Every boss wishes for an office filled with happy, motivated and downright fantastic employees. … Dream on. The fact is there’s usually one bad apple in the bunch, and maybe many more. Bad behavior isn’t just the domain of the stereotypical boss; it’s a place many employees venture as well.
By Jan West, Ph.D.
The bad boss, as personified by C. Montgomery Burns on “The Simpsons,” is a target that takes a pretty substantial drubbing throughout the media and society. The cantankerous and morally-bankrupt Burns takes on all the stereotypes of a manager, showing off his unquenchable need for wealth by once blocking out the sun in order to cash in on increased demand for electricity from his nuclear power plant.
Certainly, Burns’ bad behavior is contemptible. But maybe this fictional employer has a good reason to be cranky: The equally bad behavior displayed from his most incompetent employee, Homer Simpson.
Bosses in the real-life workplace often get a bad rap, and for good reason. A recent poll conducted by CNNMoney.com showed that a lousy boss is the biggest reason for low employee morale. But what about the bosses’ morale? They’re certainly not all sadistic, greedy monsters who treat employees like paper clips. In fact, the majority of bosses are pretty good at what they do, and have to deal with at least one Homer Simpson-like personality on the job.
Acknowledging that there are always two sides to every story, even in the Burns-Simpson battle, the following takes a look at the Top 10 Employee Behaviors Bosses Hate Most:
1. Sick … And Tired Of It
There’s a reason abusing sick leave is No. 1. It’s because everyone seems to do it, especially in the latter months of the year. A recent survey of 2,800 workers and managers found that 32 percent of employees admitted to faking illness at least once in the last year. And since sick days don’t normally roll over, the make-believe maladies shoot up towards the end of the year.
2. Time Mismanagement
Sometimes the boss thinks the best bonus he or she could give an employee would be a new watch. Chronically showing up late for work, late from lunch, and being late on assignments can send the boss to an early grave. When dependability becomes a problem, maybe it’s time for a little intervention.
“Have a frank discussion about the message this sends,” said Barry L. Brown, President of a Florida-based consulting firm. “If the employee doesn’t seem to care enough to correct it, you’ve got the wrong employee and you need to develop a plan of action to terminate and replace.”
3. Smell Ya Later
This is a hard one for the boss to deal with, because it’s a very real problem. And how exactly do you tell your employee that … you stink … literally? A touchy subject, indeed, but personal hygiene is a workplace issue that has to be dealt with, especially when co-workers begin to complain. Funky breath and foul odors have to be handled one-on-one and in a setting that’s strictly private. No one said being the boss was easy.
4. Cell Division
Being on the phone at work all day is bad enough, but it has reached new heights of irritation with the invention of the cell phone. It starts with the ring-tone. If the boss hears an employee’s going off every hour on the hour, whether it is Mozart’s Requiem or Fergie’s Fergulicious, that ring will resonate. The best advice is to turn it off and use it for important calls, outside the office and out of earshot from co-workers and, of course, the boss, who is keeping tabs now on the amount of personal calls.
5. Factual Flops
Bosses hate when names and numbers are constantly wrong. And why shouldn’t they? It’s sloppy and embarrassing, and can make them look bad in front of their supervisors. Not paying attention to the accuracy of reports may not make you the office jerk, but it is a sign of incompetence that has to be dealt with.
“If the employee is otherwise a ‘keeper,’ consider another assignment that will utilize their strengths,” said Brown. “It may be the employee is too focused on getting the work turned in on time, even if it contains errors. This is a delicate balance, but must be addressed.”
6. Attitude Adjustment
Break out the thesaurus when describing the bad employee attitude. They’re cynical, uncooperative, griping malcontents. The office sourpuss can bring a dark cloud over the entire department, and add a hefty dose of misery to the boss’ day-to-day demands.
7. This Isn’t eBay
The boss never sanctioned the office as a swap meet, so why are you selling everything from Girl Scout cookies to your kid’s fund-raiser magazines? Selling wares at the office may seem harmless, but if one person uses the company email system to announce the sale of their hockey tickets at a low, low price, then everyone will eventually get into the act.
8. Noise Pollution
The phrase, “some people don’t have a clue,” was created for a reason. It’s just that some employees don’t know when they’re being irritating with their strange, obnoxious noises. To them it’s part of everyday life, but to the boss and those around them, it’s just straight-out annoying. The guy constantly snorting and sniffling, the woman with the cackling laugh, the cubicle neighbor who thinks everyone should hear their webcasts. It all adds up to one big fingernail on a chalkboard.
9. Chatty Kathy … or Ken
Communication at work is important, but over-communicating is a problem. Work is just that, work. No boss wants to ban talking – well, maybe some do – but there’s a fine line between appropriate banter at work and Olympian-like socializing. If you’re at the office, it’s likely that there’s work that needs to be done. Talking with other employees like it’s a hotel lounge or dinner party will likely raise the ire of the boss.
10. Taking Credit, Where Credit Isn’t Due
Sometimes, the boss is out of the loop on a project, and the employee who steps up and takes recognition for its success when he or she didn’t lift a finger will not only get under the boss’ skin, but co-workers as well. An employee who is not a team player leaves more hard work and stress for others.