They say art imitates life, and Hollywood has done a pretty good job of trying to imitate some of the worst bosses that we’ve all experienced in one office or another.
While this list of bosses, directors and managers contains some downright ridiculous characters, there’s a lot to be learnt from these exaggerated characters that we’ve reluctantly grown to love.
Breaking down their spectacular workplace fails can, in fact, help you become a better boss yourself. At the very least, you can learn how not to be utterly evil or comical in your supervision.
Watch and learn…
1. Michael Scott, The Office (US)
Where he goes wrong: Poor Michael Scott views his workplace through rose-tinted glasses, to much despair from his long-suffering colleagues. He assumes he is a great boss thanks to the fact that he really, really wants to be a great boss. Plus, he has the mug to say so.
Avoid this boss blunder: Self-awareness isn’t an easy trait to learn, but aim for empathy and try to see your actions through employees’ eyes, particularly when negotiating difficult or sensitive situations. Above all else, though, Michael Scott teaches us that misplaced arrogance or an inflated sense of success is never dignified.
2. Darth Vader, Star Wars Saga
Where he goes wrong: While clearly a leader who commands obedience, Darth Vader’s tactics in the face of errors or defiance are – to put it delicately – a little over the top. See this disastrous corporate meeting for an example of a bad employee negotiation.
Avoid this boss blunder: Effective as it may be on the Death Star, fear is no way to win employees’ loyalty. Try to create a work environment where employees are allowed to make mistakes; they’ll be more confident and feel encouraged to get creative.
3. Miranda Priestley, The Devil Wears Prada
Where she goes wrong: Critical really isn’t the word when it comes to Miranda-Fashionista-Priestley. ‘Overbearingly-soul-crushing’ probably covers it better, as demonstrated in the montage above.
Avoid this boss blunder: Find the line between constructive criticism and complaining. Berating an employee to their face, or in front of others, is likely to lend to a poor working atmosphere. Be tactful and try to always suggest solutions or ways to improve when flagging up problems.
4. Bill Lumbergh, Office Space
Where he goes wrong: Now infamous on the internet, Bill Lumbergh is micromanager supreme. An obsession with mundane details sucks the life out of all his workers.
Avoid this boss blunder: Stop micromanaging. For workers to be productive, most need a little room to breathe and feel like they own their responsibilities. Also, a little foresight can go a long way and means your employees will appreciate your efforts more (no asking people to work through the weekend at 4.55pm on a Friday).
5. Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network
Where he goes wrong: In his fictional depiction, Zuckerberg makes an epic move of betrayal by effectively signing his friend (and start-up support) out of the company he helped start. Ouch.
Avoid this boss blunder: Don’t turn your metaphorical back on employees who have worked long and hard. Many employers find that rewarding employee loyalty with tokens of appreciation, such as benefit schemes, massively improve employee retention. And if you’re also struggling in a start-up, find out what not to do here.
6. Bobby Pellitt, Horrible Bosses
Where he goes wrong: Bobby Pellit is the epitome of ‘Do what I say, not what I do’. He lives a hedonistic lifestyle which encroaches on his work-life, can’t separate personal feelings from his work, and has a less-than-professional vocabulary (which is why there are no safe-for-work video examples to include).
Avoid this boss blunder: The best way to lead is by example. Employees who see that their manager is sloppy, unprofessional or lazy aren’t likely to feel motivated – it’s up to you to set the standard. And it goes without saying that remaining professional in every aspect, emotional and verbal, is the bare minimum of workplace conduct.
7. Don Draper, Mad Men
Where he goes wrong: Being a creative genius in his ad agency means that Don frequently flouts office rules to the Nth degree. However, his unpredictability soon becomes a burden on his colleagues and workplace moral.
Avoid this boss blunder: While no workplace is 100% predictable, and spontaneous situations call for spontaneous action, there’s a lot to be said for having a framework of consistency. Let your employees know where and when you’re available, and it’ll be much easier for them to get on with their work. Otherwise, projects will be delayed, and confusion and frustration will reign.
8. Mr Burns, The Simpsons
Where he goes wrong: Mr Burns can be taken as a fairly extreme example of a bad boss – in that he’s pure, undiluted evil. Much like Gordon Gekko, it’s all about the cash for Mr Burns.
Avoid this boss blunder:
While your business and its success may be the heart of your world, there has to be a line drawn somewhere to remember that profits aren’t everything. When setting long term business goals for your business, try to not have tunnel vision and remember that success relies on a combination of factors
9. M, James Bond saga
Where she goes wrong: Generally, M is a good egg to her MI6 agents. However when the going gets tough, she’s been known to throw her employees under the bus in order to get the job done.
Avoid this boss blunder: Arguably, M is doing her ruthless job as she’s meant to. However unless you, too, want to create a vengeful set of super-villain ex-employees, it’d be best to be less cut-throat when dealing with issues like HR and employment.
If you’re keen to become a better boss all-round and avoid these filmic faux pas, see our advice on how to keep your employees happy in the workplace.