The People Pro

Training, Tips and Tools to Build Your Business and Balance Your Life!

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Location: Small town, Northern Wisconsin

Barbara is an author, speaker and psychotherapist in private practice. She provides keynote presentations and is a Certified Professional Speaker, a designation held by fewer than 8% of the speakers in the world. She has appeared on FOX, CNN, and CBS and is considered an expert in relationships.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Leadership-How to Deal With the Pointy-Haired Boss

Inspired by the character from the Dilbert comic strip, he has come to represent all clueless managers, especially those technologically challenged. He is described by Dilbert author Scott Adams as "every employee's worst nightmare." Unscrupulous and mean, his top priorities are the bottom line and looking good to his superiors.

The Pointy-Haired Boss can be spotted taking credit for other people's ideas, projects, and work. He jumps up quickly at meetings to exclaim how much effort he has put into a new venture. Reluctant to thank his team or the people who actually did the labor, the PHB wants to make sure that his superiors know how hard he works.

The PHB stays current on all the latest business trends, though he rarely understands them. He is quick to adopt the hottest buzzwords and uses them to try to impress others with his business savvy. He gets excited over mission statements, strategic plans and teambuilding exercises. To see Dilbert's Boss in action producing mission statements, visit: Dilbert Mission Statements You can see the boss saying, "Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah."

Technology is just another way to waste time and promote himself for the PHB. He regularly "ego surfs," the process of surfing the web to see how many times his name turns up and what people are saying about him. He occasionally blogs some useless information just to see his name in print.

The PHB uses e-mail to make himself look good. He can be found adding his two cents to the memos from the boss resulting in a "kudo loop" of meaningless e-mails. He carefully follows up to any subordinate's e-mail with comments of his own to make it look like the idea was orginally his. This process of "e-dundanting" others with a flurry of e-mails is designed so that everyone knows how hard he toils.

Working for a PHB is discouraging and intimidating. He dominates others with his unrelenting quest to get ahead. Often driven by an insecurity deeply rooted in his childhood, he uses others rather than getting some psychotherapy.

Paul works for such a boss. Quiet and soft spoken, Paul is highly educated with a degree from Yale, and displays exceptional talent in sales and marketing. He has put together a number of marketing plans and promotional campaigns and forwarded them to the PHB for approval before implementation. He waits for a reponse. And he waits some more.

Several months later, the PHB presents one of his plans with minor changes at the sales meeting. While he mentions that his staff "helped" with the project, he does not credit Paul by name. Paul attempts to talk with the boss about his behavior but is told, "Look, I'm in charge here. Just do your job."

That is one of the main problems with working for a PHB; it is highly unlikely that any intervention on your part will make any difference in how he operates. You can attempt to talk with him or form a relationship but will not be successful. The PHB is not interested in you and your success; he just wants to get ahead.

Perhaps the most discouraging part of working for the PHB is that his success also says something about the leadership of the organization. They are either totally clueless or completely incompetent or both. They miss the obvious about the PHB that everyone else can see; he is lousy at managing people and inept in his job. How can top management not see this?

The answer is simple: they are incompetent or just don't care. Either way you are SOL with your career. Anyone with options and talent will leave. The rest will "dumb down" to fit with management.

It is said that people rise to their level of incompetence, and in too many organizations this is true.

Tips for Success:
  • Never work for someone you don't admire. You spend too many hours at work to be stuck with a PHB. Ideally, your boss should be someone you can emulate and respect.
  • Look for employment where you can learn and be mentored. The best employers are interested in the development of their employees and offer them opportunities for growth.
  • If stuck with the PHB, limit exposure. Stuck with him? Then try to have as little contact as necessary. Practice the art of keeping out of sight and just doing your job. Avoid face to face meetings as much as possible.
  • Put your name on everything you do. Don't let him take credit for your work; put your name on it. Make sure the upper management knows your accomplishments.
  • Don't be shy about taking credit for what you do. This is not the time for modesty or being humble. The PHB is not about to acknowledge your efforts so you have to.
  • Work with fellow employees to give each other credit. It's time to band together for survival. A tight work team can survive the PHB with mutual support, humor and camaraderie.
  • Nominate each other for awards and honors. Support other employees and make sure that they receive the recognition they deserve. They may return the favor.
  • Put Dilbert cartoons up by your desk. Maybe the PHB will get the hint.

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Bartlein, All Rights Reserved

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