The Morning Ritual of a Boss From Hell

06/11/2015 04:35 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2016

I have seen many Bosses From Hell (BFH) in decades of management, consulting and coaching (I just really hope I haven't ever been one!) I have heard about enough of them and their antics to believe that their behaviour does not happen by chance. My experience in manufacturing tells me that any output that is churned out repeatedly has a consistent process. I therefore figure that BFHs must have a finely honed system in place to consistently and predictably drive fear into everyone they meet.

Part of any system is the preparation. At work, be it office, retail or factory floor, there are always functions that must be done before engaging in production or service delivery. As human beings, we all have our rituals to prepare for work. I often coach my clients on creating a morning routine that will help them improve their leadership effectiveness. Seeing how powerful this is, I wonder what the morning ritual of a boss from hell might be like. Perhaps it could go something like this:

You wake up, late of course, with barely enough time to get ready for work. This ensures that you are frazzled, rushed and stressed the moment your eyes jerk open.

Immediately upon arising you snap on the television to the news channel to remind and reinforce what a terrible world we inhabit, and how apocalyptic these days are. Better yet, some nights you would have fallen asleep with the said bad-news channel droning to make sure that the gloom and doom soaks deep into your consciousness while you sleep.

Check your e-mails on your phone. Fire off at least one caustic message to make sure that your "team" knows you are getting ready for them, and of course, to start destabilizing their day. Earlier the better.

As you hustle to get ready, dismembering your closet to find skirt or pants that fit (you can't recall the day last that you exercised) you make a mental list of:

  • A staff member you will bring to tears today. Brainstorm a few scathing comments.
  • Events months, even years prior that you can rehash yet again to remind a co-worker how badly they messed up, even though that problem has long been resolved.
  • Some way to sabotage your boss, delivered while smiling so that he/she really isn't sure of your intention. Always keep your boss unbalanced.
  • An email blasting someone for some minor infraction, and who you will blind copy.

As you brush your teeth, comb hair and groom, you glance at yourself in the mirror being careful not to make eye contact with your reflection. You recall reading some time ago that "the eyes are the window to the soul" and you certainly don't want to connect with your soul! You make sure that any uptick of the corners of your mouth does not in any way resemble a smile. You want smirks, or better yet, flat lined lips like an impenetrable line of resistance.

Check your e-mail again to see if there has been any response to your earlier message. If none, send another caustic message. Make sure to keep the e-mail thread going with short, tart statements. Add a few key people and some of no relevance to the matter to the blind copy list.

Heading out the door in a trail of clutter and untidiness you are now ready to make people's lives miserable. To make sure you are fully prepared, you practice being hellish on the way to work with your spouse, children, barista or anyone else you meet on your commute. You arrive at work ready to be an amazing, unstoppable and perfect Boss From Hell.

Does this sound like your morning? If so, you may want to think about whether you could be a BFH. It is likely that behind your actions is a set of beliefs about "being boss" that is driving your hellish behaviour. Here are 3 beliefs you could be holding:

  1. Fear is an effective motivator and people only work when they are fearful.
  2. To be nice/compassionate/friendly indicates weakness which your employees will take advantage of.
  3. You have all the answers, and your staff just needs to do what you tell them.

If you answer any of these affirmatively, then you could very well be a Boss From Hell. Of course, being a Boss From Hell could be your chosen leadership style. If so, then continue exactly as you are. If not, then start a new morning routine that is the opposite of the above, and that includes reflection on how you might change your beliefs and therefore your behaviour and your relationships with others.

Tired of unhappiness, poor business results and conflict in your organization? Convinced there's another, more joyful way to get fantastic business results? This is your forum. Post a comment. Write to Marguerite and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to workplace challenges? Check out Marguerite's blog. Planning a retreat? Marguerite joyfully travels the world to facilitate. With Marguerite's help, you and your team will get clear on the results you desire, agree on what to do and switch on your joy buttons. Please contact Marguerite now - it's a great time!