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Alicia Blain

Career


Drumroll, please…  The last & what I consider the worst of the 5 batty bosses at work is Mr. Snarly.

This is the angry, moody, obnoxious boss who spends his day screaming at everyone, regardless of whether it’s his team members, his assistant, his kids or the barista at Starbucks. He loves belittling people in meetings and has absolutely no manners or delicacy. He thrives on intimidation. Reporting to him keeps you constantly wondering when his tirade will fall on you.

Certainly not a fun person to work for.  It will amaze you how many Mr. Snarly’s still exist in the workplace today.  You would think with all the leadership advice out there & the money companies spend on mentoring their leaders & managers that a Mr. Snarly could never be allowed to exist & wreak havoc at work.  But they do.  And chances are, you will run into one if you are not already reporting to one.

That’s why it’s so important to ask probing questions during an interview especially for those first entering the workplace. Working for a Mr. Snarly right out of school is almost harmful to someone new to the grim realities of work. A young employee is not savvy enough or experienced enough to deal with Snarly’s tirades & unprofessional behavior. There are many seasoned professionals that can’t deal with that type either. But the point is to try & flush that out before you take the job.

If you don’t want to get caught working for Mr. Snarly, you need to ask probing questions when interviewing with your prosepective boss.  The person the position reports to has the ultimate decision in who gets hired. Here’s a insider tip. Most prospective bosses have interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years. They know that young people are  more focused on impressing them. They know that young candidates don’t know the corporate realities of being an insider.  After years of interviewing young people, they already know by heart the types of questions you will ask them – questions that are meant to impress them with your knowledge. 

What they don’t expect is for you to be a savvy interviewee & ask them questions like experienced candidates do. On the rare occasion a young person asks probing questions, the prospective boss immediately takes notice. I know I did when I interviewed.  Here is a person that is making the boss think about the answer instead of asking a question everyone else asks. This person will automatically stand out from the throngs of other interviewees they will see.  And that’s what you want.  You want to stand out & ultimately get the job.

So here are some questions you can ask your potential boss to make him think & take notice of you.

  • Can you describe your leadership style?
  • Give me an example of a famous leader you admire.
  • What are your top 3 pet peeves?
  • Do you enjoy mentoring your staff?
  • Give me an example of someone you’ve mentored in your team and what you liked and didn’t like about it.
  • How would your employees describe you?
  • What are 3 things you enjoy about leading your team and 3 things you don’t enjoy?

You need to listen carefully to the responses given since that will give you clues as to the type of person you will be reporting to.  Now that you know the list of batty bosses you can be better prepared.  You may hit the jackpot & find that you will work for a great boss.  If so, it is even more critical for you to do everything you can to stand out & get the job.  Great bosses are rare to find & when you find one, you want to work for them as long as you can.

If you currently work for a Mr. Snarly & can’t stomach his outbursts, now you have the questions you need to ask in your new job search.  Don’t get caught by surprise again.  For those college graduates interviewing for their first jobs, stay out of Mr. Snarly’s clutches.  Ask probing questions & know what you’re getting into.  The more you know, the less job shock you will experience when you start working. That means the quicker you can focus on making an impact on the inside & moving your career forward.  Instead of a deer in the headlights, you will walk into the spotlight with confidence & knowledge.

Have you worked for Mr. or Ms. Stupe?  Stupe is another Gen Y addition & it’s pronounced Stupee.  Short for Stupid. 

Yes, believe it or not,  you may work for a boss that’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.

When I started my career, there was a saying, “Screw up to move up.”  Do any fellow Boomers remember that saying? We’d use it every time an incompetent person got promoted. Back then, like today, it is often easiest for a company to get the stupid person out of the day-to-day and out of the way by promoting him. Not a smart move, but it happens. Mr. Stupee is ineffective running the team. Somebody else, usually a direct report(s), is the brains of the operation and allows Mr. Stupee to get away with his incompetence.

Discovering that you work for Mr. Stupe was shocking back in the day & it’s even more shocking today.  This is the type of thing most young people don’t realize when they are interviewing for a job.   Because they don’t know what awaits them as insiders, they don’t know what to ask  to try & find out.  It’s so important to ask the questions.  Not only is it eye opening & valuable to know what you’re getting into but did you know it gives interviewees a leg up in the interview process?

More  about that in our next & last post in the series.  Batty boss #5: Mr. Snarly – the worst of the bunch.

Mr. Sleepless in the office.  That’s batty boss # 3.

This is the workaholic boss. You will get an email from him at 2:00 a.m. and he calls you from the office at 7:30 a.m., wondering why you aren’t in the office. His standards are pretty high and he’s not very forgiving with anything less than your best. If he’s putting in all those long hours, you should be too. If you aren’t, you will quickly get on his radar. These types are usually over-stressed, burnt out and impatient. They are tough to work for and are not very understanding of the personal demands or issues their employees may be facing.

So here’s a confession.  In my early years as a manager,  I was a Ms. Sleepless.  I’m one of those people that loves to work & can work non-stop if I’m not careful.  Early on in my career I expected my team to be working alongside me.  I had the attitude that “if I did it, you could do it, too”. With time, I realized I was burning out my team and myself.  Just because I liked to work non-stop did not mean I should & it certainly didn’t mean my team should either.  In fact, it wasn’t productive to do that.  It was a painful lesson to learn because I lost a lot of great people who got tired of working for such a work horse. 

In fact, the lesson was delivered by Nick, someone who worked for me a long time ago.  A brave soul who decided to speak up & share what everyone in the team was feeling.  Why did he do it?  Because he took the time to observe me and to see what made me tick.  For weeks before he approached me, he watched how I reacted to information and the best way to deliver that information in a way that was well received by me. He noticed that even though I was a workaholic, I was open to feedback from the team.  I was tough but I listened.

Nick could see that I had the potential to be a good boss if I just lost the Ms. Sleepless tendencies. So he spoke up.  He delivered the difficult message in an objective, non-judgmental way that I could relate to & digest.  And I did. Nick’s plan worked.

When I asked him how he knew his risky move wouldn’t backfire on him, his response was priceless.  He said he wasn’t sure it would work or not but he knew that by not saying anything, things would not change.  I’ve never forgotten what he said to me.

He said, “You are the gatekeeper of my career.  Good or bad, that is the reality. If I want to advance I have to make the relationship work.  To do that I had to figure you out.  Once I did, everything else fell into place”.  It’s a win-win for both of us.

And it was a win-win.  Because your boss – batty or not – is the gatekeeper of your career, it behooves you to figure him out instead of expecting it to be the other way around.  When you take the initiative to do so, the options of how to handle his battiness will surface.  You’re in control, not the other way around.

Next up, Batty # 4: Mr. Stupe (pronounced Stupee).

 

So the next type of batty boss I’ve observed is Mr. Schmingle. I have to admit that I had another name for this type but the Gen Yers I spoke to suggested other names & I chose this one.  I love what it means & how it sounds.  

According to Gen Yers, a schmingler is someone who spends his time schmoozing and mingling – schmingling with everyone.

Mr. Schmingle wants everyone to feel good and so he tells you what you want to hear. The problem is everyone is hearing something different. Things get so convoluted you don’t know fact from fiction. His inability to be straightforward makes people question his honesty and intentions. You simply don’t know where you stand with him.

Have you worked for a Mr. or Ms. Schmingle?  Probably.   I have and it’s one of the most annoying & difficult types for me to work for.  When you find yourself working for a batty boss, the first thing you need to do is get your venting out of the way. It’s a natural reaction for all of us to rail against a batty boss especially if he really rattles your cage.  It’s okay to vent – just don’t vent with your coworkers.  If you want to tweet about the latest bonehead thing the schmingler did… think again. If you want to throw darts at his picture & post it on your Facebook wall, it would probably be amusing to your friends but not a good idea either.

If you have to vent, call or text a friend (after work on your personal cell).  Just don’t do it at work near coworkers who are plugged in to the Gossip Network.  You know the Gossip Network, right?  It’s the rumor mill, the juicy stuff people love to spread around & gossip about.  It’s amusing to listen to the Gossip Network,  just don’t be a contributor.

Once you get the venting out of the way, it’s time to fight back but in a smart way not a belligerent one. If you don’t want your career to be derailed, then you need to figure out this particular breed of batty boss & work with him.  First thing you need to do is put your emotions aside. It’s hard to do at first but with practice, you can do it.  Next you need to be observant.  Who are the people in your team that get along with the schmingler or other batty breed?  What does batty like about these coworkers of yours? How do your coworkers handle batty? 

Make a point of observing your batty boss for the next few days.  Keep an open mind & see what makes him tick.  See who works best with him. In the next post, I’ll tell you why that’s important.

So how about you? Do you work for a schmingler?  What winning strategies have you used to get around the schmingliness & make the relationship work?

Next batty breed: Mr. Sleepless.  Can you guess what floats his boat?

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Gen Yers lately & so many of them are telling me how shocked & disillusioned they are when they enter the workplace.  I think that we can all relate to how surprised & often underwhelmed we were when we started working as young adults. I know I can.

With Gen Yers specifically, I think the shock is greater because they’ve always had a lot of support & guidance from their parents, educators & career counselors. In talking to Gen Yers who have made the transition from college to a career and have been working for a number of years, I find that a few things particularly shock them when they start to work.  One of the biggest is the expectations they have of  their boss.

Like  many of us once did, Gen Yers believe they will work for a boss who cares about them, wants to mentor them and helps them advance their careers. Yet the reality is that there are whacko bosses in corporate America – and they often prevail over the good ones. It’s one of the hardest & most disappointing realities we face as employees.  I remember how disillusioned I was when I worked for my first whacko boss.  Can you?

What I realized is how important it is to understand what types of crazy bosses are out there so you can spot them & learn how to deal with them.  Another hard reality of being an employee is that you will always have to deal with batty bosses.  It doesn’t matter what company you work for – the names will change but the battiness will remain.

In my experience I’ve found that there are 5 types of Batty Bosses. The first one that comes to mind is Mr. Scheemy. Of course, it can be a Ms.  or Mrs. Scheemy as well.

Just like the name implies, this boss is a schemer. He says he’s your champion and sees you going far in the organization. You work hard to show your commitment.

When the annual review arrives, he describes all the things he tried to do “for you,”  how he went to bat for you but couldn’t get you what he promised or what you had hoped. The truth is he never went to bat for you or anyone else. He’s no one’s champion but his own.

Sound familiar?  I’ve worked for a Ms. Scheemy & at first, the experience was not pleasant.   I complained, I was angry & was ready to quit.  Then a wise person in the company asked me this: “Do you think this company has exclusive rights on crazy bosses? So you quit & go work for another company.  What makes you believe you won’t find another Ms.Scheemy there?”

Wow.  Good questions and tough to answer.  He was right.  From what I could tell batty bosses were everywhere at work.  I had nightmares where I saw myself  job hopping from one company to another in search of the good boss that might never appear.  Not a good visual.

So I decided to take control of my career instead of putting it in the hands of Ms. Scheemy.  I’ll share how I did that in the next post when I talk about Batty Boss #2: Mr. Schmingle.

What about you?  Do you work for a Ms. Scheemy? Are you giving her control of your career or taking control back?

Hey, college grads… What questions are you asking in your  job interviews to find out if your boss is batty. Stay tuned to find out more about that, too!

Over the last few months I’ve been interviewing Gen Yers all over the country who have been working in corporate jobs spanning 1 to 5 years.  The chats have been unbelievable & as always, I love how open Gen Yers are about  things. It didn’t surprise me to find a large majority of them  – over 80% – were frustrated & disillusioned with the corporate experience. 

That’s a big number but I think that anyone who has worked in corporate for any amount of time can relate to how they feel & isn’t surprised by it. Through the interviews I began to hear a theme being repeated by the Gen Yers.  There were about 5 things that kept coming up as the most surprising for them to find once they were on the “inside”.  They believed there was a big disconnect between the perception they had of the company as an outsider through websites, brochures,etc & the reality of working as an employee.

Many of them repeated the same thing:  I wish I had known what to expect before taking the job.  They admitted that the  tight job market would have probably forced to take the job anyway . However, knowing what to expect, the “shocking truth” so to speak, would have spared them from spending so much time & energy trying to understand why .  That wasted time could have been better spent focusing on advancing their career & other important priorities.

The interviews led me to write the first of a series of ebooks.  I have just finished it & officially sent to my editor yesterday (Who-hoo!).  It’s called “The Top 5 Lies Told to Gen Ys“.   More on the book in future posts but for now, I’d like to hear from Gen Yers out there who have been working for some time.

What did you wish you had known about corporate life before you took your first job?  What shocked you the most about corporate when you took your first job?  Thanks for sharing…

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