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Published: Tuesday, 2/20/2007

Bad Boss? Let Your TV Be The Judge

Your boss could be dysfunctional, incompetent or in charge of cutting jobs, but you still have to cope

When your boss is called the she-devil, like Meryl Streep s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, you ve got a right to stress out.

Priestly is a classic controller, says William Krug, a professor at the organizational leadership and supervision department at Purdue University College of Technology in West Lafayette, Ind. Some people like control, some people like power, some people like to be the person who determines everything, says Krug. He says you have to determine the motivation factor of a boss like Priestly, decide what makes her tick and if you re going to play the game. In the movie, Andy Sachs played the game up to the end, then she made a choice and said, No, this isn t for me, says Krug.

To author, speaker and leadership consultant Mark Sanborn of Denver, one of the best lines in the movie was at the end when Andy was interviewing with a new employer who had called Priestly for a referral. Miranda had said Andy was her single biggest disappointment and that he d be an idiot not to hire her, he says. This showed her good side and that much of the problem with Priestly was with a dysfunctional organization and industry as portrayed in the movie.

At The Office

Steve Carell s character, Michael Scott, the manager in NBC s The Office, is a laissez-faire leader, says Krug. In other words, just about anything goes. What makes him so funny is that a human being could be so completely unaware of his behavior or his behavior s effect on other people, he says. But the million-dollar question is how he s the guy in charge, says Sanborn.

Though the staff who works for Scott may think he s an idiot, says Sanborn, he s not a bad egg. In some cases, they cover for him. And we ll forgive incompetence before we ll forgive rudeness or indifference in the workplace. We don t like to work for incompetent people, but if we have to choose between a competent jerk and a lovable fool, unfortunately we ll choose the lovable fool, says Sanborn.

It Can Get Ugly

Maybe that s the secret behind the relationship that has developed on a new show about work Ugly Betty on ABC. Betty s boss, Daniel Meade (played by Eric Mabius) is a philanderer who got the job because his father handed it to him. Enter Betty Suarez and take a few lessons from this comedy. First Sanborn, who wrote You Don t Need a Title to Be a Leader (Currency, 2006), says Betty is a classic example of someone who lacks a title but has skills and the willingness to make a positive difference.

It would seem to me that the endearing thing about Ugly Betty is that she is very buoyant and enthusiastic and maybe a little na ve I ve got braces and I m homely, but I love my life, says Sanborn of the main character. He says she s a refreshing role model for an image-obsessed world and has natural leadership abilities. Betty and her boss often overcome their differences to work together as a team.

Jack Rocks TV

On NBC s comedy 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin plays microwave-turned-network executive Jack Donaghy. Krug says that some managers are known as turnaround artists their job is to come in and fire people and change things up to get the company going again. They re not bad bosses; they re just charged with a tough task.

As Sanborn says of the episode in which Donaghy fired the number two producer: You didn t get any sense of maliciousness or ill will. You got, this has to happen; this is what s going to work. In fact, Sanborn says that Donaghy is a great example of what you might get if you were to cross Miranda Priestly with Ugly Betty, but without the edge. Donaghy is not immovable like Priestly; he shows a soft, even goofy side.

When a Donaghy enters the picture or when working under any boss sometimes employees have to adjust. When organizations fall on hard times, sometimes leaders have to get tough. Krug says it s hard on the leaders too, especially if directive leadership is not their style. But he says there s a difference between a hard boss and a bad boss.

A hard boss is one that can be difficult to work for but is focused and is actually making good decisions, even though we may not always like the decisions or must work long hours. A bad boss is very inconsiderate and doesn t have company goals in mind, he says.

To cope, Krug recommends having accurate information and documenting any problems.

Sanborn says that the dysfunctional bosses discussed here have one thing in common they re having fun. Comedy is tragedy separated by common space, says Sanborn. So laugh at home in the evening, it will help you get through the next 9 to 5.

Copyright CTW Features

By Teresa Odle

CTW Features



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