How to make someone miserable at work

Horrible boss
More than 20 years ago, I worked in an office with mostly female co-workers. Our male boss had a nasty, gruff manner and gave all of us lousy performance reviews. We could never do anything to meet his expectations. Every suggestion made at a staff meeting became an invitation for him to call us moronic. I grew to disdain this man.

Before long, most of my co-worker friends bolted. I had little work experience so it wasn't as easy for me to jump ship. But I was lonely and miserable so I didn't the unthinkable  — I quit without another job lined up. Not my proudest moment! 

Today, I read a story in the Washington Post that reminded me of those dark days. It's titled: How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.

Teresa Amabile,director of research at Harvard Business School and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist and researcher, are coauthors of The Progress Principle. They have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work and what makes them miserable.

"What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement."

They give five steps to making an employee miserable:

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment.  (At every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference)

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. (Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them.)

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. (Truly believe that employees are doing just fine  and that “bad morale” is due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics.

Step 4: Kill the messengers.  ( if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back)

Readers, have you ever been in a workplace where the boss or manager has completely and utterly destroyed your work life? Did it force you do to something as drastic as I did? Do you have any advice for others beyond — quit your job?

The Work/Life Balancing Act

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