This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 8-Nov-2012 issue
In my past life in corporate, I remember how damaging it was when an inexperienced new boss was appointed. Not only was Sally new to our department, she was new to the job of boss. Whereas our previous manager John had rewarded new ideas and new thinking, now we could no longer take initiative and be innovative. Sally created more and more rules, and the slightest deviation from the rules was punished, even if you produced a better result than you would have by following the procedures 100%. Creativity and fresh thinking was simply not tolerated. Everything, even the most straightforward tasks, had to be approved by Sally first, regardless of your level of experience. She checked everything we did in micro-detail and cracked the whip on petty issues. We were floundering without the strategic direction that John had given so well. The culture in our department changed from one of trust and innovation to bitchy backstabbing. The innovators quickly left, and productivity deteriorated dramatically. Under John’s leadership, people would come in early and work late because they were passionate about their jobs, and they worked hard until they got their work done, and done well. Now the only people left in Sally’s department were clock watchers, churning out mediocre work just to get the job done and get her off their backs. It was disheartening to see all of John’s work destroyed. I stuck it out as long as I was able, but eventually left before a small part of me died.
If you’ve worked in corporate, chances are you’ve had a boss like Sally (or at least a boss who has some elements of Sally) at some point in your career.
I’m a strong believer in seeing the positive in everything. This experience was no different. We all need a bad boss like Sally to appreciate good bosses and to become better bosses ourselves.
So what valuable lessons can we take away from managers like Sally? Continue reading