What You Can Learn From a Bad Boss

Question: What can you learn from a really bad boss?

Robert Sutton:
It’s been astounding, especially my last book before "Good Boss, Bad Boss" was "The 'No Asshole' Rule," so I have received literally thousands of asshole stories. And there is a certain genre, which I just love, which is that "I learned from my boss how not to act the rest of my life."  And I’m telling stories about medicine, but my favorite one, one of my favorite ones I got and this is in actually the new paperback edition is a surgeon wrote me—now he is an attending, so he is a senior... he is like the boss of the surgeon basically for his area, practice area—and he wrote me how when he was in medical school every Friday afternoon him and the other surgical residents they would get together and they had this book which apparently had gone back for many generations, which was the asshole of the week, the biggest asshole attending of the week and they would keep track of it. And apparently at least according to the email I got from this guy this book still exists and the doctors in this hospital, the residents are still doing this, but the key part about learning from a bad boss in this case is they all have vowed not to treat the people who work for them, the residents like dirt and they keep sort of track and monitor each other to make sure it didn’t happen, so I like that case because it appears to be a case of people who sort of learn how not to do stuff and I think that there is other cases of famous bosses who will sort of describe that they’ve sort of patterned their management style after how not to do things.

Recorded September 13, 2010

Interviewed by John Cookson

Many good bosses have had their own bad bosses on the way up, but have patterned their management style after how not to do things.

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