Bosses who don't listen

I know there’s a lack of profanity, but I’m not a profane kinda guy.

I’ve been working on a project to build an intranet, which has mostly been a lot of fun, but I’ve been having a lot of frustration w/regards to my boss as of late, who is clearly trying to drive me insane.:


Thanks for asking for help, I’m glad you know when you need it. However, sitting there and continuing to do what you were doing while I try to direct you is not the best use of either my time or yours.

boss: when I paste text into this tool it comes out looking strange, what do I do?

Eonwe: well, show me what you were doing.

boss: ok shows

Eonwe: Ah, all right. Really what you’re going to want to do instead is to click on the 'paste as text tool…

boss: repeats what he did previously See, there it is again.

Eonwe: Right. But let’s try using this othe…

boss: repeats it again There it is again.

Eonwe: Ok. Really, the best way to do this is actually to click not on that one tool you’re using but this oth…

boss: right clicks to bring up a buggy pop-up menu, ends up crashing the system Er, ok, tell me exactly what I need to do?

Gah! That’s what I was trying to do! If you weren’t so sure that you knew exactly what to do, or if you actually listened to the help you asked for, you could have saved us both about four minutes and a lot of frustration.


If you want to have file naming standards, have agreed that that’s a good idea, and agreed with the standards I came up with, then please, for the love of Og, use them yourself! How can we expect other users in the company to follow those rules when we don’t follow them ourselves. And, remember how frustrating it is to update anything on our website now because of huge lists of poorly-named images and pdfs? I really don’t want to have to deal with that a year down the road from now.



I’m really happy that you’re showing such a hands-on interest in this project as we approach our release date. However, having to teach you to use the editor, and all its quirks, when I have only a week to finish everything I need to finish, is really not what I’d like to be doing at this point. I have more important things to do. In a related subject…



It’s nice of you to come in at the last minute and give all sorts of input as to the visual layout of a lot of this stuff. I’ve been pretty much coming up with it on my own with my staff because you’ve been busy with other projects. But, when I sit down with you and say… well, this is how it went:

Eonwe: Ok boss, I’m glad you’re here. We’ve been exploring a few different color-schemes and layouts [mainly because the last time we met you said you wanted this thing to look a bit more exciting and flashy than what we currently have], so we tried a few on a few different pages. Let us know if you like any of them, or parts of any of them, and we can implement them throughout the site.

boss: looks at first Nah, I don’t really like that.

Eonwe: Ok, here’s a second one.

boss: looks at second I don’t like this. I don’t like the colors that much, and it doesn’t match with the previous page.

Eonwe: Well, it’s not supposed to match. They’re both separate schemes that are options. Or we could do something totally different. They’re just to help us get some feedback as to what might look good and what you don’t want.

boss: looks at third This doesn’t match the previous ones at all. I don’t like it. I don’t like the color. Can we get rid of the color?

Eonwe: Like I said, the color isn’t supposed to match the other pages. Each page is a different picture of what the site could look like. And, honestly, we need to have at least one color for fonts and/or backgrounds, unless you want every page in the site to be black text on a white background with no variation at all. If someone wants to put some color in their pages (like, to alternate table rows, for example), we ought to have a select color or two for them to use.

boss: Well, all that color looks too unprofessional.

Eonwe: rolls eyes

Look, don’t come to me and say, “we want it to look more colorful and flashy, and then come to me two weeks later with nothing constructive to add except that colors make it look unprofessional (very modest use of color).” I can’t believe I’m having to sit here and fight with you to come up with a color that would be acceptable for people to use.



Please stop e-mailing me that pages aren’t finished. I know that. They’re on the schedule. If you looked at it, or showed some interest in my schedule or methodology, you wouldn’t panic that a page has some links that haven’t been made into links yet. I’m on it! Really! Getting e-mails telling me what I already know and what I’ve already got planned, when I’ve told you when those things will be done is annoying and insulting.



Now that you’re here working on this project, I’m really glad you’re kind of editing things all over the place in a random fashion. I’ve got two people who are reporting to me on this project, and I’ve given them a very detailed site map and specific sections to be working on at specific times. On at least three occasions I’ve had them e-mail me wondering what was up, because pages they were working on were changing out from under them.

Part of why this has all been able to be completed on time is because I went about it in a really organized way. It’s hard to continue in that methodical and efficient way when it’s undermined by people going in and editing things. Once a page or section is checked for look, content, functionality, and navigation, it’s done. We check it off and move on. When you go back and change/add things, we have to double check that things are still looking/working right. I’ve pretty much given up testing the site because you keep introducing changes. Such as…



Please don’t click on things anymore. Really. I spent the better part of this morning working on a page. I hadn’t ‘published’ it yet, so the live version was still from earlier this week. You went to make a change, didn’t like it, and then rolled it back to the last live version!! I had to re-do the work I did this morning.
What it really boils down to is this: You know how to ask questions but you don’t know how to listen. You expect everything to work how you want it to just because, well, you figure that’s how it should work, but you refuse to work with the software, or with the person or team. It all needs to conform to you because you don’t have the time or inclination to learn how things work. You want the result now, but don’t bother to learn how to get the result within the framework in front of you.

This project has been very fun and rewarding for me, and in the last week the level of stress and frustration you’ve brought to it has made me forget how much I was enjoying it all three weeks ago.

Hmmmm I think your boss might be one of my clients.

You know, the client who said “I need this site done by the 17th [a monday]” only to have his people send me files on the 14th (a friday, at 4:30). And I got the site done by the 16th (a Sunday) at 4 am, and told seventeen people about it and got all sorts of approval.

Except from the big boss man, who apparently isn’t happy with something (from the designers) and it’s now the 27th and the company has been to 2 trade shows and thousands of people have been given the Web address only it doesn’t exist. Because Big Boss Man can’t make up his mind.

Yeah…some people (most people) should not be allowed to weigh in on Web sites. Ever.

But, you forget. I’M the boss, which means I can do what I want, when I want. There’s a reason you’re a subordinate. Obviously, it’s because my experience and skills are so much more finely honed than yours. Do what I say.
I like to call it “Executive Syndrome”. Mine has it, too. They get a big head and it crowds out their critical thinking skills and hearing.

Wow, Eonwe, your boss sounds incredibly stupid. I hope that’s exaggerated. Because otherwise you gotta wonder if he’s brain-damaged.

Heh. No, he’s pretty bright actually, and a nice guy. It’s a very casual work environment mostly, and usually I don’t have any problems.

The issue is often he only really gets hands on with my stuff when things get close to deadline, and because he has a little knowledge and isn’t affraid of computers he just starts doing stuff. Like I said before, when there are problems he just kinda assumes that there’s something wrong with the tool (or whatever), and instead of working methodically through something, or really bothering to learn, just wants to ‘do it’ and make it better.

An issue comes up, and he goes into, “I know what I’m doing, so this obviously isn’t working” mode. Once I finally am able to explain what the issue is, he learns it, and thanks me, but it’s a very frustrating process to have to stand there and watch him do something the wrong way over and over.

Five minutes ago he was trying to put a picture on a page to the right of a table. After trying to do it the same way a million times and failing each time, he just kind of gave up. For those of you who are web people, you know that putting an image on a page and aligning it to the right is a pretty simple task. The editor we’re using is a little finicky, but it’s still basically a simple task. He ended up coming up with a solution that was really inellegant and didn’t look that good, and then he listened to me, followed my easy steps, and in 20 seconds had what he wanted.

Part of the issue is that my boss is not a web person. I report immediately to a guy who does have his stuff mostly together and is a web guy, but we’re a pretty small department (communications… print, tv, radio, and web), so most things end up being group projects.

The way you describe his communication, though, is just so distinctly weird. How does someone ask a question over and over and not give the person they’re asking the chance to actually answer? It’s such a weird thing to do.

Too bad your boss doesn’t have the cleverness to refrain and let the experts do their thing, then.

It definitely is. When he is slightly out of his element he goes into a weird auto-pilot/panic mode. And he asks a question, but continues to try to solve it himself while trying to listen to you at the same time. He’s unable to do either effectively simultaneously. “Let me come in and work and do do do because we all need to get this done now! Go go go what did you say something I was working really hard because this should just do what I want and why isn’t it working what’s that oh um ok see it just keeps not working when I need it to work why won’t it work and… shit! Um, ok, how do I fix this?”

Quite true. Total hands-off-ness followed by last minute over-zealous ‘helping’ when all we need is space to breathe is a complaint that many others in the department have. It’s a huge part of why I’m working on setting up my own shop. I love having talented people and letting them do their thing (with a degree of oversight and accountability of course). Being bumped to the back seat when an under-qualified higher-up has an opinion about something and is unwilling to discuss it (or willing to ‘discuss’ but not really open to changing his mind) is too much to bear day after day.
Grrrr! We let out a beta this afternoon to certain execs and directors. Someone just came by to compliment Boss on how great it all is! I think I’m going to end up being the invisible monkey behind the scenes.

sigh Code Monkey likes fritos.

This project has sort of been in my and my immediate superior’s hands for a long time, and is being yanked back under Boss’s control, and I’m helpless to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, it’s not nearly distinct enough.

Recently, a guy from the phone company came in to muck around with our PBX. In the process, he screwed up some wiring, which caused certain extensions to not ring when a user called in on our main customer service line. We didn’t discover the fukcup until he’d already left, and it was going to be a few hours before he could get back in and fix it.

I was the only IT guy in the office at the time, so I was running around trying to mitigate the problem.

I sauntered into the office of Ms. Six-Figure Idiot to let her know about the problem and give her an estimate on how long it would take to fix.

Me: Hey, MSFI, we’re having a prob…

MSFI: My phone’s not working!

Bangs handset down.

Me: Yeah, the PBX…

MSFI: Bob’s is ringing, but mine isn’t!

Picks up phone, bangs handset down harder.

Me: The guy from the phone comp…

MSFI: See! It’s not working!

Picks up phone, slams fingers on random keys, slams handset down hard enough that it bounces out of the cradle.

Me: If you’d just…

Picks up phone again, basically throws it agains the wall.

MSFI, nearly in tears: WHY ISN’T IT WORKING???!?!!!

Me: I think you need to hit it a little harder. Buh-bye.

This woman is more than forty years old, and I’ve seen her literally kick her heels like a toddler throwing a tantrum due to some random, minor office fuckup. When she can’t get her margins right on a Word document, she’ll fix it by throwing her mouse against the monitor. Whatever.

black rabbit: God, that’s weird. I mean, lots of people have crazy-ass emotional issues. But how does a person who is otherwise able to function, at least to the point of not needing a helper to feed them puréed peas and take them to the bathroom, possibly engage in a behavior that’s so self-defeating? What in the world could possibly be going through someone’s head when they decide to ask a question that they want the answer to and then talk over whoever’s trying to answer it? How can people possibly be so stupid?

Though not quite the same thing, it sounds like the Halo Effect. :slight_smile:

Only way I can figure it is that they’re a frightening hybrid of competitive, needy, and stupid. If you follow my links back for my descriptions of a couple of the other dog turds she’s left on the garden path of my career at this place, you’d see what I mean.

I know that this isn’t where you were going with that, but have you ever had this happen?

Boss wants you to design an app, so you mock up some forms and make screen shots and paste them into a Word document. You then send the document to the boss, and he tries clicking on the buttons. Of course, nothing happens, but then he says “It doesn’t work” and regards you like you’re a terrible programmer. And of course, he completely disregards what you wanted him to do in the first place.

Allow me to express surprise at your surprise.

You haven’t had a boss like this? I’ve had easily a dozen.

Never once. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like that. It’s so bizarre to me that someone could engage in a behavior that so clearly and immediately counterproductive to their own goals. I just can’t imagine how someone could keep behaving that way over time, and never stop to think that maybe letting people answer their questions might help. Also, that no one has ever beaten them to death.

Seriously, my replacement and I have discussed my old boss and we honestly believe this about him. I think he did have a motorcycle accident at some point, and a bad fall, and I swear he came away addle-brained. But he continues to run the department (into the ground).

In some way, he may be trying to show that he has a clue, that he believes he knows the answer and doesn’t want to just sit there admitting he doesn’t know. :confused:

Well, the thing is, he did get the answer. It was just an incrediably long (relatively) and stressful process for both of us, when it could have been completed in under ten seconds.

Be happy they didn’t do what happened to me with frightening frequency.

Boss: create plan for packing line conversions on line X

Drach: yes sir!

<time passes>

Drach: here is the plan 2 days ahead of schedule for your review so we can make any needed adjustments.

Boss looks at plan, asks a couple intelligent questions, I point out the solution in the plan, he approves plan.

Drach does needed preparation, sets up materials for crew, and executes line dumps in the computer to facilitate speedy moves.

<2 days pass>

Drach does meeting with crew demonstrating how to convert lines via his simple and elegant plan.

Boss thanks Drach

Two days pass, I go to check on progress and it has almost completely broken down.

Why you might ask? Drach’s poor planning?

Nope Boss decided he didn’t like my plan after all and after the meeting went around to the crew in the warehouse and started using a different method from the plan. Didn’t mention a thing to me.

When I went to ask boss what was up the problem was that my preparations were not “flexible” enough :rolleyes:
This kind of stuff happened 3-4 times a year on major projects.

Ah. I had a boss like that back in my newspaper days. We’d just switched to using QuarkXPress for layouts. The managing editor was used to the old paste-up system and didn’t get computer pagination at all. But that didn’t stop him from playing with the program when we were on deadline.

I was working on page 3 one night and he was hovering over my shoulder. The page was 95-percent finished when he reached over and said “oh, let’s try this.” I have no idea what button he pushed, but the entire contents of the page vanished. Nothing happened when I tried to restore the page. He looked at me, completely unfazed, and said, “oh, gee, any thoughts on what you should do?”

As it turns out I did have a thought, but it didn’t involve recreating the page so much as it involved taking off my heavy, chunky-heeled sandal and smacking him in the skull a few dozen times.

Good luck finishing your project, Eonwe!

I’ve encountered the “I keep asking questions and either not waiting for your answer or ignoring your answer” people occasionally.

I enjoy telling them “You keep listening a lot faster than I’m talking.” On a couple of occasions it has actually changed thier behavior for the better, though it had to be repeated several times.

While you’re at it, I know he’s getting better, but could you teach my dad (and boss) the difference between OPEN FILE, and SAVE FILE. We have four computers in our building, all networked together, and we use his My Documents folder as a sort of server. Well, it’s always fun when someone pulls up and x rated power point file by accident on another computer when they’re trying to find and ingrediant list.

(I did casualy mention it to him, and I think he more or less caught the drift.)