bad bosses

Posted: December 8, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


I’ve often cautioned readers about one size fits all rules. Too much career advice is based on the words always and never. Here’s another example: Stay at a job at least a year before leaving. In most cases, it’s good to do this. However, there are circumstances when we should leave a job as soon as possible.

Mark (not his real name) is a client who received an offer to work for a company everyone would recognize. During his interview, Mark felt uneasy about the person who would be his supervisor. He talked to his family about not taking the job. They told him that he had to take it because working at this company would look good on his resume.

Mark called me after working at his new job for only four months. In that time, his two co-workers had quit because they could not take the boss’s constant belittling and bullying. Both employees went to HR, but nothing was done to change the way they were treated. Mark was worried about how it would look if he left a job before completing at least a year. I told him that it would be a concern for some employers, but he had to weigh that concern against how he was being treated.

Why should anyone stay in such job? Mark’s challenge will be to explain why he is leaving so soon. We talked about how he can do that in a way that doesn’t bring up his boss or his problem with the job. We also discussed how he can present what he has accomplished in his short tenure. A good employer will look beyond how long Mark stayed at this job to see what he has accomplished at other jobs and in school. The worst thing Mark could do is stay in a job where he is exposed to unprofessional treatment. My advice: Why wait eight months? Start looking now.


Posted: October 8, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


One of my clients, we’ll call him Nate, recently interviewed for a managerial position. He said the company owner was charming throughout the interview. An employee politely interrupted the interview to ask a question that sounded important. The owner order her out of his office, slammed the door shut, and told Nate, “Some people don’t know how to behave.”

Does this mean Nate should not take a job with this company? Not necessarily. He should so with some caution. I recommended that he do a little background research on the company owner. Has anyone written anything about him online or social media? He should also ask to talk to employees before accepting an offer. Talking to them might give him a better idea of what it would be like to work for this person.

Pay attention to such cues when you are interviewing. Taking a job with a bad boss usually is a path to unhappiness. Such bosses also tend to be misers when it comes to pay.


Posted: September 12, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


Amy Eddings of Ring of Fire reports on the amazing scope of wage theft. Citing a study by the Economic Policy Institute, Eddings writes that the total amount workers lose through wage theft could be 2-3 times greater than criminal theft as measured by the FBI. Federal and state governments are making efforts to recover lost wages, but those efforts are understaffed. This story reminds us that workers are not just fighting low wages and poor working conditions. Some employers are stealing their employees’ labor. Shouldn’t they be treated like any other thief?

Posted: July 18, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


Many clients tell me the same thing: They hate their boss. They feel unappreciated and disrespected. Rather than recognize a job well done, the bad boss will say nothing or, worse still, ask for more. To be fair, in many cases, the boss’s boss is probably putting pressure on her to do more and more. That’s too often the nature of business today. Still, would it hurt a boss to say, “Good job,” or “Thank you”?

How can you avoid working for a bad boss? When you interview for a new job, ask this question: What will it be like to work for this person? Pay attention your potential supervisor’s mannerisms and body language. A good question to ask would be: “What are the three most important qualities you look for in a successful employee?” The answer should indicate whether you and your prospective supervisor share the same values.

You can’t control your boss or the company you work for. However, you can decide what company you want to work for. Hiring is a two way street. If you’re looking for a new job take the time to evaluate the person who can make you life miserable. It’s never easy to walk away from a job. Sometimes it’s better to do that than to be miserable and mistreated. It’s your choice.

Posted: March 7, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

In the April issue of Psychology Today, Joann Ellison Rodgers reports on new psychological research on anger.  Traditionally anger has been seen as a negative emotion that hurts both mental and physical health.  Rodgers cites several experts who have found another side of anger.  They argue that anger can lead people to make changes. People who are upset are more like to try to change something.

This article made me think about many of the clients I’ve encountered over the last ten years.  Of those who were currently employed, most had some grievance against their company or boss.  Since the Crash of 2008, many clients have made me share their anger by telling stories of increased workloads that are reward by salary freezes or cuts.  One of my recent clients is a production manager who also has a sales function.  Last year he put in extra hours to help the company where he has worked for more than 10 years.  While maintaining all of his production duties, he also doubled his sales numbers.  He expected to receive a bonus at his annual review in December.  Instead, the owner told him “times are tough” and cut his pay by 10%.  That made him angry enough to look for a new job.

His story makes me angry as well, which is why I’m telling it.  Too many people are working too hard and not being properly rewarded.  That’s why many workers in the U.S. are very, very angry.  Hopefully, they will come together and change things to make their lives better.

Posted: December 3, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I met with a long time client today.  He had a short, unhappy stint with a company that paid a low wage and had high turnover.  He asked me what could be done to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.  I told him to ask this question: What is the employer investing in you?

If an employer pays a low wage or works by a commission with small/no base pay, that company is telling you up front that they do not value you as an employee.  If you perform well, you will be underpaid and maybe complimented.  If you do not meet performance goals or dare to question how employees are treated, you will be replaced.  A good employer will pay a decent wage and have clear rules for performance.  This type of company usually does not have high turnover.

I understand that many of the jobs currently being created are low wage.  Some people will have to take such jobs because they are low skilled or live in an area where unemployment is high.  However, if your skills, experience, and education qualify you for something better, keep working hard to get the job you deserve.  If possible, don’t take the bad job.  If you have to take it for income, keep looking for work and quit as soon as you find something better.  Show no loyalty to an employer who will let you go without thinking twice.

Before accepting any job offer, ask this question: What is this company investing in me?  If the answer is “Not much,” keep looking for a job that values what you have to offer.

Posted: October 16, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I have a client whom I will call Mary.  She has been a business manager for 15 years, working at a family-run business where she is not a family member.  After going on vacation a few weeks ago, she returned to work only to learn that she had been laid off and replaced by her assistant.  Mary had been hired by the business’s founder.  Now, his son runs the business, and his primary value is cost control, which lets him keep more money in “the family.”  15 years of loyalty mean nothing.

A few years ago, one of my friends worked as a manager for a home health service.  The owner of the business had three daughters.  My friend trained one daughter, then another, and then she trained the youngest daughter, who took over her job.  The business owner told my friend that she appreciated her work, but family comes first.  The irony is that the company went out of business three years later.

Not all family businesses are cruel or disloyal.  But, if you work for a small family business, it’s probably good to remember that – as my friend’s boss put it – “family comes first.”

Posted: July 25, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

A few minutes ago I hung up on a telemarketer named John.  He was trying to offer me a home fall prevention service that “had already been paid for.”  The call began with no identification of the company or purpose of the call.  

At first, I politely tried to interrupt the caller to see if he was calling for me or if this was a wrong number.  He kept reading the script.  Then, using his name, I told John that I didn’t think I was the person he was trying to reach.  He kept reading the script, only adding that the service “had already been paid for.”  When I heard this, I started swearing, which I regret.  I should have controlled my temper, but the situation was absurd and insulting.

What does this story have to do with jobs and careers?  A lot.  John is working for a company that requires him to read his script word for word.  In some situations, such as market research, verbatim presentation of a script makes sense.  In this situation or any sales situation, it does not.  John’s employer showed me no respect, and I took it out on his employee.  More importantly, if I was not the targeted of the call, they missed a possible transaction. What kind of company is this? 

What kind of person is John?  I can’t judge his character, but clearly he’s stuck in the worst kind of job, one where the employer doesn’t trust its employees to think.  When people communicate and ask questions, they expect answers.  John, following the script, could not answer my questions.  In essence, he was behaving like a machine.  I do feel bad for the way I spoke to him, but his behavior – and his company’s behavior – made me lose my temper.  This is garbage work, and I pity the people who have to do it.

Posted: January 8, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients has been a successful sales representative with the same company for 30 years.  He's only three years from retirement.  Two years ago he was assigned to a new manager who is trying to make him quit his job.  Last week, the company made across the board salary cuts of 10%.

What is 30 years of loyal, productive service worth?  Not much.