Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Daring Your Boss to Fire You

It is a rare instance, but EVERY

not "most"
not "the majority"


EVERY time I've heard of an employee standing up to his boss, even daring him to fire him, it has worked out in the employee's favor.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the empirical evidence I have witnessed thus far does not lie.  EVERY time I've heard or seen an employee stand up and get in the bosses face, sometimes even yelling at them, they have won and the boss has lost.

The reasons are a bit convoluted and certainly theoretical, but permit me to posit some.

1.  Because of the progressively decaying nature of our population, the majority of people are at minimum flawed, if not, outright impaired.  The problem is, especially if you are younger, you are conditioned to think people in positions of authority are not.  That they are somehow "special."  That they are somehow unique super-humans that are more intelligent, more experienced, more logical and wiser than you.  That they are immune to this decaying trend.

Not by a long shot.

The truth is they are no smarter, better, or wiser than you.  Just older.  So convinced of this, I believe nearly 80% of American bosses today are merely bluffing the entire time and engage in such petty office politics antics to hide that fact so you dare don't peak behind the curtain and realize their ineptitude.

However, inept incompetent management can only last so long before driving underlings insane.  It's not only illogical, but damaging, not to mention bad management makes employees' jobs impossible to do.  Soon the stress is too much to take for some and they barge into their boss' office reading them the riot act. The boss, rarely if ever facing an angry and more competent underling, buckles and the employee gains some concessions (but never enough to solve the fundamental problems plaguing the firm).

2.  Another reason is that deep down inside most bosses know they're bad and incompetent.  Their ego and frontal lobes will work wonders to convince them otherwise, but deep down inside that 50 year old, gray-haired, 30 years of experience man was promoted to a level that is seriously challenging his abilities and competences.  He's barely treading water.  And just like a drop dead gorgeous 24 year old is insecure that she may not be the hottest girl on the block, so too are there underlying and constantly nagging doubts in your boss' head about his competency.  If you challenge them, especially with superior intelligence, factual data, or a different vantage point, you may pierce their thin veil of confidence.

3.  Exacerbating this doubt is the fact that most bosses get promoted not through achievement or excellence, but rather compliance, obedience and politicking.  While that makes for "good" employees, those traits are not those of a good leader.  This leads to an irony where the "best" employees are promoted, which is like promoting the most obedient sheep to the position of shepherd.  This results in bosses who are out of their element, again, insecure about themselves, but more importantly really susceptible to an employee whose flown off the handle.  They are the most COMPLIANT people by "natural corporate selection," ergo the last to say no and therefore the quickest to cave.

4.  Finally, most corporate cogs in America are deathly afraid of violence.  Even though you may not have the intention of causing your boss physical harm, a person (even a woman) going livid and ripping the boss a new one is such a traumatic event it will shake them to their Darwinistic core.  The worst they've seen is maybe a motorist giving them the bird as they suffer their 90 minute commute in their SUV back to their SWPL suburb to watch the Kardashians and watch Jr. in the school play.  I guarantee you it's a once in a 3 decade career where a furious, violent-ACTING human is screaming 3 inches in front of their face.  Admittedly, sometimes they may choose fight over flight, and that presents a serious legal (and physical) risk.  But again, I've only seen them choose flight. 

Admittedly, these are only theories and I really don't know why employees who have it out with their bosses are batting 1.000.  The sad truth is, however, daring your boss to fire you, threatening to go on welfare/unemployment, reading him the riot act, or tearing him down in front of the entire office to see will not achieve anything as you cannot fire your boss.  Your boss will still have his/her position of authority.  And though they may make some concessions, like a drug addict, they are incapable of fundamentally changing and your job will still suck.

This means if you have a job with an incompetent boss it pays to mentally check out, not worry about what he says, do your best, and collect that check.  However, if you're like many people where the boss barks contradictory orders, is intolerably inept, and really makes it impossible to do your job, then that job is impossible and ripping your boss a new one called for.

Just be prepared to lose your job...and go on the government dole as you live off of his taxes.


TC said...

Yup, describes my last boss perfectly. Proverbial "nice guy" in way over his head. I had to draw the line when he tried to shift some of his direct responsibilities on to me. I openly refused and he freaked out that I would quit. Corporate decided not to stop me so now he is completely on his own. Me, I am doing the freelance thing and have no interest in going back to corporate slavery.

leeholsen said...

prime example of mgt ineptness. we are building offices currently and collapsing the breakroom and our dept head didnt even tell our managers this was going to happen or why. so all the employees think theyre breakroom is going away, lowering morale for 2 more managers when one email could've displaced it all.
my #1 work rule is mgt doesnt care about you and as long as you dont cause them problems, you could sit and twiddle your thumbs all day and get paid for it and if there's no yearly incentive of a raise, is suggest doing exactly that or at least surfing your ass off.

Robert What? said...

Being self employed for quite some time, I'm wondering whether I can use this strategy on my incompetent boss? I may give a whirl.

Mark said...

The old book "The Peter Principle" explained the problem. If someone is good at a job, they keep getting promoted until they reach a position they aren't so good at and then don't get any more promotions and stay there. This is true in all large private corporations. It's even worse in the government. There you have the situation explained in the chapter "Why the Worst Get on Top" in the book "Road to Serfdom". I work in a federal government office and the management becomes increasingly inept and corrupt the higher you go. When you get to the very top (Obama) you have the most inept and corrupt person of all.

redneck said...

When I did it I didn't get fired, but they started pulling really passive-aggressive shit. But it got me out of a really crappy job, where I was making 1/10 of what I could on my own doing the same work, without a string of assholes above me and compliant bitches around me.

Dr Dream Vacation Rx said...

Pull a North Korean stunt and I will give them the 1776 treatment.

liberranter said...

The truth is they are no smarter, better, or wiser than you.  Just older. 

Not necessarily older either. I've worked for bosstards easily 15 years my junior (I'm in my early 50s). They're no better and no worse than the bosstards in my own age range. As you point out, the problem is corporate culture itself, which rewards passive, ass-licking compliance over initiative, courage, competence, and innovation. This is a trait which infects all ages, sexes, racial-ethnic groups, and skillsets (or lack thereof).

Kristophr said...

Yell? No.

I'll just hand them a big helping of contempt. When the HR people at my last corporate job laid me off, they were utterly confused by my "I'll just sell my labor elsewhere" attitude.

craig m. said...

Excellent observation. I might add that throughout most of the working world, many times the poorest employees are stashed in supervisory or management roles where they can do the least amount of physical damage to the product

Anonymous said...

My Dad had a problem with one of his generals. He could only stand up to him in the mess, while drunk. Dad did precisely that. He was friends with the general from then on - the general didn't like or trust yesmen.

A kind of shit test, if you please.

Anonymous said...

I'm a retired Peace Officer, a SGT. Twice I have had to go ballistic on a Captain, and came out relatively ahead both times. The first was an affirmative action promotion Captain who was unfireable and was involuntarily transferred to us due to what would be charged as sexual misconduct today. He was dumber than three boxes of rocks, and kept getting bright ideas about new, different, and non-regulation ways of doing things that would endanger my officers. I finally got to the point where, in front of my crew, I would just say, "Captain, that is stupid and we are not going to do it.". He had screwed up enough times that when it went up to the Major and he heard what the guy wanted to do, he backed me because if we did it the Captain's way we would all be tapdancing in front of a judge.

Another time, another assignment, my crew found some sensitive evidence of misconduct that my Captain did not want me taking up the chain of command.

Don't yell in their face. Talk calmly, firmly, and at low volume [and pitch]. I explained in great detail that the information could not be suppressed, and it would come out that he had tried. He wilted.

My crew and I got commendations, the Federales got involved, and the bad guys ended up behind Federal bars.

Part of it though, was that they could not hold a threat of not getting promoted over me, because I knew for political reasons that I would never make LT.

Subotai Bahadur

LordSomber said...

I've never been afraid to go above an incompetent boss's head and go straight to the owner if said boss is endangering the whole enterprise. Go straight to the top and make your appeal to their best interests. Always been my advice.

Glen Filthie said...

Bad advice, Cap. I say this as an older, experienced manager that deals with young men and women like you all the time.

BE PROFESSIONAL. A professional soldier, cop, accountant, economist, banker, etc - understands that people are human and make mistakes. You CAN bitch about incompetent superiors making bad decisions. But what if they are making them because you aren't giving them the info they need to make those decisions?
USE THE CHAIN OF COMMAND. If your boss is playing inside baseball take the game out in front of HIS boss. Tell him that you are going to do that first, if he doesn't smarten up. I totally LOSE it when I find petty rivalries going on behind my back and will come down on those that engage in them.

As a manager I train my young people to replace me - and each other. You would be shocked at what this does for team building. We can go on vacations, people can be off sick - and it doesn't stress the rest of us out.
Fact is I would haul you into my office and lay it down: stop picking fights with people you don't need to. Take a damned hard look at your enemies and a far closer look at your friends.
You are pissing away a metric TONNE of potential and reward.

Steamship Trooper said...

I have had the fortunate experience of both types of bosses, and it was the 80/20 rule in action.

One was like the one described by Anonymous 8:11. He refused to lead starving wolves to fresh meat, preferring a "Shiny Happy People" approach. To this day, I still would not piss on him if he was on fire. He was in the 80%

The other, described by Mr. Filthie, is a man to this day I would march through Hell for, asking only for a glass of water and a map. Unfortunately, he wes in the 20% (you know, the percentage that actually gets shit done)

Cappy, your approach works 80% of the time. Trick is to recognize when to use it and on whom. Fortunately, this is not difficult.

Steamship Trooper

Seerak said...

The two times I did that, it was to the same boss. The reason why it worked, was that he was the sort who wouldn't respect you if you didn't stand up for yourself; if he thought you were being obsequious to avoid, he'd just become a bigger jerk to you.

As a result, while most of my collegues thought he was a tool, he treasured me above all of his other employees (except his brother, of course.)

I didn't hang around, though, because he was too self-indulgent for the good of (his) company. When you already have complete customer sign-off, and you're in position to comfortably deliver on time and on budget, you DON'T then decide to make schedule and budget-busting changes just to please yourself. He did.

From what I can tell, that's what did eventually nuke his outfit. He's an employee now.

Goober said...

I called my idiot boss on his shit once.

He got very petty and very passive-aggressive with me, and purposely put my career advancement on hold, even though it turned out in the end that I was right, and I called him out in private, not in front of everyone. I did the job of two positions above me, but never got the formal advancement that I deserved because he was a petty fuckhead.

It proved to me that he was more interested in saving face than being right. Or having good employees. He wanted people who would do what he said unquestioningly, even if he was wrong.

Which, in turn, proved to me that I no longer had any desire to work for him anymore. He was the only one at the company who was less than heartbroken when I left.

My only regret was that when I left, his boss tried to convince me to stay, and I lied ans said that I was leaving because I found a better opportunity, when I should have come right out and told him that I was leaving because he had an inept, incompetent moron running things for him.

But the fact was, only an inept, incompetent moron would have been incapable of realizing how inept and incompetent my boss had been, so I didn't figure it'd get anywhere besides losing a good reference out of him, so I let it be.

Turns out i've never needed their reference, anyway. A good guy stands out as being a good guy without needing his incompetent previous boss to say so.

Last I heard my direct boss got himself fired after his boss retired, and he couldn't hide his incompetence anymore.

I, on the other hand, am a pert owner in my own firm and being so quite happily.

Goober said...

Glen Filthie speaks truth.

TO you youngsters out there trying to be somebody - read what he said. Internalize it and live it.