Last week I was going through couple of articles written on bad bosses in the work place. One article was describing the type of bad bosses like, the bully boss, the dreadful communicator boss, the demanding boss, the micromanager boss etc. The article suggested to learn from the experience and to keep away from all those bad traits during developing one’s own leadership style.
The article further suggested that a good boss should be,Authentic,Optimistic, with Can Do attitude,Fair and Ethical, grants and honour Autonomy, provides Constructive and Reinforcing feedback and demonstrates a Sense of Humour.Another article was guiding about ways and tricks to deal with a bad boss effectively.
I appreciate all the knowledges, wisdoms and suggestions they were sharing in those write ups, but if you are having an ill luck (as I was), you may fall in the hand of a boss who can psychologically pound you, thrash you and make you into bits and pieces. He could behave like a real ‘satan’ and throw you in enormous trouble. Particularly if you have self-respect and not ready to compromise it for anything. Your damage can range from mild to severe depending upon the authority and power of your boss.
During the most challenging part of my carrier, I had to encounter such a ‘satan’ boss for three long years. He was applying his full might to kill my carrier and at times had deliberately pushed me in the dangers where there were potential life threats. Hopeful part was that, he wasn’t fully empowered to take major decisions and needed to seek the approval of MD and that worked as a shield for me to a great extent, though couldn’t stop or reduce my humiliation and suffering. Eventually, it became an open topic of discussion across the organization.
The start of the story
From 1994 to 1998, I had been working in a plastic extrusion machine manufacturing company as a manager, at the other part of the country far away from my home state. My job was going pretty smooth, until one day the top management asked me to resign and go within next three months. I was surprised and couldn’t figure out the cause for it. After few months I understood that the real cause was downsizing. Out of their three plants, they were to close the one where I was working. They actually closed it within a short span of time and eventually retrenched almost all management staffs.
I was broken down mentally and was feeling awfully helpless with my wife, child son and mother. I didn’t have any social connections either, who could help me at that unknown new place. However, as a damage control measure, I chalked out a strategy to visit the principle ‘job consultants’ in Mumbai and Ahmedabad immediately. Both cities were away from my location and at a distance of four hrs. and eight hrs. train travel respectively, but I was hopeful that there I could get some immediate opportunity at least.
My situation was pathetic, it wasn’t possible for me to survive even for two months without a job. So, I was desperate, was letting no stone unturned to find a job and in that process, one renowned consultant could arrange an immediate interview appointment with one small but promising company, just opposite to their office on the other side of the road and send me there along with a messenger.
I met the Executive Director (ED), who interviewed me and then took me to the Managing Director (MD) and after that asked me to wait in the sitting area. I waited there for about 6 hrs. till late evening, without being offered a glass of water or a cup of tea.
This was very uncanny, normally happens in the other way around everywhere. Later I came to know, that was a practical test of ED to check my degree of need for a job, he was a firm believer that only a poor needy person could be a good subordinate to deliver.
I got the job after passing that peculiar endurance test. After a week or so ,I joined in their factory as Works Manager. The factory was at a remote corner, away from and not very well connected with urban India. Even getting an ‘english newspaper’ wasn’t possible at that place. However, I accepted it in order to survive and sincerely focused on organisation development. ED was my reporting officer. I began to develop rapport with him and eventually discovered the following facts:
- He had respect on my capability and knowledge.
- He was hesitant to trust me, even for smallest matters.
- He didn’t like that I build a team and lead.
- He wanted direct control over the team by passing me.
- He planted informers in the factory to find my faults.
- His behaviours was erratic, sometimes very pleasant and sometimes very rude without any apparent reason.
After couple of months, to my pleasant surprise, the factory got shifted to that very industrial town where I was working earlier. Shifting the factory was my responsibility and I did that in a flawless manner. I started earning good name within the organisation, MD and his other brothers were also started liking my ability and in occasions started opting my opinion directly in factory related matters. I used to respond them keeping my boos in the loop and always made it a priority to position ED before me as my leader.
I realised that, he was highly egoistic and always wanted to project himself as best amongst all. In this course, he had strained his relationship with all (yes all) senior management personnel across the organisation. They tend to avoiding him as far as possible. But as he was the school mate of MD and also was sharing a family relationship, he had his foothold strong.
On my side, I didn’t know whether my growing acceptance was making ED uneasy. Though in many occasions he appreciated my work, but overall he was apparently acting against me and was trying to cipher.
The first damaging action ED took that he sent me on indefinite deputation to our remote sites and without any specific work . Therefore, I had to spend a depressing four month at different sites, making myself as a burden to the site management and receiving their pity. I must say that they were very good at me, but one can easily understand the level of humiliation ED imposed on me by this action.
Once I called back, ED visited the factory at once and very tactfully transferred me to the corporate office, saying that “I need a knowledgeable person like you with me in the office.” He gave me a promotion also.
In reality, ED pulled me near to him to intensify the physical and mental torture in various forms, like shouting publicly for insignificant reasons, not allotting any work weeks, taunting in front of juniors so on and so forth. It was clear that, in a very cleaver way he was approaching to destroy my reputation (whatever small I had earned) within the organisation.
On my part, I was constantly trying to please him in every means I thought to be appropriate. Always absorbed his shouting and taunting patiently, even did his personal work, presented him book and handicraft. I mean, tried everything except licking his feet. Surprisingly, one day he opened up saying , “ in your situation people would fall to my feet and beg for respite.” That wasn’t possible for me, I was reasonably protective to self-respect.
That was his real mental tuning and practically I found many (otherwise smart) people working under him were falling prey to that mind set. Unfortunately ,I only knew to work diligently, making good colleagues and protecting my self-respect as long as possible.
I had to feed three mouths back at home and had to take good care of education of my only child. I was constantly searching for a new job but, not getting any response from anywhere. It was breaking me internally, it was ruining my family peace. I fact those three years were the worst period in my personal life also.
ED even endeavoured to push me in dangerous situations also, by the way of forcing me to carry out potentially life threatening work. For example, in one evening he called me up and ordered to travel 200 km immediately to reach a hill top site and climb a 60 ft. tall tower at the mid night for an inspection work.
He knew that the climbing ladder was completely drenched with oil leaking from the damaged machine mounted on the tower top. I had to climb that slippery ladder only depending on my physical and mental strength without any safety harness (practice of using safety harness wasn’t in place at that time).
The purpose was to inspect a damaged machine, which could have been well done in the morning ,adopting proper safety measures and without losing anything.
I guess, this man couldn’t throw me out of the organisation only because of MD’s intervention from the back ground, consequently was getting restless and more cruel every day. Finally (I don’t know why) transferred me to another group company and I also got relief from continuous torture.
Now, after so many years, when I try to analyse about his behaviours, I can’t ascertain it definitely. He only had selected me for the job but then, why he couldn’t tolerate me? I always obeyed him fully, even took life risk for that. It was also not that I was a bad performer. He himself appreciated my capability in couple of occasions in my front, as well as at my back. Afterwards also, when I was out of his grip, I received many appreciations from others for my performances.
I never confronted him except one occasion, when under his fierce criticism in front my juniors, on shop floor, I refused to respond and came back to my office. Later when the situation became normal, he expressed his dislike on my action. In return, I also explained him my position logically.
But again, what could be the cause of his negative attitude towards me? Summery of the facts were like this:
- wasn’t a non-cooperating subordinate,
- was needy and ready to compromise, except self-respect,
- wasn’t an unproductive resource,
- was gaining a reputation across the organisation for good work and capability.
- was probably uncomfortable with my decision making capability and drive,
- was probably uncomfortable with my managerial capability,
- wasn’t knowledgeable enough and not ready to accept people with more knowledge under him,
- wanted to operate with a team inferior than him and wanted to create a monopoly,
- was egoistic and enjoying torturing and quarrelling with people, his subordinates and peers.
- wanted people who can surrender unconditionally & with low self-esteem. I was a misfit there.
That’s all. I don’t know which category of ‘bad boss’ will fit to him the best. Most probably it was a rare combination of complex negative characteristics. Experts can offer their opinion in this regard. But if any of my readers happen to encounter such a boss in their career, I suggest them not to waste time and fly away quickly. Till that time you are in, be prepared for a complete surrender. I don’t think it is possible to manage the situation in any other better way.