Is your boss guilty of these 7 deadly sins?

PHOTO: Is your boss guilty of these 7 deadly sins?

Most of us who have been working for some time will have classified the bosses we have had as bad bosses and good bosses.

There are many types of bad bosses who possess different variations of annoying personality traits ranging from being aloof, egotistical, thoughtless, bad-tempered and more.

7 deadly sins of management

  • "A greedy boss pursues wealth, status and growth to get himself noticed," Professor Birkinshaw says.
  • "In short, he is an empire builder, and we don't have to look far to find examples of empire-building bosses".
  • Lust applies to bosses who seek vanity projects to take on.
  • Vanity projects are those investments or acquisitions that make no sense but "play to the manager's desires," he says.
  • Wrath or anger is one of the most commonly committed sins.
  • "We see this at all levels in the hierarchy - my first boss would turn bright red and start shaking before he yelled at some poor soul for failing to debug a piece of software properly," Birkinshaw says in the book.
  • Gluttony may refer to an uncontrollable obsession of food in everyday life, but in business, it applies to managers who put too much on their plates.
  • "He needs to get involved in decisions, he needs to be continuously updated, he never rests," the management expert explains. In other words, the glutton boss micromanages, and according to Birkinshaw, have a tendency to "steal" your decisions or cause problems in the decision making process.
  • Pride can be healthy but becomes dangerous when someone overestimates his/her own abilities.
    Recent corporate crises like that of Nokia, BP and Toyota show that pride goes before a fall.
  • Birkinshaw says that the case of Enron's fall is a good example. Enron executives "liked to think of themselves as the 'smartest guys in the room' and they shortened the company's vision from becoming the 'world's leading energy company' to the 'world's leading company'".
  • Envy occurs when bosses take credit for other people's work.
  • Envy can also appear in the forms of choosing not to promote someone capable for fear of competition, or withholding important information from the team so he/she can stay ahead.

London Business School management and strategy expert Professor Julian Birkinshaw says that employees are often fascinated with talking about how bad their bosses are because bad boss behaviour tends to provoke moral outrage in workers. Just like policemen, bosses are authority figures who have a responsibility for others, and are thus required to have better behaviour too.

In his new book Becoming a Better Boss, Professor Birkinshaw explains how bad managers can be defined. Using the concept of the 7 deadly sins, employees can rate how bad their boss' behaviour actually is.

How to deal with a crazy boss

  • The first step is to quit whining and decide if you can continue staying on in the company.
    If you want to stay, you need to make some adaptations or come up with some strategies to deal with the stress that a crazy boss will give you.
    You should not be suffering in silence either - be prepared to make some changes to improve your situation.
  • If you want to continue working in the same company, stay optimistic about your situation because it does not help to wake up every morning dreading work.
    Staying positive can help you stay out of the negative zone, and help improve the way you work, despite what your boss says about you.
  • Learn what your boss values and what he expects of you, then use this to your advantage.
    However, some bosses may demand things which are not morally right, or just simply impossible. If this is so, you need to re-evaluate if you want to continue working for such a superior.
  • If your boss is rude and simply unpleasant, make extra effort not to treat him/her the same way.
    Instead, if your boss is agitated in an unreasonable manner, respond in a calm manner. The situation can only worsen if you get agitated as well.
  • Take note of your boss' weaknesses and offer (subtly) to help fill the gaps he/she is finding hard filling.
    For example, if you know your boss hates doing presentation slides, offer to help out. This way, you gain his/her trust and improve your boss' impression of you.
  • Set the boundaries for your own autonomy.
    Although you want your boss to trust you, setting yourself up for too much will put you - and your mistakes- in your boss' radar.
  • Keep track of the work you have done and note down how it has helped your team or organisation.
    Also, note the difficulties you encountered and how you overcame them.
    Keep this information so that you have a way of defending yourself in times of trouble.
  • Learn from experiences with your boss, what ticks him off and what does not. This way, you know your boundaries and what you can do to show you have improved.
  • Keeping your sense of humour can help lighten the tension for you and your colleagues.
    It can also keep you optimistic and help you to bond with your colleagues so that your team produces good results at work.
  • If you ever get the chance to talk to your boss' boss privately, do not talk bad about your boss even if you are tempted to.
    Instead, you can talk about problems you face like 'unclear priorities' or 'hectic timeline', instead of blaming your boss directly.

However, he also cautions against focusing too much on the negative characteristics of your manager. While it is good to know what is wrong with a bad boss' attitude, employees must also use their bosses as a source of insight into how they should not behave.

Furthermore, people have a tendency to emphasise the negative elements of a manager's personality when it involves failing to perform a task, Birkinshaw says. Hence, employees might not have a very accurate perception of their bosses as their views are often skewed by how successful they think the manager is.

Another reason why we should not focus too much on bad boss behaviour is that what is defined as good or bad "depends on the personality and working style of the employee", he says. So what may seem like bad boss behaviour to you could actually be a positive trait for another person on your team.

If you are still undecided about whether your boss is a terrible boss, see how many deadly sins your boss is guilty of in Birkinshaw's guide to the 7 deadly sins of management.

Julian Birkinshaw's Becoming a Better Boss is now in bookstores. Check out for a free online assessment.

6 lines your boss should never cross

  • Salaries and bonuses are private and confidential information; your colleagues do not know how much you're paid.
  • If your boss accidentally reveals such information, it can lead to resentment, envy or other forms of negative emotions among colleagues.
  • This is a form of workplace abuse.
  • Even if you have made a grave mistake, a good boss should talk to you in private in a civil tone.
  • Supervisors should always lay down attainable tasks for employees and provide them with the appropriate resources.
  • If your supervisor tasks you with an impossible task, it is important to discuss and communicate expectations to each other.
  • Details of personal lives, regardless of whose, should always be kept out of the office.
  • If you find your boss talking about such things, change the subject back to work. This goes both ways; you should also keep your personal life out of the office.
  • Comments about gender, physical appearance or anything else that makes one blush is a total no-no.
  • This borders on the edge of sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • 6. Implying that sex, race, age or religion is a factor in work performance These factors do not affect one's job ability at all.
  • This is workplace discrimination at its worst.

9 things your boss should never say to you

  • Commands and orders aren't usually effective unless the worker is in a very regimental organisation such as the army.
  • Good bosses lead by example and motivate their workers. This way, they cultivate loyalty and drive in their workers.
  • Supervisors should recognise that employees are the ones producing profits and should never use such a tone with them.
  • Bosses should reward employees according to their hard work, instead of comparing what other companies are giving their employees.
  • Time spent in office may be relevant, but no supervisor should make an employee spend too much time in the office environment. This is especially so when the employee may be more productive working from home outside of office hours.
  • While women do have benefits such as child-care leave or maternity leave, men also have a role to play in raising their children. If a company allocates rewards based on gender, something is not quite right.
  • Good bosses should never discriminate, especially in matters like religion, gender, political affiliation or race.
  • Managing an organisation's budget is important, but not if unnecessary spending is cutting into employees' salaries and bonuses.
  • Managers should lead by example e.g. taking a salary cut together with the rest of the employees.
  • One of the deadliest phrases for a supervisor to say to an employee, this shows a supervisor's lack of concern for his employees' work.
  • Listening to an employee for a moment or two can make lots of difference, especially when the employee is just feeling frustrated. It also builds up an employee's loyalty and morale, making him / her a more productive worker.
  • This merely shows an employee that his / her supervisor is entrenched in a fixed mindset and is unwilling to compromise.
  • Instead, bosses should say,
  • Instead of lambasting a worker straight in the face, a supervisor should think about whether expectations have been communicated clearly to the employee.
  • Supervisors should also ensure that employees are given sufficient resources, budget and support to complete the tasks properly.
  • Supervisors should never resort to abuse and mean words to speak to employees.
  • Instead, bosses should always speak politely and with civility. Better yet, point out to the employee what he or she is doing wrong.