If I'm remembering correctly the podcasts that I have listened to over the years, the overall recommendation seems to be not to say or do things that could negatively impact a boss due to the risk. For example, I remember hearing not to "throw the boss under the bus" during skip level meetings, don't score someone less than a 3 on 360s, don't say anything negative about your boss during an exit interview, how we should try to mitigate bad boss behavior, etc. etc.

I might have missed it (I've listened to 98% of the podcasts ever put out by MT and CT, so I may not be remembering things correctly), but how are bad bosses found out. And by bad boss, in this case, the ones who are jerks to their directs but still manage to perform at a certain level in their work and interact effectively with their bosses--the so called "kiss up, kick down" manager?

Fortunately, I am in a situation where I have a terrific boss. However, in the past, I have had those kinds of jerks but didn't seem to have any way giving feedback to the organization if I follow what MT and CT are suggesting.



kbaug37313's picture

Hi Tony,

This may be wrong of me to say, but I don't subscribe to the fashionable "don't throw the bad boss under the bus" advise.  If a boss is bad...meaning he/she is demoralizing their staff, kissing up the chain and kicking down it, or other such issues then it's bad for the company because it's bad for productivity.  Its in these ways that who is supposed to lead a group of people then becomes a liability for the company and should be exposed as such.  Don't get me wrong, it's tough to do.  I just did it with my GM and it was very stressful.  But, we have a much better staff for it and a management team that is driving the business in a much better way.  The GM I speak of was forced to resign.

Just my two cents...



TNoxtort's picture

I think that to be in top management, you have to have some way of knowing about these things. I have just been impressed when I've talked to the higher ups that they seem to have a much better idea of things that are going on then you'd think. But then again, I work for a top company.

I know a few years ago, I had major issues with my boss. I had went to another big boss who laughed, saying he known my boss for decades, and seen him do this for decades. I also spoke to HR, and while she acted like this was new to her, I could tell she had heard about. Some transitions at the company, and he was moved somewhere else.

The other day I was Google searching and found a reference to someone I worked with about 11 years ago. I read a review about the company, and someone was complaining about specific things this person did to employees. I remember when I worked with, he was fired for treating employees the same. People don't change. I think really top level management has ways of knowing these things. I heard one of the now retired big bosses at my company tell me once that years ago, when the company got bought, somehow, they had some way of knowing, and all the bad bosses disappeared. They have ways of knowing.

tokyotony's picture

 Kate -- Well, unless I am mis-hearing MT and CT incorrectly, I haven't heard Mark or Mike suggest exposing or complaining about your boss. It seems too risky.

Art....While I do understand that senior management tends to find out things, I'd like it to be a little less "magical".

Keeping with the MT/CT concept of providing suggestions and advice that are actionable, I would suggest that there needs to be a process or strategy to do this? And, I don't think going to HR helps, especially if the behavior is not egregious.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

 In my experience, in the UK, there is generally a process for dealing with 'bad bosses'.  Typically it would be called the Grievance Procedure.  It is usually limited to where a boss has acted in breach of law or company policy/procedure, where there is a clear breach of trust or acceptable behaviour or where the behaviour is likely to have a negative impact on someone's health and/or safety.  It's not the sort of thing you would use if your boss has a habit of dropping urgent work on you, as they leave the office at 16:00, which has been sitting on their desk for a week and has to be complete by start of business the next day so you'll be there till 22:00 getting it finished, 3-4 times a week (this is not a fictional example).  You could use it if your boss only ever does that to you but never to other members of the team who could also do the work, in particular if there is a notable difference between the people they do it to and the people they don't (race, gender &c) although there may be specific discrimination procedures you could use there.



Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


malekz's picture


The grievance procedure is available in the US as well and mostly used in bigger institutions such as Universities, State agencies, etc. Again to be effective, as you have pointed out, you need to prove an ethical problem or at least a violation of company value or policy. As far as I have seen them, most such grievances are hard to prove and would do you no good but leave a considerable negative paper trail in your personnel file hunting you forever.  If you can prove the violation, see a greedy five-star lawyer and sue the company. It is how it is done in the US; don't rely on the fairness of top management or HR; use your lawyer and media – and go for the jugular. I’m so sorry to say this but the US is a self-serving, narcissist society of individuals that mostly recognizes power, not fairness.
I like your optimistic view of the top management and I’m glad you’ve been among a few who have had good experience with referring bad bosses to them.  But what if you are working in a small company and the Top Management is actually your bad boss?  
Top management may have a way of knowing but remember the gap between knowing and wanting to do something about it.
I am with you in saying that I don’t subscribe to the fashionable “don’t throw the bad boss under the bus” advice. In fact, I go even one step further to say that I don’t agree with the brainwashing of job candidates into  “not  badmouthing their previous bad bosses” in employment interviews. With proper preparation and proper wording one should be able to discuss his previous bad boss’s behavior. In fact, this would be part of the overhaul of the entire employment structures, norms, and procedures in the US that have been overdue for a long time.

timrutter's picture

I'll chuck my experience in. One of my previous bosses was the architypal 'jerk boss'. Frankly, I was on the edge of a breakdown by the time he'd finished with me, however, when he was moved into a Corporate role, he was quickly spotted by senior executives and 'left' shortly afterwards, never to be spoken of again.

Most senior managers in companies can spot the jerk boss and cannot ignore his behaviour forever. They know what a jerk boss costs the company in terms of retention and exposure to lawsuits. He's not that smart and they're not that dumb. Like most things with people, it just takes time.