Bashing the Boss

Workforce Performance Solutions Magazine

May 28, 2010

by Marshall Goldsmith

According to a recent survey by and Development Dimensions International, a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining or listening to others complain about bad bosses – and almost one-third spend 20 hours or more per month.

While the survey is intended to point out why bosses need to be trained so they can change behavior, the results also may be interpreted to point out why employees need to be trained so they can change behavior.

Employees should learn that – for their own best interest – there are several reasons why they should not engage in counterproductive boss bashing, even if they do have a bad boss.

When you boss bash:

You waste time. There are a lot of productive things that you could be doing in 10 to 20 hours per month. Even if you don’t respect your boss, you can be working to improve your own performance. If you have this much time to waste, learn some new skills. This way, you may eventually get a better job and a new boss.

You demean yourself. If you are so brilliant that you can consistently judge your boss, and your boss is so stupid that he merits endless hours of critique, why do you report to the idiot? Ultimately, when we discredit our boss, we discredit ourselves. The people around you will not say so on the outside, but on the inside they may be thinking you are an even bigger loser than your boss.

You hurt your company. Your stories may get repeated to others. If the managers are so bad, why should anyone believe that the products are so good? Why should people spend their hard-earned money on your company’s products?

You come across as a hypocrite. When you bash your boss behind her back, the person you are talking to may think, “What do they say about me when I’m not around?” It is usually obvious that your cynical or sarcastic comments are not delivered directly to the boss. Why should the person you are speaking to believe that you would treat them with any more respect than you treat your boss?

You communicate a lack of courage. If the boss is behaving in a way that is bad for the company, why don’t you challenge him? The answer must be that you are afraid. Part of the problem may be that your boss is intimidating – a bigger problem may be that you lack the courage to say what you believe is right.

You depress yourself and others. There are a million things wrong with the world. People starve. Murders are committed. Millions live in poverty. If you want to talk about depressing topics, why stop at your boss? Why not just spend the day talking about how bad life is? A better plan might be to make the best of what you have to work with.

You don’t enhance your career. It is eminently possible that at least some of your countless hours spent boss bashing will be either overheard by the boss or shared by someone else with the boss. Would you want to promote someone who was spending 20 hours per month stabbing you in the back?

We have all made useless, destructive comments about our bosses and co-workers. This is not just true for employees. I have reviewed 360-degree feedback reports on leaders at all levels in major corporations, and a substantial number of executives are rated poorly on the item “avoids destructive comments about other people or groups.”

A simple process that seems to address the destructive comment problem: Before speaking, take a deep breath. Ask yourself four simple questions: Will this comment help my company? Will this comment help our customers? Will this comment help the person I am talking to? Will this comment help the person that I am talking about? If the answers are “No, No, No and No,” there’s a simple strategy that does not require a Ph.D. to implement: Don’t say it!

In my classes, everyone “fines” their fellow classmates $2 every time an unnecessary destructive comment is made. After years of doing this, I have helped generate more than $300,000 for charity through this exercise!

Destructive comments do a lot more damage than $2. You may want to set up a system at work that includes fines for useless, counterproductive slams. You might find that this helps your workplace to become much more positive – and you also may end up raising a few bucks for a good cause.

Mediatec Publishing