Ponytail Alert

Ever feel like you’re living in a Dilbert cartoon?  I have. The “pointy-haired boss” who is so clueless about his business and employees always makes me laugh.    Over the years there have been many instances where I was convinced that the cartoons were inspired by the company I was working for. 

And of course there’s Michael from the sitcom, The Office.  Unlike Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss, Michael is ‘arrogantly clueless’.  That’s almost worse – he thinks he knows everything but really just makes work harder for all involved.

Classic among the females is Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.  Now this one actually gives me chills.  Reminds me of my first few years in the workforce, working in the high-pressured world of fashion.  I remember one boss in particular.  She was one of the smartest women I’ve ever worked for.  She was also a tad difficult.  A bit of a character, Boss had a habit of playing with her shoulder-length hair while she was working.  She always wore a rubber band on her wrist, and as she became stressed she would use the rubber band to tie her hair back into a ponytail.  The higher the ponytail, the more stressed she was. And her personality changed with the ponytail, becoming more terse and harder to deal with.  So our department instituted the “ponytail alert”.  If anyone witnessed the ponytail – especially if it was high on her head – that person became like Paul Revere and alerted the rest of the department so we could avoid the wrath that came with the ponytail.

I was working with Boss on a project one time, and I had to run to my office for some information. When I came back, not only had she put her hair in a ponytail, but it was straight on top of her head!  I remember trying to remain calm, get my assignment and exit her office as quickly as possible.

Had another boss who was so clueless that he had me write my own review. I guess this is not unheard of, except during said review he asked me, in all seriousness, to complete the section with his comments – he was too clueless about my job to even write a comment on my review.  Good news for me though. I wrote rave comments and received a nice raise.

My rule as a boss is to help my team as much as possible. I want them to want my job, and if I provide the correct guidance they should become skilled enough to get promoted.  Paramount to being a good boss, in my opinion, is to provide as much open and honest communication as possible, although confidentiality trumps openness on occasion.  Even when it means conveying bad news.  People can handle bad news; they just need to know what it is. 

Over the years I’ve had great bosses, bad bosses and many in between.  Ponytail Boss was not the worst, although she remains a classic.  I’ve tried to come up with my version of “types of bosses” – see what you think. And whatever you do, try to avoid being one of “them”.

Types of Bosses:

Mr. Clueless – The guy who somehow got promoted, although it’s hard to figure out why.  Has no understanding of what it actually takes to get his job done, much less yours.  If he realizes his own shortcomings, working for this guy can be good as he’ll step out of the way and let you go.  Of course, he’ll also step out of the way and let you take the fall – after all, he’s clueless.

The Ostrich – This boss buries his head in sand and hopes that things just go away. Always a good approach, if you never want to take responsibility or get things done. Also a good approach if you want your team to be constantly frustrated.

The Constant Visionary – This is the guy who’s always thinking of new ideas yet never realizes that at some point, a decision needs to be made and action has to be taken. Business is suddenly standing still, trapped in a never-ending cycle of hope for action, due to the constant stream of visions that appear to this boss. He calls them "creative ideas".  You call them “roadblocks”.  It's a fine line.

The Smooth Talker – This boss appears to be highly respected by others in the company, and at first you agree.  His presentations are stellar and he exudes just the right amount of poise and confidence.  Others are envious that they are not under his guidance. Everyone leaves his meetings inspired, ready for action.  Once back at the desk, it doesn’t take long for people to realize that he sounded good but he didn’t really say anything. At least anything of substance.

The Withholder of Information – A very difficult boss, he has all the information because he attends meetings (without you) yet consistently fails to share that information when dumping projects on you.  Of course he’s probably fearful that he may lose “power” if he shares his knowledge.  Funny thing is that power is in the mind of the beholder.

The Clairvoyant Leader - Rather than providing direction, this boss uses nice phrases like "I'm open to your suggestions" and "let's see what you come up with", lulling you into a false sense of security that he is truly open to your ideas. When you provide your report, he unleashes all sorts of tirades on you because you could not read his mind and your work is "not at all what he wanted".  This leaves you to review your job description to see if “mind reader” was a pre-requisite for the job. No a magic eight ball won't work either. I’ve tried.

 Read more at my blog, Tales of the Terminated – A Humorous Look at Life After a Layoff.  www.talesoftheterminated.com

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