Work for a Mean Boss? Man Up, This Ain’t Yo Mama’s House


Man up at work. This ain't yo mama's houseRobert Sutton (bestselling author of Good Boss, Bad Boss) recently launched an on-line quiz called Boss Reality Assessment Survey System – or BRASS. (Clever Bob) In the survey he asks whether your boss “does a lousy job of comforting and calming during tough times.”

Whatchu talkin ‘bout, Willis, er, Bob? Our boss is supposed to be calming? And did you say comforting? Really?

Our doctor, sure. Our parents, of course. But our boss? Even the entrepreneur bosses? Hmmm.

Bob may be asking too much of this specific subset of bosses. In particular if we are talking about entrepreneurs still in startup mode. In the startup phase of the business, your entrepreneur simply doesn’t have time to worry about your stress level.  During the start-up phase, your entrepreneur frequently won’t have time for food.

So during the tough times, your entrepreneur boss will likely be, well, tough.

I’ll Drink to That
One of my entrepreneur bosses exhibited this tough-times-toughness during one of the darkest days of our then young company. Six of the 50 employees had just been laid-off. To calm frayed nerves, the entrepreneur gathered the remaining employees in the break room for reassurance and a drink. (Yes, alcohol. It’s a much needed entrepreneurial perk.)

The speech started as expected; he was sorry to see our fellow employees go…he hated to do it…he thought of them as family. Just as we all began to relax and raise our glasses to the encouragement that was sure to follow, the entrepreneur forgot who he was talking to.

We’d be okay, he said. We’d be stronger now, he said. We’d be stronger, he explained, because moving forward he would regularly cut out the bottom ten percent of the company.


It had been some famous football coach’s philosophy on the field, and it was the law of nature. He explained that survival of the fittest would keep the company strong. Forty-four employees stood with glasses raised, toast-ready, and smiles fading.

Did he just say he was going to fire us? L’chaim entrepreneur boss!

Yes, I would say this entrepreneur boss was lousy at “comforting and calming during tough times.” But it wasn’t intentional. He believed that the majority of us would be encouraged by his new business philosophy. He thought the performers would be happy to see the dead weight go.

He didn’t realize that not one of us, from the cleaning crew to the vice presidents, felt safe enough to take comfort in this thought. He didn’t realize that when you don’t own the company, your need for things like food and shelter – all products of your paycheck – are just as important (more?) than the health of the company. He didn’t realize that by fortifying the company in this way, he had left his employees on shaky ground.

So yes, Bob. Though they may try, our entrepreneur bosses are lousy at comforting and calming.

Working for Wonka? Know this: If you need a boss that coddles and coos, go work for your mother. Your entrepreneur doesn’t have time.

[Photo credit: Kingfishpies (Flickr)]


  • PlainSpazz

    Reply Reply August 29, 2010

    You HAVE to be kidding with that pep talk. I would of chugged and headed straight to!

    • Kathy Ver Eecke

      Reply Reply June 20, 2011

      Right?!? It was all going so well….until it wasn’t. It was one of the worst “we’ll be okay” talks I’ve ever seen. Really shook people up. People left the room in a daze. Some of us tried to explain to him after the fact that it didn’t come off as comforting, but he really didn’t get it. Go figure.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field