The Devil Wears Dockers: Bearing a Beastly Boss

Almost every worker has had at least one lousy boss, from the mean to the inexperienced to the reluctant to the disempowered. eWEEK speaks to field experts about how to cope and when to quit.

"The Devil Wears Prada" is a thinly veiled tell-all about a young assistants nightmarish experience working for an abominable boss at a high-fashion magazine. The queen bee, Miranda Priestly, has become practically a household term for emotionally, psychologically and verbally abusive bosses.

The story is popular because its entertaining, but also because it resonates with workers of the world who have all toiled at one time or another for bosses they were certain were the devil incarnate. IT departments are not immune; from the companys favored employee who gets promoted up the ladder with virtually no knowledge of tech, to the tech guru with no managerial skills, therein lies a myriad of IT managers and CIOs who seem destined to make life in their departments miserable.

eWEEK sponged two authors and workplace consultants for everything they knew about bad bosses, from the different types to how to handle each, to when to fold your cards and high-tail it out of there. Salient point: These bosses are anything but dumb.

Marilyn Haight, author of "Whos Afraid of the Big, Bad Boss? 13 Types and How to Survive Them," is a former management consultant who companies hired when they felt they werent getting the results they needed from their people.

"Id go in to find out what the problem was and the employees would tell me the most outrageous things their bosses were doing, from not giving them the resources or access they needed, to doing their jobs and worse," said Haight, in Peoria, Ariz.

The Mean Boss

The first type of bad boss has all of the behaviors embodied by Pradas Miranda Priestly.

"This typically bad boss makes outrageous demands, orders you around, and doesnt care about your time or the things you need to do outside the job," said Gini Scott, author of "A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, And Other Managers from Hell," in Oakland, Calif.

Some can go so far as to be maliciously bad, intentionally setting out to hurt the subordinates for personal gain.

"The incorrigible types are not the types that dont have the skills or are lazy, but [the ones that] are intentionally hurting their employees or taking advantage of them for personal gain," said Haight.

/zimages/1/28571.gifPoor leadership is the leading cause of low workplace morale, according to a recent study. Click here to read more.

Haight offers little hope for fixing or dealing with incorrigible types. "They dont want to be reasoned with."

Assuming that employees wish to continue working for this person, Scott suggests that they focus on endurance tactics—things they can do to make the situation more bearable.

"You might create a support group of trusted co-workers or a scorecard of funny things the boss said or did. Self-talk or relaxation methods may work. Its important to remind yourself not to personalize it or lose confidence," said Scott.

Whether or not you quickly run for the door is a matter of personal levels of tolerance and self-protection. Very confident people may be able to stay longer, as they are less likely to internalize negativity from a boss.

"Set your tolerance level, how long you can handle this boss, and how long youll stay. If youre already seeing a doctor for stress or a stress-related ailment, its time to go," said Haight.

Next Page: The inexperienced boss.