or a drama queen jerk (watch "The Devil Wears Prada").
Or a hero jerk (nothing leaves his desk until it's a crisis).

Re:Conversely (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 7 years ago | (#18708567)

'Research also shows that employees tend to see the jerk as boss material.'

That's just to remove him as a co-worker and inflict him on other bosses!
(I really wish that weren't a joke ;)

Re:Conversely (5, Insightful)

mdkess (1070356) | about 7 years ago | (#18708699)

I think one of the big issues with this is that becoming a manager is the only way that an employee can advance their career. So when your brilliant engineer decides that he needs more money, his or her only option is to go into management, and the company ends up losing a talented engineer and ends up with a bad manager who probably wishes they could be an engineer again, and all of a sudden doesn't like his job anymore. Also, you might have an average engineer who would be a great manager, but the system fails again in this regard because this guy won't get noticed.

Re:Conversely (2, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18708791)

HP used to have a policy of only promoting people to management who had been engineers. This had a couple of benefits including the managers ability to know work flows and products as well as still allowing the manager to be able to participate in the work and product development. This of course changed as part of the culture shift at HP around the same time somebody had the bright idea of canceling their RPN calculators.

However, to more directly answer your point, smarter companies distribute managerial duties amongst a number of senior people yet still allow those people to participate in the work. Of course they need to understand that a manager does not necessarily mean a pay scale increase. Rather they need to continue to reward their productive employees with different pay scales for say engineering (apprentice, junior, blah blah blah, senior, fellow).

Re:Conversely (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#18709301)

Of course they need to understand that a manager does not necessarily mean a pay scale increase.

If there's no pay scale increase for becoming a manager, then what's the incentive to give up an engineering job to become a manager? It seems like the only people who'd be interested in management in this situation are those who are poor/mediocre engineers and/or more interested in politics and empire-building than actually doing productive work. This is exactly what I saw in my last company, which was another big tech company where managers were all former engineers, and there wasn't necessarily more pay for going into management.

management and pay scales (4, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | about 7 years ago | (#18709567)

Right... I think a good bit of what really happens is, people join the ranks of "management", and then they discover that they have more control over their payscale than they ever did before. If you're an engineer for example, the best you can probably hope for is that all of your hard work and willingness to pull long hours when needed gets noticed, so you get a few extra percent when your annual raise comes around. But your pay is still pretty much fixed, based on what *management* has decided the range of pay will be for that position.

Once you're part of management, you can position yourself so your team of people beneath you accomplishes goals that you can then at least partially claim credit for, thereby giving you "easy reasons" for your own pay raise. They do the work, and you share in the reward. Furthermore, you have all these other tools at your disposal (in many cases). You get the say-so in deciding if your team should hire on additional staff, or cut back, or simply stay put with a "hiring freeze". When you dislike an employee's personality, you can make him go away. The rest of the team just has to put up with these problems, or else potentially face disciplinary measures including docking their pay! And of course, you can juggle all the numbers to put yourself in the most positive light possible, to further justify your own pay raise. (The rest of the people working beneath you probably don't even have access to those numbers, much less authority to present them to top-level execs.)

Re:management and pay scales (5, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | about 7 years ago | (#18710065)

A few secrets:

- Management typically sees engineers as a means to an end, and an interchangable means at that. You pay market rate for engineering and they get the job done. Engineers do NOT make companies money - products do. If you want to make money as an engineer, you do NOT do it as an employee. You do it the way lawyers do - the retainer and contract model. Engineers are STUPID for agreeing to be employees. You sold your soul (and market power) for an easy paycheque.

- Profit comes from managing capital, NOT engineering. Managers are paid more because they manage the capital. That's what makes companies work.

I don't agree with all this, but it's based on my observtions of how the world works. If you want to make money as an engineer, look at how lawyers do it. Otherwise, you better be an entrepreneur, or willing to work the corporate management ladder.

No, no, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18710213)

Right. If you're working for someone, you are a wage slave. What do you expect? To become rich because you can write some software?

If you become a manager, you'll find out it's not as easy as you think. You're still a wage slave, they just pay you a bit more (but not more enough to really matter, unless you can find some way to ass-lick your way to the top after 25 years of pain, and that's a low-probability outcome). Then there's the hypocrisy that's forced upon you when a stupid company policy handed down from above restricts employees in some unreasonable way, and you're expected to enforce it, explain it, and support it. Then there are the employees who don't pull their weight, but feel entitled anyway. These include the reality-changers, people who can lie to your face and believe their own lies. Or the guy that can't deliver a working module, but claims (against all the available evidence) that he did. Or claims that it's someone else's fault. Or whines about the schedule, or his personal life, or his colleagues, or his raise, or his working conditions.

IT people are the worst. They are, as a class, the most spoiled, self-righteous group of 20-20 hindsight assholes I've ever had to manage. And by "IT people" I don't mean programmers. I mean sysadmins, network admins, and db admins. It's never their fault, it's always someone else's fault. We should have bought this, we should have bought that, the servers need to be replaced, blah blah blah. Always an excuse, and always a reason why their own incompetence wasn't the root cause. And always ready to sell their management down the river to the first bigwig who calls them in for a "confidential chat."

I finally got fed up and fired the lot. Rotated the positions among the programmers. They hated it, but it worked. Suddenly everything ran smoothly, backups were professionally done, scripts were written to automate all the stupid keyboard-banging that the IT monkeys were continually doing, etc. Good riddance.
 

Re:Conversely (1)

j-pimp (177072) | about 7 years ago | (#18709889)

Of course they need to understand that a manager does not necessarily mean a pay scale increase.

If there's no pay scale increase for becoming a manager, then what's the incentive to give up an engineering job to become a manager? It seems like the only people who'd be interested in management in this situation are those who are poor/mediocre engineers and/or more interested in politics and empire-building than actually doing productive work. This is exactly what I saw in my last company, which was another big tech company where managers were all former engineers, and there wasn't necessarily more pay for going into management.

What about the people that want to teach? Do you not have any of those in your company? How about not promoting people unless they teach. Require management candidates to teach workshops and such. The problem with your company seems that they got it half right. If you give managers a higher payscale, people will sell out, and not be happy. However, positions of power always attract those that seek power. You have to cultivate an environment of teaching. That involves rewarding those that teach. Put up a wiki for the developers and thank those that contribute to it.

Re:Conversely (2, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | about 7 years ago | (#18709855)

Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability.
Sure, you can do that and sleep like a baby... while your competition laughs all the way to the bank (and their employees stare nervously at the ceiling all night long while shaking from the weird mix of antidepressants). You'll still fold first. The problem with evil is that in the real world, and *especially* the corporate world, it pretty much always wins. And what's more, once someone starts bending the rules, everybody *has* to do the same or be left behind to shrivel and die.

Yes it would be nice if the world was fair. It might even be the sign that we're a civilised society. However currently the world is what it is (i.e. certainly not fair at all) and that is one of the most important lessons to be learned, bitter as it is.

On a side note, it might be useful to remember that the legal system doesn't have anything to do with being fair. Would you expect physics to be fair ? The legal system has to to with the implementation of a set of local rules which you may or may not see as fair (but this is completely irrelevant). (hence the comparison with physics)

Re:Conversely (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 7 years ago | (#18710163)

Sure, you can do that and sleep like a baby...

Or, you can stay far enough in front that nobody else knows or is ready for what you are doing. Admittedly this is easier in the hard core sciences (where I live). When you start making widgets or providing services, all bets are off here.

And what's more, once someone starts bending the rules, everybody *has* to do the same or be left behind to shrivel and die.

Alternatively, you could act in an honorable manner and expect, no demand that those companies who work with you/for you/supply to you also act with honesty and respect for their employees and customers.

Yes it would be nice if the world was fair. It might even be the sign that we're a civilised society. However currently the world is what it is (i.e. certainly not fair at all) and that is one of the most important lessons to be learned, bitter as it is.

This is the problem we are currently facing with big business and politics. Everybody has come to expect that our politicians and industry leaders are pathological liars with no ability or willingness to do the right thing. Is this acceptable? If we accept this, does it mean the fall of our culture/civilization? The USA is only a couple hundred years old you know...

On a side note, it might be useful to remember that the legal system doesn't have anything to do with being fair.

Funny, in civics class back in high school and college, fairness was what we were taught the legal system was all about. The establishment of rules and laws that enabled the Constitutional structure that this country was built upon.

Would you expect physics to be fair ?

Physics is what it is... A set of rules and laws that govern a reasonable set of expectations that are set in a framework of understanding. Law should be like that, but we have this little notion called free will. Humans fsck it all up, but physics itself is pure. The trick is that humans can be punished when they violate cultural laws while physicists are celebrated for violating physical laws.

Re:Conversely (1)

Fred_A (10934) | about 7 years ago | (#18710263)

As an addendum to this, I wanted to add that I believe the above mostly applies to medium/large to large/transnational companies but that smallish companies can actually be run in a decent way.

I am *very* familiar with companies on the *large* (as in transnational multibillion) side for various familial reasons and shady deals were and are now increasingly unavoidable. By shady, I mean both in a moral and in a structural sense, in moral as in a *major* lab deciding to layoff 10% of it's worldwide work force because some sort of seer decided that it would benefit the company in 2012 (really), on the year (2006) when it made the highest profit ever, or shady as in *any* plane (European or US, or make that a weapons company if you like) company "buying" a contract.

Business is a nasty place.

Re:Conversely (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 7 years ago | (#18710491)

Or! You can find the best talent there is, treat your employees with respect, compensate them fairly (or very well if they are particularly valuable) and work from the perspective that a place of work is a place of education where people will gather skills and hopefully work to the best of their ability.
Holy shit dude. With insight like that, any company you start/manage is bound to dominate the market and take over the world!

Coincidence? (4, Funny)

zyl0x (987342) | about 7 years ago | (#18708285)

Boss Science reminds me of another acronym.. can't seem to remember it, but I'm sure it had something to do with upper management..

Re:Coincidence? (1, Redundant)

ion++ (134665) | about 7 years ago | (#18708415)

Maybe it was the initials? BS? Bull Shit?

Re:Coincidence? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708939)

Maybe it was the initials? BS? Bull Shit?
Wow.
Just...
Wow.

Hey guys. Could you leave your little brothers at home next time?

Re:Coincidence? (4, Informative)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about 7 years ago | (#18708815)

Canonical abbreviation. NASA is an acronym because you pronounce it. FDA is a canonical abbreviation because you don't. Sadly, the distinction is nearly gone, but there used to be a difference, and it wasn't all that long ago.

Re:Coincidence? (2, Interesting)

Xiaran (836924) | about 7 years ago | (#18709417)

The things is that that can get very fuzzy, when some people procounce things and others dont. For example I worked with some Germans that pronounced VOIP. The told me that everyone in germany says VOIP. I used to know a guy that called ATMs "at ems".

Re:Coincidence? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 7 years ago | (#18709727)

Hodl on- you don't pronounce VOIP? I don't know anyone in the US who says Vee oh eye pee. Its VOIP.

Re:Coincidence? (1)

Xiaran (836924) | about 7 years ago | (#18710079)

I dont actually. I always say Voice Over Eye Pee. But Im an Australian living in London... I usually say Ess Emm Essing rather than texting.

In Other Words: +3, Insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708305)

Bosses are psychopaths [whitehouse.org] .

Thanks for the insight.

Kilgore Trout, M.D.

Works for elections too! (4, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18708335)

"employees tend to see the jerk as boss material."

And voters tend to see the jerk as presidential material.

Re:Works for elections too! (2, Funny)

endianx (1006895) | about 7 years ago | (#18708411)

Which country are you referring too? Here in the US, I don't think there has been a president in my lifetime that was perceived as a jerk.

Re:Works for elections too! (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#18708467)

Hey, all else about his politics and lifestyle aside, wasn't Bill Clinton pretty widely perceived as a jerk for sleeping around (and then lying about it in court)?

Re:Works for elections too! (1, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 years ago | (#18708579)

wasn't Bill Clinton pretty widely perceived as a jerk for sleeping around (and then lying about it in court)?
I think he was perceived as a jerk because of the big fat hound he chose to sleep around with. I may be wrong.

Re:Works for elections too! (0, Offtopic)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about 7 years ago | (#18709899)

the big fat hound

Any chance you can narrow it down a bit? I can think of three off the top of my head that you just described.

Re:Works for elections too! (1)

anlprb (130123) | about 7 years ago | (#18710267)

Here's what I don't get. Leader of the free world, couldn't he have bagged a Spice Girl?

Re:Works for elections too! (2, Funny)

metlin (258108) | about 7 years ago | (#18710611)

I think he was perceived as a jerk because of the big fat hound he chose to sleep around with. I may be wrong.


Dude, have you *seen* Hillary [blog-city.com] ?! :-\

That poor man.

Re:Works for elections too! (1)

endianx (1006895) | about 7 years ago | (#18709649)

Yeah he was perceived as being sort of a...sleaze?

But never really as mean or condescending. He was generally well liked as a person.

Re:Works for elections too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18709493)

I don't think there has been a president in my lifetime that was perceived as a jerk.

You type pretty well for a guy who died over 6 years ago.

What matters then? (5, Insightful)

touch0phgmail.com (1087675) | about 7 years ago | (#18708353)

It insists on extremely bright employees who are also extremely insecure. 'They want them to think that working really hard matters,' he explains.
Then what really does matter in the workplace?

Re:What matters then? (3, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | about 7 years ago | (#18708681)

Succeeding. It's just as easy to work hard on the wrong thing.

Re:What matters then? (4, Interesting)

Mab_Mass (903149) | about 7 years ago | (#18709191)

Or, to put it another way, the only thing that should matter to an employer is that you add more value to the company than it costs to pay you.

Emphasis here on should. Too often, people only care about how many hours you put in and think that more hours is the sign of a better employee. I personally side with an old boss of mine who thought that someone working constant overtime is a sign of a problem. Either that person's boss is piling on too many tasks or that person is in the wrong position.

Then, there was another boss I had who took the attitude that management is a service done to those "under" you, where the manager's role was to shelter them from higher level BS and help them get the job done.

I had another boss once who told us that we shouldn't be "afraid" to come in on evenings and weekends. He was an asshole.

Now, I'm rambling. -1 offtopic

What does "manage" mean? (1)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#18709379)

To mean it means that the manager is RESPONSIBLE for getting the time, materials, funding, resources, etc to his/her people so that they can finish the job/project/etc in the time required.

If you (the worker) are dealing with political bullshit, your manager is not doing a good enough job. The same with putting in overtime or having to scrounge for resources or doing a half-assed job just so you can meet the deadline.

Re:What matters then? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 7 years ago | (#18709509)

I think the bosses that like to see people working overtime have either two things, trying to show that they have too much work to do to upper management, or the direct production idea as if everyone was a factory worker.

If you are stamping out cogs at 10 an hour and work an hour of overtime you get an extra 10 cogs stamped out.

If you ware writing code and work an hour of overtime you may get an hours worth of codeing, you may get some burn out, you may even set yourself back if done at a time you should sleep on it and finish that hours worth of work in 10 minutes the next morning.

Re:What matters then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708713)

Being vapid, dull yet petty and scheming? Being prepared to stab your workmates in the back for a little more power?

That's what I've seen employers rewarding most in my 15 years ungainful employment within the bowels of corporate hell.

Re:What matters then? (5, Insightful)

Anomolous Cowturd (190524) | about 7 years ago | (#18709027)

Getting shit done.

Some people can get shit done without working really hard.

Some people work really hard and never seem to get anything done.

Which would you rather employ?

Re:What matters then? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 7 years ago | (#18709553)

Some people lift weights.

Some people do yard work.

Both get good exercise. One actually accomplishes something useful.

I always laugh when someone first pays to go to the gym then pays someone to cut their grass.

Re:What matters then? (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 7 years ago | (#18710433)

Except yard work isn't very good exercise. Cutting the grass is about as strenuous as lifting the lighting possible weight in the gym.

Re:What matters then? (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 7 years ago | (#18709777)

In the last few places I've worked, the people who work long hours are the ones that are the most desirable.

Never mind that I always get stuff done on time or ahead of schedule. What matters is that I'm not warming up a chair for more that 40 hours a week.

Re:What matters then? (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | about 7 years ago | (#18709057)

"Salesmanship"

Back when H.P. Lovecraft was flat broke and wasn't making money selling his stories (of course, he never really made money from writing while he was alive, If he were alive now he'd have a Gillion dollars), he tried for a job as a salesman. The man who did the hiring told him he was too much of a gentleman for it.

You either had to be a charmer, someone with a really magnetic personality, or a very rude and disagreeable person who ignored civility in dealing with strangers.

The second, according to the article, is very important in getting promotions at work, and in my opinion the first would work just as well.

In other words, mastery of office politics and not mastery of whatever it is you were originally hired to do is the key to getting ahead at the office. Sad but true.

Re:What matters then? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 7 years ago | (#18709335)

'In other words, mastery of office politics and not mastery of whatever it is you were originally hired to do is the key to getting ahead at the office. Sad but true."

As the old saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you blow".

Re:What matters then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18709271)

To really understand that quote, I think you need to understand the context. "Really hard" in the large, NY law firm context isn't really equal to "really hard" in average American job context. Really hard in the NY "BIGLAW" context means repeatedly working over 100 hours a week, most of which will be spent toiling on pointless minutia. As an employee in such a place, I have--literally--spent over 100 hours in a week producing work product that was never used, or even looked at. By anyone. It really does take some serious forethought (and starting salaries of 160K) to figure out how to attract very smart people who have spent at least seven years in post-secondary education to pretty much work as a glorified secretaries. Even with that, attrition at such places is between 20-30% a year.

Re:What matters then? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | about 7 years ago | (#18709431)

The difference is, someone who is secure is going to say, "I worked a good 8 hours today (not counting lunch), I'm going to go home and have a nice dinner, because people can look at what I did today and know I'm an excellent worker."

Whereas an insecure person will work 11 hours, and worry when they go home because they don't value themselves and therefore think that no one values them either, and don't understand that their work is better than other people's work, and worry worry worry about being fired all the time.

Frankly, if someone doesn't want to hire me because I project as self-confident, then screw them. If you actually look at that from an HR point of view, you're purely out to mindf*ck your employees, because the only thing you care about is that they produce until they have a breakdown.

Boss 'Science' was only invented... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708389)

...to give economists and climatologists a methodology they could look down on.

Real leaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708397)

Real leaders like this guy Iacocca understand power.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17 516.htm [informatio...house.info]

This research is written by the same kind of psychopaths that want gullible fools to continue buying into the alpha leader myth. That's
how America got into the mess it's in now. Stop lending credence to these lies and helping to perpetuate this myth. Jerks are just jerks. People with aggression problems and ego issues make very poor leaders, they should be given the psychiatric treatement they need instead of positions of power.

This caught my attention... (3, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | about 7 years ago | (#18708451)

"In the real world, bosses are known to suffer from a long list of social pathologies: naked aggression, credit hogging, micromanaging, bullying, you name it. "

So that explains everything that Ballmer has ever done. I knew there had to be a logical reason.

Re:This caught my attention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708837)

Why does thinking about Ballmer and his "naked aggression" make me a little nauseous?

 

Lame article (0, Troll)

wobblie (191824) | about 7 years ago | (#18708469)

What a waste of time reading this was!

Never once were the premises of the workplace questioned - why do you need a boss at all? If you have a system that makes it most likely that assholes will succeed, why not change the system? the article is just hand wringing, with a few bits of measly tripe appeals to "the human condition." Not once does this article even mention the word "union."

Re:Lame article (1)

FooGoo (98336) | about 7 years ago | (#18708679)

Why substitute one system in which assholes succeed for another? It still ends with shit.

Your other point is more interesting...why do we need bosses? The truth is groups divide themselves into leaders and followers by nature...it's how we are wired. The people who standout lead by default because everyone else is willing to let them. I think a better questions for the modern workplace is why is the boss I had yesterday the same boss I will have tomorrow. People will lead in the areas they are strongest...bosses should be assigned my deliverable not by some management hierarchy.

Yes, I am a boss :) But, I lead when I have to and follow when I should.
FG

Re:Lame article (2, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 7 years ago | (#18708853)

Because I can't do everything in my job. I've had good bosses, and I've had bad bosses. The bad bosses made me want to quit my job due to their incompetence and interference with my job. The good bosses made themselves invisible and filtered out anything that would distract me from my job.

Bosses are necessary. Every organization needs leaders (even the most far-out communes have de-facto leaders), because someone needs to organize direction.

And unions do not have anything to do with who makes a good or a bad boss. Come to think of it, I doubt you did more than glance at the first few lines of the article. Otherwise you'd have gotten to the part about changing the system.

Re:Lame article (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 years ago | (#18709029)

Never once were the premises of the workplace questioned - why do you need a boss at all? If you have a system that makes it most likely that assholes will succeed, why not change the system? the article is just hand wringing, with a few bits of measly tripe appeals to "the human condition." Not once does this article even mention the word "union."

Your nickname and your comment say it all. Unions are bloodsucking leeches that reward mediocrity.

Now, cooperatives truly provide for all persons working for a business. But then you don't have a Union hierarchy to climb upward so that you can be rewarded for being too unmotivated to find a new job.

It is particularly telling that organized crime is/has been so frequently involved with unions. They are interested in them because they become an effective means of control and of wielding power.

Re:Lame article (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 7 years ago | (#18709387)

Not once does this article even mention the word "union."


Nothing like suggesting a cure that's worse than the disease. Unions just add another layer of asshole to the workplace: the lazy retards who can't be fired due to their union ties and/or seniority even after its clear that they should never have been hired in the first place.

There's a reason organized crime loves unions, because its great for hiding all sorts of losers, offers great embezzlement opportunities, and lends itself to widespread waste and corruption. Lets not forget ridiculous rules, and the fact that unionized industry was a key contributor to making it uneconomical to run things like auto manufacturers and unprotected airlines in the US.

At some point in the past, there were industrialists that made people work 12 hour days for pennies in unsafe factories. In those circumstances, unions were by far the lesser of two evils. *We* may work 12 hour days, but we make shitloads more than pennies for it, even if you do work at EA.

I'll take the occasional asshole boss over a union I can't escape any time. At least I can transfer out of the asshole's department.

Re:Lame article (1)

Vo1t (1079521) | about 7 years ago | (#18709661)

Well the article has 'American' in its subtitle. Management analyses show that in Europe, esp. in countries like Germany there is sometimes bigger pressure put "on the system" then "on people". It's structure vs people. You could choose. Differences in management approaches have quite deep roots. Philosophy, culture, etc.

On a somewhat-related note... (1)

bigred85 (1030936) | about 7 years ago | (#18708507)

I am a Computer Science student at a university in Virginia. Was in my networks class about 2 months ago and noticed in the instructor's powerpoint overview of the chapter material he had some personal note included referring to a "PHM". Clearly not getting the joke, I asked what it stood for. Upon recieving the answer "pointy-haired manager", I had a pretty good laugh.

I guess I just found it a bit ironic how Dilbert is turning out to be more of a stereotype of cube-life than a clever amusement.

...I mean aside from the talking animals.

Re:On a somewhat-related note... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 years ago | (#18709487)

...I mean aside from the talking animals.

I haven't seen both in one coworker, but I've had both coworkers dumber than a dog (or what comes out of his ass end, for that matter) and I've had coworkers who smell worse than one...

most PHB are clue less and make you do TPS Reports (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#18708513)

Did you get that memo about the new TPS report cover letter?

Re:most PHB are clue less and make you do TPS Repo (1)

treeves (963993) | about 7 years ago | (#18709893)

Yeah, I have the memo right here. I just forgot. It's not a big deal because the report doesn't ship out until Tuesday anyway.

Re:most PHB are clue less and make you do TPS Repo (1)

Andrei D (965217) | about 7 years ago | (#18710367)

Did you get that memo about the new TPS report cover letter?
Yeah. It's just that we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports *before* they go out now. So if you could just remember to do that from now on, that'd be great. All right!

mo]d 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708577)

Be fun. It used From one folder on coomitterbase and *BSD but FreeBSD antibacterial soap. later ssen in is the group that I've never seen

The reason why the jerks become the bosses (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#18708599)

Simple. It's been said already. They suffer from a few pathologies. Micromanagement ("look, he's puttng work into the fine details and doesn't ignore the minor things"), credit hogging ("And Smith from dpt. X was again the one who did it"). So who gets promoted? The guy with the toughest ellbows.

Of COURSE it's the jerk. And that also proves true the old saying "Those who can do, those who can't supervise". If they could, they'd be busy doing instead of trying to bully, hog the limelight and putz around with petty details.

Some sort of halo effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18708663)

FTFA Pg. 4: It turns out that people, including those who do the hiring, select bosses based on what they think bosses should be.

So, if I walk into an interview, start treating everyone like shit, boss them around, I'll get hired as a boss? Sweet!

if you don't want to read the whole thing, (1)

MollyB (162595) | about 7 years ago | (#18708827)

here is the nugget (on page five!) that sums up this piece:

"The book is a paean to strong leadership of a kind that Leni Riefenstahl [wikipedia.org] might have admired.

That is not an employee's point of view; we like the person who waits his turn. And seeing as there are more employees than leaders, this may be why books about asshole bosses tend to sell so well."

'Nuff Said...

Re:if you don't want to read the whole thing, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18709019)

Or of course you can work for Citigroup and see this lovely paradigm in action

synonym (1)

blindd0t (855876) | about 7 years ago | (#18709051)

...are known to suffer from a long list of social pathologies: naked aggression, credit hogging, micromanaging, bullying, you name it. Leadership research shows that subtle nasty moves like glaring and condescending comments, explicit moves like insults or put-downs, and even physical intimidation can be effective paths to power.

It sounds to me like their making boss synonymous to "ladies man" or "pimp" as well. Either way you look at it, the result is supposed to be a crack team providing services. ^_^

Umm (2, Interesting)

nicklott (533496) | about 7 years ago | (#18709385)

Does anyone actually work anywhere that these "boss" stereotypes are real? I've worked a lot of places, and had good and bad bosses, but my immediate managers have never displayed these characteristics (bullying, credit hogging etc). In a real company people who do these things are found out pretty fast and dumped. Surely this is just some weird Dilbert-type fantasy world we're talking about?

Yes. (4, Interesting)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#18709689)

I've worked at two jobs where I've seen the reality of bosses to this extreme of badness.

A couple of examples: At the first one, my boss used to walk up and down behind our cubes every five minutes or so to make sure we were at our desks and working. If we weren't, she would start asking our neighbors where we were, when we would be back, etc. (And we were all hard-working professionals.) She even asked me to go to the men's room once to try to track down one of my coworkers. (I refused, and fortunately, he got back to his desk before it got ugly.)

I'll never forget once in a meeting, her boss suggested a change that we make to one of the reports we generated. He wasn't ugly about it, and he wasn't complaining; he was just trying to make it a little better than it was. Right there in front of him and all of us, she said, "I've told them that they're supposed to be doing that. I don't know why, but they just won't." (Of course, this being a new change, she was flat-out lying.)

At my last job, I honestly think my boss was crazy. As in, seriously, mental problems. He would yell and scream at people who were actually trying to help him with something. I'll never forget when he pulled me into a meeting and reamed me up and down because I was doing my job--are you sitting down?--too well. He told me, "This is really great quality work, but great is the worst enemy of good. I really need you to just do what you're working on, you know, good enough, and then move on to other things."

God, how I love leaving that company. He was on vacation when I turned in my notice, and I told the Human Resources lady (who, incidentally, I had talked to on two separate occasions about his behavior with absolutely nothing done about it), "Look, I know this is bad form, and if the circumstances weren't so extreme, I wouldn't do this. But the truth of the matter is that I do not want to ever see my boss again, so I will not be working out a two-week notice. Friday will be my last day."

Fortunately, I've had a couple of very good bosses to compensate for these horrible experiences. My current boss is a gem, and you all should be so lucky to have one like him. I guess we all have our professional ups and downs, and I've had some real doozies on both sides of that spectrum.

Re:Umm (1)

Johnboi Waltune (462501) | about 7 years ago | (#18710109)

Usually the bullying and micromanaging only comes out when the boss is under stress. They know such behavior is counterproductive, so most of the time they keep it under control. If they did it all the time, people would jump ship. People who show aggression and other social pathologies don't make it as managers, unless there is some other factor like nepotism, or he/she is socially connected to much more powerful people in the organization.

If the manager doesn't like you or respect your work, you often won't know it until you're blindsided by a negative formal performance review.

Jump a couple of payscales (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#18710229)

And you see it everywhere. Middle management and upwards. It depends who you deal with mostly. Basically, they have fuck all else to do all day except play politics.

 

Re:Umm (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 7 years ago | (#18710239)

No, it's not fiction.

Where can I start?

I'm an EE, and I work with embedded firmware design. I make my job look easy. I've been programming since I was 8, so it's about as hard for me as reading is for most people. I was hired to work on a new interface for an existing project. They also hired a project manager.

I've basically done most of the work. The project manager decided to put the project behind by three months while redoing my work. I know that it's based on my work because I was getting tired of the crapola and put a monkey trap in the code. They've spent the last two months trying to solve a problem that I fixed in November. (I showed them the fix, pointed out the problem, demonstrated a working unit, and documented the fix on the server, so don't think that I'm hiding stuff. The response was, "We know. We're experts and we already figured that out." and then going to the head of the department and having my emulator taken away.)

The project manager is from "France" and hired two co-op students to work on the project as well. They only speak in "French". All the technical work is discussed in French, and only French. I've put in formal complaints about this, but they ignore requests to stop (from higher-ups) So there's bullying and exclusion there. He even told me once, "If you argue with me again, I'll redo everything you've done and say you did nothing all year."

They're totally incompetent. They don't understand field size (and have wrapping bit-shifts all over the place). They had load-bearing breakpoints in their code which they fixed by putting in a race condition. They don't understand how an infinite loop in an interrupt can cause a lockup. I can't get into the code itself, but the class modules aren't following any coding principles. It's a huge mess. It just looks fancy because they used an XML commenting tool. Here's the icing on the cake: They don't even know how to use TortoiseCVS - after a YEAR!

Without anything else to do, I looked over the standards and requirements and planned out the remaining sections of the project. When I emailed them to the project manager, he wrote his own versions and presented them to other managers.

While I've been working towards getting this project completed, he's spent most of his time politicking and smearing my name. The PM keeps his desk messy to look like he's busy all the time. It's all appearance - we gave him a ream of useless paper and he put it on his shelf.

All I want is to find a nice place to work.

Extremely Bright, Extremely Insecure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18709455)

One would hope that the extremely bright would be aware of their own extreme insecurities.

I've had employers (or potential employers) try to exploit my (extreme) feelings of insecurity. However, being aware of my own insecurities, I was also aware of exactly what those employers were doing. While such tactics can be emotionally painful, it has really only worked once - and then not for very long. I can't imagine this will ever work on "the extremely bright" except maybe right out of school at their first job. I highly suspect those "extremely bright" people being exploited this way are actually pretty mundane and not bright at all, but the employers are too stupid to know the difference.

One of the greats.. but still an @$$hole (5, Interesting)

Kris_B_04 (883011) | about 7 years ago | (#18709463)

When I began my career as a programmer, I got a job with a great, but small company. The boss had built it from nothing. He had built his life from nothing.. .and he LOVED to tell everyone about that. (We would get lecture upon lecture about it, in fact. ;) How if he could do it, anyone could do it.)

But he was a good man. He actually could separate business from personal and he was great when he wasn't in "boss mode". His company got larger and he ended up in "boss mode" more often and that was when people started thinking of him as more of an asshole.

In the beginning, before he got "older" and "comfortable".. (Millionaire maybe now?), he was sociable as well. He took care of his employees and they were happy. He had monthly picnics and ice cream socials. Took us all to baseball games and all sorts of great stuff. He even had parties in his own home! Then, we think he got greedy. (more more more money!) and he started treating his techs like monkeys. (Any monkey can do this.. why pay graduates when we can train anyone off the street and pay them dirt cheap). He started treating the rest of his employees poorly as well. He still tried to keep up the "act" but his heart wasn't in it anymore.. and his employees started noticing that..

I (and others) saw the change coming. I got out of there, but there were tears. LOL (Hey, I'm still a girl dammit). He had taken good care of me and my son, above and beyond.. but that was before... that was earlier. Yes.. I actually hugged my boss on my last day... ;)

So, in this rambling, what I'm trying to say, is that not all bosses are assholes.. and maybe it becomes a learned trait. Maybe the system and society wear them down... maybe they become that way because that is what is expected or maybe they see those who are assholes really moving up the corporate ladder. Whatever the reason, it truly has become a job description for many bosses. And the more people who see it as a means to an end, the more people will pull that out of themselves just to get where they want to go. Yes, there are a lot who were "born" as assholes and never change throughout life (with what we are seeing, what motivation IS there to change?), but it's not a steady progression. It's not all defined under one stereotype... it is my belief that society MAKES the assholes because we allow them to BE assholes.

Kris

Re:One of the greats.. but still an @$$hole (1)

1mck (861167) | about 7 years ago | (#18709749)

I too worked for a small computer software company, but I didn't know that the boss was bi-polar, sprinkled in with a bit of ADD! They had such a high attrition rate, and it didn't dawn on me why anyone would leave such a great paying job. I soon found out, and I also learned that working for a large corporation is much different that working for a small company. If your boss is an a$$hole in a large company, then you probably have some wiggle room because he or she has a boss over them, and you can always go over their heads. But, if you're working for a small company, and your boss just happens to be the owner/CEO, and he or she turns out to be an insane, lying, backstabbing bastard, then your only recourse is to quit. Plain and simple...start looking for another job as they'll try and take you down with them in their crazy controlled reality, and with that will go your sanity, and it will affect every facet of your life including your family life. Get out while you can. I can honestly say that I will never, ever allow myself to be treated as badly as that a$$hole treated me. Everyone has a bad day, but to the level that c***sucker was to me, and his entire staff...no way! You say that he was one of the greats but still and a$$hole, I would have said the same about my past boss, but I just don't make excuses for people like that anymore. Why should I, or anyone for that matter do that?

Re:One of the greats.. but still an @$$hole (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | about 7 years ago | (#18709769)

So, in this rambling, what I'm trying to say, is that not all bosses are assholes.. and maybe it becomes a learned trait. Maybe the system and society wear them down... maybe they become that way because that is what is expected or maybe they see those who are assholes really moving up the corporate ladder.

See The Godfather parts 1 and 2 for a fine illustration of this principle at work.

Re:One of the greats.. but still an @$$hole (1)

1mck (861167) | about 7 years ago | (#18710029)

I see your point, and I used to try to see both sides of the coin, so to speak, but now I just see them for what they are, and don't try to analyze why they are the way they are. After all, they don't care about you, do they?

There are two problems wih that theory. (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 7 years ago | (#18709527)

First of all there is agency costs. Jerks -- people who exploit people for their personal benefit -- don't confine themselves to screwing their underlings. They just exploit their superiors more carefully.

Come to think of it, buying into the notion that being a jerk makes you an effective manager may explain a lot of things. Like Enron.

The second problem is that there is a much more obvious explanation for why most bosses tend to act like jerks. They're over their heads. Most negative behaviors are defensive behaviors to cover up for the fact that things are out of control. Most people never receive any trainign in leadership. In fact they don't receive much traning in the mnagement tasks they have to do. They're just promoted until they reach a level where their dysfunction is so severe only a moron would promote them any higher. And a few of them work for morons.

Imagine a person in a boss role who happens to be splendidly equipped for that role. He has strong people and communication skills, a knack for organization, a good knowledge of the field he is working in as well as management techniques. Is he likely to be a jerk?

getting ahead (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#18709757)

"'They want them to think that working really hard matters,' "

as i suspected, hard work,skill and dedication are a waste of time. clearly if they just want us to THINK thats what matters, then it's not. also, what a bunch of assholes. oh wait their lawyers.

Re:getting ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18710173)

Their lawyers what?

co34 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18709783)

shoW that *BSD hKas

Interesting would be cop / Wal-Mart science (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 7 years ago | (#18709921)

It would be interesting to see them do a workup on law enforcement types, as I have always said a certain type of person is drawn to being LEOs...and to some degree, maybe that type of person is needed in that type of job.

Also interesting would be Wal-Mart Manager/Assistant Manager science, as all the management wannabes that can't get real management jobs, end up as management at Wal-Mart. Maybe they would be profiled as dumb jerks?

Transporter_ii

   

Honesty is a Leadership Characteristic (0, Troll)

ShrapnelFace (1001368) | about 7 years ago | (#18709951)

Pay them what they are worth, not what they think they are worth. If you do the latter they will start dictating the needs of the company according to themselves rather than what is right for the company.

Honest people are typically viewed as jerks. So yes, I think the best managers are jerks. They tell you when your S does stink, they fear nothing your insecure outburst might tell us, and they often dont bend on principle until a logical alternative that is conducive to the overall goal appears.

More than this, they lack the consideration for politically correct conversations that serve only to soothe your damaged ego. You suck- face it. You either work harder, get smarter (study) or get the hell out.

A manager is looking for winners. And winners are not whiners. It's uncomfortable, unfair, not right, you aren't speaking to me in a 'happy tone', etc. Too bad. shut up and win- thats all you are paid to do- win.

A manager with several different personalities on their team can hedge against favoritism because no one is looking over their shoulder comparing themsleves to the other. They are all saying "that poor sucker" and are more likely to 'help' each other and work collaboratively.

In the end, people only respect two things about their manager: 1) did I get my MBO/Bonus at 100% because he made it possible for my potential to meet that need? 2) Can I get my 4 weeks off as planned?

Other than that, people really dont need a manager. They need a freaking babysitter because most people are innately lazy and what differs from person to person is their own unique ability to disguise this.

Honestly- I dont care if I hurt your feelings, earn your base and enjoy your bonus. Have a nice trip and have your game face on after your vacation. Now get the F*** out of my office before I call security.

Re:Honesty is a Leadership Characteristic (1)

1mck (861167) | about 7 years ago | (#18710189)

"They need a freaking babysitter because most people are innately lazy and what differs from person to person is their own unique ability to disguise this." You need to hire a better HR person if that's the kind of people that are working for you. If you work for me, you should know your job, and need minimal supervision, and if you are needing a lot, then you don't know your job, and I'm going to find out why...plain and simple, people who are whiners, and complainers will get my "full" attention, and if I find out you don't know what the hell you're doing, and you can't be trained...you're gone. That's the one thing I didn't see in your post was that you would work with your staff, and support them...not coddle them, but work with them to achieve. Now, that's a leader, and a great boss. After you're done your work, go and see if there's anything else that needs doing, and if not, then go and get us some coffees....Make mine a large Timmies, 4x4!

Re:Honesty is a Leadership Characteristic (1)

ShrapnelFace (1001368) | about 7 years ago | (#18710429)

I agree- and its a small part of what I said "get smarter" that includes using my time, your peers time, and etc.

First po5t (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18710337)

posts. Therefore it will be among is dying. Fact: As o8e of the Smith only serve by clicking here of Jordan Hubbard bombshell hit to place a paper and has instead Obtain a copy of world. GNAA members dying. See? It's

It ain't so...or is it? (1)

zevans (101778) | about 7 years ago | (#18710351)

Well, it might be so for a manager running a team of people with much lower stakes in company IPR than he or she themself has. But even McWalBucks burgerflippers will be more productive if correctly motivated. Being bullied or micromanaged does drive some people; but for others this will only slow them down. Real management skill lies in knowing the difference and dealing with each member of staff (or 'person' as I like to call them) accordingly.

If you are running a team of experts your job is to keep crap the hell out of the way of your staff and let them get on with leveraging their genius for the greater good.

The manager described in TFA will fail in either scenario. Remember that 'experts' might include fund managers just as nuch as Java coders.
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