This is the final installment in the Bad Boss Series. I think it’s important to answer once and for all: How did the bad boss get the job? You and your peers are constantly scratching your heads wondering if the boss has compromising pictures of the CEO. How else could this insane person get the job? Particularly when they have no apparent skills, much less know anything about your area. This is a good question and I’m here to provide you with some insight. This insight is intended to not only explain this life mystery, but to shed light on your own professional growth plan.

Here are some of reasons for these horrific decisions:
There was no one better to choose from. You hear this with political candidates all the time. In the business setting, sometimes the big boss simply has no better choices and making no choice is worse for them than making a bad choice.

They hold value to the big boss. Maybe not you or your peers, but the big boss might be familiar with this person and find that they work together well. They may lack complete insight into how poorly your boss manages down, but their ability to manage up is superb. This happens a lot.

They are a “super-doer”. This is a phrase I personally coined. Often a person is great at something like sales or business strategy. In order to reward them and create a growth path for them as a means of retaining all that great skill set, they put them in charge. They probably are encouraged to continue to do the work they are so famous for, completely by-passing any substantial leadership.

They have charisma or personal power. You see this a lot. The person may know nothing, but what they say and how they say it sounds smooth as butter. This is a fairly superficial person. Once you get into the trenches with them as your boss, they can’t manage or do much of anything else. This person is a great figure-head, but provides nothing to you or your peers.

They fooled them. Mostly hires made from the outside. There is this concept known as “resume drift”. It’s the idea that a resume represents a person to be more experienced and skilled than they truly are. Some people can carry this into the interview and sound great until they turn into your boss. It will take the big boss a while to figure out the deficiencies; and once they do, they may be reluctant to fix the problem.

They know, but aren’t willing to do anything. Sometimes the big boss acquires your boss through organizational shuffling; or the organizational shuffle put this person in charge. Managing performance is difficult and many people are reluctant to make the tough choices. The bad boss simply drifts along, making work-life miserable, and no one is going to do anything.

I’m sure there are a few bosses who got their job for other reasons, but I think this covers the majority. As I have said to those managers who reported to me: “You will be the single biggest factor in whether or not your people will like their job. Your job is to get the work done without taking a body count”. If it were easy to be a good leader, we wouldn’t have so many books and workshops on how to be a good one. Nevertheless, you can count on having a bad boss sometime in your professional life. Good luck.

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