Your Jerk Boss May Not Be An Asshole
Not All “Jerks” Are Assholes

“He is such an asshole.” “She’s such a bitch.”

Just walk down a busy street during lunch time and you’ll hear these words just about every day of the work week. Hang out in an office bathroom long enough and you might hear it about yourself (I speak from personal experience.)

However, every “jerk” boss you have is not an asshole or a bitch, although every bitch or asshole boss you have is, legitimately, a jerk.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. One of the cardinal rules at Double Forte is “Don’t Work for Assholes.” Of course, it requires definition so that you can spot and deflect them. Sometimes they don’t reveal themselves to you until after you’re working for them, and when you do identify them you need to extricate yourself…but that’s another post.

For our podcast Millennial Minded Episode 10: If Your Boss Is An Asshole…, my colleague Duncan and I had a pointed conversation. You can listen to the story of when my boss told me to come in on Saturday since I hadn’t done my work and I responded with “I’m going to the beach tomorrow” … it did not go well for me.

Our definition?

Asshole Bosses:

  • Lie
  • Are disrespectful: they yell, threaten, ignore, objectify, disregard and/or are rude
  • Make their messes other people’s problem
  • Blame everyone else for their shortcomings
  • Don’t set clear or reasonable expectations
  • Value themselves more than they value others

Avoid these people whenever possible.

However, every boss you call a jerk does not fit the definition of an asshole.

“Me making sure the work is done the right way doesn’t make me a jerk…ever.”

Not Asshole Bosses

For example:

  • A boss calling you out on the fact that you didn’t finish your work, or didn’t read the email, or left for vacation without making sure your team could carry the ball while you are out of the office, does not make her a jerk.
  • A boss being irritated when you miss a deadline does not make him a jerk.
  • A boss asking why something you committed to doing last week isn’t done today does not make her a jerk.
  • A boss asking you to get coffee for him when that task is in your job description does not make him a jerk.
  • A boss not approving a leisure vacation at the last minute during a crunch time that was identified months ago does not make her a jerk.
Asshole Boss Vs. NOT Asshole Boss
Not all “jerks” are assholes

When you’re called on the mat because you came up short for work that was detailed with clear deadlines it’s embarrassing – really embarrassing. Your stomach probably drops and if you’re like me, you get red in the face. And our automatic response may be to think and say that the boss is a jerk or any one of a set of more colorful nouns. But that’s on you – not on your boss.

And successful bosses everywhere have the same characteristic. High standards and the expectation that they will be met by their teams.

High standards are the hallmark of great bosses

Before you go and quit because your boss is an asshole, make sure your assessment is righteous or you’ll be walking from one bad situation you helped create to another one you will probably complicate.

Own What You Can Own

People who perform well with asshole bosses take control of what they can control – themselves. And the more you can control your domain, the more opportunity you will have.

  1. Know your deadlines. What day, time, time zone, format. I’m convinced that at least half of workplace friction is because of poor deadline management.
    1. If your boss didn’t specify a real deadline (see above) seek clarity.
  2. Read your email all the way through. If you’re in the “To” line, you’re responsible for the content. Period. Respond and plan your workflow accordingly.
  3. Understand vacation policies. Even if you get unlimited vacation time, your time out of the office has to work for the company first…if it doesn’t you’ll find yourself without a job pretty fast. Most companies have guidelines on what works for vacation and what doesn’t.
  4. Understand your job description. If your job is to get coffee, then getting coffee for your boss with a smile is required.

And if you’re doing all that, and still your boss is disrespectful, values themselves over everyone else, lies, or refuses to set reasonable and clear expectations, then it’s time for a new job where you control what you can control for someone who will value you and help you achieve your goals.



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