How to Make Sure Your Project Team Doesn’t Think You Are a Horrible Boss

How to Make Sure Your Project Team Doesn’t Think You Are a Horrible Boss
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Is This You?

In the movie Horrible Bosses, Nick, Dale and Kurt all hate their bosses for one reason or another. There’s the 365/24-hour boss Nick works for, Dale is being blackmailed by his boss and trying to run from her sexual advances, and Kurt (well he used to love his boss) but has a new boss, the boss’s son, and he’s a psychopath.

I wrote a piece a while back on what to do if you work for a bad boss but this time around. what if you are that boss everyone hates and talks about? You can bet they sit and have some much-needed drinks during happy hour and the only topic is you—and it’s all bad.

I’d say most of these types (and you know if you are one) don’t really care what subordinates think of them. They’re either A-type personalities, are losers in the relationship or interpersonal skills world, or let’s face it, they have no character. In firmer words, they suck.

If this is you, I’d take out an extra life insurance policy or find ways to change real fast.

Tell Tale Signs

I’m fond of examples because they often allow readers to say, yep, that’s me. Let’s say your new Agile team knows nothing about the methodology and you expect them to learn it over the weekend.

You never call your external stakeholders (like the client) and instead pop them off a rude email informing them everything’s on schedule with an attitude like, don’t call me, I’ll call you.

You could care less about upper management because you know you have job security and as far as vendors, you are non-responsive or too demanding—you can’t be pleased no matter what.

Project status meetings are never joint collaborative events and as far as your communication plan—it’s basically you shouting out names of team members for an update right, right now or else.

Okay, we’ve established you are a horrible boss and the only team member who likes you is the brown-noser and he’s only a brown-nose type because he fears you—wants to get on your good side, so to speak. In reality, you don’t like him either. You don’t like anyone and life in general, as far as you’re concerned, is on your terms—all the time.

Is Change Possible?

Is Change Possible

As a team leader you should know the basics of the Change Management Methodology but because you’re a horrible boss, you don’t practice the methodology—you order others to change and inform them they should be happy they have a job to go to everyday.

Is it too late for you? Well maybe.

But of course, ever the optimistic me, says no, you have a chance if you start working hard immediately.

You may think upper management loves you because you get things done on time and within budget but before long, the employee complaints, accusations of discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits will start and that word “dispensable” will come up in corporate meetings when you’re not in attendance. In other words, they will replace you.

So, it’s time to jump off the high horse you think you’re riding and get back to reality.

Embrace Your Social Awkwardness

Let’s face it, you are socially awkward when it comes to team recognition, assignments, delegating and most important—being a team player. No wonder you are a horrible boss.

Many project leaders come with personalities they’ve possessed all their lives and others are strong-armed by a Project Management Office (PMO). When a PMO rules the life and direction of the team leader, the frustration often does trickle down to the team.

Instead of hampering project success or ensuring project success through a demeaning attitude, why not be fair and, well, change a little—nope, a lot.

Assess Yourself and Be Honest

Before you can offer a better, nicer and fairer you, why not assess your personality?

Bright Hub’s Heidi Wiesenfelder offers a great article on personality tests and a good one for project managers to take (and it’s all anonymous and results are free) is The Big Five Personality Test—you can find it here.

I thought I’d take this test based on how the characters in the Horrible Bosses movie felt about their employers. In other words, I tried to be the opposite of who I really am.

During the test, I thought of myself as a person with a master’s in business, 35ish in age, wanted control, was stressed, rude, energetic, easily upset, not a team player, and hated new ideas or change, but in my social arena, I was Queen. The screenshot below shows my results (click to enlarge):

Screenshot Big 5 Personality Test Results

Wow, I am one horrible person to work for! I am closed minded, an extrovert (in a bad way), very disagreeable, nervous and high strung. I only do better on the conscientious scoring because I know I’m not the one who is disorganized—my team is.

Before you call a shrink after this assessment, it’s time to change your attitude, dude (or dudette).

You Need a Kiss From a Frog

You Need a Kiss From a Frog

Unfortunately for some of you real meanies, you may have to get back to project management basics and plan, communicate, monitor and control—not meaning you’re in control of the universe, but you have a thumb on the project. It is possible to be a nicer project leader if you can change based on the project management element or model.

Project Initiation – You need to include all your stakeholders both external and internal and learn to accept ideas or changes to the project scope. Everyone should be allowed to offer their two cents without fear and these initial project meetings should be a determined discussion with outcomes everyone agrees on—not just you.

Communication – Having an effective communication plan doesn’t mean acting like a boss I once had. He never left his chair or office, but screamed, “Jean, Ernesto, Rondetta—Get in Here Now!” Once we arrived, he pretty much communicated alright, where he talked, and we listened and left feeling emotionally drained.

Use a great communication plan that is accessible and interactive to all team members and stakeholders. By interactive, I mean let team leaders—or the lowest of the low as you may call them—have access to communications, defects, ideas, changes to processes, etc.

Follow-Up – You need to follow through on the communication plan ideas whether it is through project status meetings or actually playing on the same team and inserting your ideas or, God forbid, complimenting someone on a grand idea. I know it hurts, but it gets better with time.

Monitoring and Control – This doesn’t mean you sit in your office with a two-way camera where you watch and scream at the project’s progress. The project charter or scope should have laid out the project flow and if something’s not going the right way, it’s time to find out why—in a gentle, fair manner. Talk to team facilitators, calmly discuss what’s going wrong and find ways to jointly fix the problems. If things are going well, there’s no law saying you can’t give some kudos when due. This may hurt too, but you’ll get over it.

Project Completion – If you scored as a zero in the boss personality test, you probably deliver the project and don’t mention your team or anyone else. You did it all, you are King of the project delivery process. Get real here. Your team mostly did the work and if you were fair throughout, you did a good job too by controlling and monitoring the flow as well as choosing the right resources for the right task.

Commend your team and recognize them to the client or upper management. Reward your teams with various types of incentives—yep, let them know you care.

Be Hit Man Aware

Watch Out for that Hit Man or Woman

Finally, much like Nick, Dale and Kurt in the movie, if you don’t learn to be a team player, not the team owner, you will find yourself dreaming about Sue and Bob and Cindy, and how they, much like in the movie, hired a hit man to kill you.

Project managers don’t have to be of the Hitler-type or feared by everyone on their staff. Sure your friends may like you but then again, do they really like you or just put up with you and talk about you later?

Have any ideas on how to make a meanie manager change? I’d love to hear them and if you work for a horrible boss, I’d love to hear that too.


Horrible Bosses – Movie Summary – IMDb

The Big Five Personality Test

Image Credits:

Screenshot by author - personality test results from The Big 5 Personality Test

Angry Face - / Royalty Free License

Smile Sign - / Royalty Free License

Frog - / Royalty Free License

Gun and Bullets - / Royalty Free License