Why do some people like bad bosses?

I had a great interview today with a journalist from bnet.co.uk about loyalty and engagement at work.

She asked many interesting questions, including this one:

Some people work for horrible bosses, like the evil restaurant chefs we see on TV. Why do many people still seem to like and respect these bad managers who mistreat them?

My answer:

Stockholm Syndrome.


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4 thoughts on “Why do some people like bad bosses?”

  1. Gotta be the Stockholme Syndrome! I had one of the worst bosses in the history of bosses several years back. The stories I could tell are just on the other side of unbelievable, including her giving me a bad review and later confessing that she hoped the bad review would prompt me, the “best in the department”, to crack the whip on those I worked with! Not sure where the logic was in that, but she finally changed the review and gave me my raise. All the nightmares aside, I learned more from that pseudo-manager than one can imagine. I got myself a nice backbone from the deal, and although you couldn’t pay me enough to go through that sort of work-related turmoil again, I’m glad I was able to come out of it a better person than I went in. Scarred, but better!

  2. Kierulf, I don’t think you understand the full specter of things that are required of a boss in order to make a diverse team function well…

    One of the things that is required is “loyalty”. In other words, the workers have to be loyal to the decissions of the one who is the leader. If they are not, and if they prefer to follow their own judgements rather than the judgements of the boss, the team becomes impossible to stear.

    Now, how do you make sure that the team members are loyal to the decissions of the leader?

    I do agree that you can come a long way by following your hippie guidelines of love peace and happiness.

    But you can only come so far…

    Your mantras do not cover what to do when you have a team member who is inclined to slack and/or drift away into his own pet projects.

    When this is the case, you need to tell him straight out what he is supposed to do. EVEN if it means being rough.

    In some cases, love and niceties just don’t cut it…..

    I think your whole leadership philosophy springs from your own dislike for being told by a boss what to do. You don’t like it, and therefore you imagine that there is a way to lead in which all eployees decide for themselves in a collective manner, and where the boss never has to be rough.

    In an ideal world, this could have been true.

    But in a real team, with real people, with real inclinations, it does not always work that way…

    (Note: When i say loyalty, i do not mean blind loyalty, of course.)

  3. Bottolfs,

    Having managed groups in excess of 100, I understand that there are rogues. My mantra was always, “while I hope you do, you don’t have to respect me….you just can’t disrespect me.” You will have one off’s that don’t get with the program. You manage them accordingly.

    Alex’s premise that you dismiss as hippie is that the masses don’t require this big, huge Attilla the Hun leader that seems to be popular in the press. Managing “soft” may not garner headlines…..but the flock will follow their shepherd if the shepherd is skilled. A shepherd rarely uses his staff to beat but to gently direct. Of course, a shepherd is never going to make the cover of businessweek. All a shepherd knows is 1) his flock 2) where the flock needs to go and 3) when/how to take them there as pleasantly as possible.

    Get those 3 down and managing people is a snap.

  4. Very funny, I never thought of Stockholm Syndrome before in relation to bad bosses!

    I was in a situation once, where i had a boss who was bullying me. She wore me down and put me down constantly, but after two years of this I finally had the strength to do something about it – and have never looked back!

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