The signage company Signs.com recently surveyed 800 people--employees and bosses--about which communications behaviors irritate people the most. The study identified 10 boss habits (see graphic at end of column) that are truly heinous.
Here they are as a traditional top 10 list, along with some real-life horror stories I've heard over the years.
10. Poor Hygiene.
"I had a boss who not only expected hallway meetings to continue as he went to the restroom (for serious business) but then didn't wash his hands afterward."
"My boss was a chain smoker and he owned the company so his office smelled like a smoking lounge. To make matters worse, he was also a 'close talker,' so just having a conversation with him was like taking a bath in second-hand smoke."
"Almost without fail, my boss was a half-hour to 45 minutes late to his own staff meetings. Even though everyone knew he'd be late, we were expected be in the conference room exactly on time and then wait for him. He had a special toady who babysat us while we waited to make sure we didn't discuss anything of consequence until he'd arrived."
8. Canceling a meeting 5 minutes before it's due to start.
"Maybe it was something about the culture where I worked, but the managers always seemed to have an emergency come up right before any discussion that might prove uncomfortable ... for the managers. You'd block out time, prepare for the meeting, and then ... nada. It was like Lucy with the football."
7. Using drugs and alcohol at work.
"He had a radar detector in his car--this was back when they were rare and expensive--so he'd go 100 mph on the local highways. He was so certain he wouldn't be pulled over that he'd start his drive with a coffee mug full of whiskey. When he showed up at work, you could smell it on his breath."
"The top management were all coke-heads. They'd get all coked up and then have brainstorming sessions. All of their ideas were crazy and there was never any follow-through. When they sold their company, they all cleared around $10 million. Go figure."
6. Taking credit for other employees' work.
"I told him my idea right before the big strategy meeting with all the VPs. His response: 'That's a dumb idea; don't bring it up.' He then proceeded to present the *exact* *same* *idea* as his own, even though I was literally sitting right next to him. After the meeting, I asked him why he didn't say it was my idea. His response was, 'It had more credibility coming from me.'"
5. Mentioning poor work performance in front of other people.
"In every staff meeting, he'd pick out one of his direct reports and spend at least half the meeting reaming him out. There was obviously something psychological going on there because he was about five feet tall and built like a dumpling and we were all at least six feet tall and ran from slender to 'dad bod.' I think he must have hired us, in part, because he enjoyed taking us down a peg."
4. Making "romantic advances" toward employees.
"I was working in a theater company and the company director strongly implied that I'd need to 'make him happy' if I expected to keep working there. We were both drunk at the time. I went home with him and gave him a blow job--my first and only gay sex--and kept the job. It never happened again. It wasn't until several years later that I realized how totally creepy that was."
"I was interviewing for a summer job--nothing special, just some office work--and it seemed to be going well. After about half-an-hour, the guy says: 'Before I hire you, I have one last question.' He stood up, dropped his pants, and asked: 'Does your mouth work?' It surprised me so much that I burst into laughter. Clearly miffed, he muttered 'Apparently not,' and started buckling back up. I was all 'OK. Bye,' and got out of there as fast as I could."
3. Using company expense accounts for personal use.
"He insisted on approving absolutely every expense--even postage when we mailed out contracts--but he was charging the company for his laundry. Whenever he took a client to dinner, his expense report magically came to exactly the company limit of $50 per person per meal, even when I knew for a fact that the meeting had taken place in the Starbucks around the corner. Drove me crazy."
2. Making informal threats to terminate employees.
"The guy had a sticker on his desk right where it was in front of your face when meeting with him that read 'My Way or the Highway.' If that weren't bad enough, he kept a book on his desk that had a title something like 'Strategic Outsourcing.' Everyone got the message, since he wasn't exactly being subtle."
1. Playing favorites.
"She was originally hired as a receptionist but caught the eye of our CEO, who promoted her to a sales manager position. She knew that nobody would dare to cross the boss's girlfriend, so she always got her way in meetings, even though she was completely unqualified. What made it worse is that she dressed like she was a cast member from a B-movie entitled 'Hot and Saucy Pizza Girls.'"