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An Open Letter to the Closed-Minded Boss

Dan Bobinski
April 27, 2005 -- By Dan Bobinski 

After hearing one too many horror stories about bosses who never practice what they preach or rule with an iron fist with the “my way or the highway” approach, I’ve decided to pen an open letter on behalf of mismanaged employees everywhere.
If you’re a boss, this may or may not apply to you.  So if it doesn’t apply, no need to get worried. But if it does apply, I hope you seriously consider a strong introspection about the ripple effects of your actions and whether or not you’re influencing the workplace in the ways that you intend.
Dear Boss,
Let me cut to the chase: You’re a hypocrite. Last week you lectured us for an hour about the value of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits.  You condescendingly went on and on about the need for us to “think win/win” and to “seek first to understand.”  We fought rolling our eyes because in the past five years we haven’t seen you do this even once.
You made us each buy a copy of the book and instructed us to read it so we could put it into practice.  To be a team player, I did just that.  But today I watched you standing in the foyer, openly yelling at one of my coworkers without asking for her side of the story. So much for thinking win/win and seeking first to understand.
Not only did you do this in front of other employees, but four of our customers were in the foyer observing your all-too-typical tirade. I’m guessing they weren’t too impressed, but your attitude is that “they’ll just have to deal with it.”  Those are your own words, boss. We hear them from you all the time.
And then you wonder why some of our customers—and coworkers—leave for the competition.
If you would practice what you preach, you might actually get others to plug into a genuine team effort. But people follow as they are led, so the type of leadership you’re displaying is giving you a corresponding style of follower-ship.  How can you expect different?
While I’m putting my cards on the table, let me also bring up your iron grip on how decisions are made. Your “my way or the highway” style flies in the face of the “let’s consider all ideas” mantra you were promoting a few months ago.  When I tried a little brainstorming in one of our planning meetings, you cut me off at every turn with “that won’t work” and sometimes your famously sarcastic “now that’s a bright idea.” 
It doesn’t take but two or three of those zingers for people to stop participating and simply let you decide what you want us to do.  And then you wonder why people won’t contribute in meetings anymore.  Sigh.
Most everyone here thinks you’re messing up, boss. We used to have a passion for what we do.  We were eager to come to work and give it our all.  We loved the challenge. But in your quest for control you squelched every drop of energy we had, and now we just show up to endure the day and collect our paycheck.  It never used to be this way, but basic survival is a strong enough instinct to keep us coming in.
Sure, you could say we’re no good and then fire us and replace us. But every one of us believes that in short order, any energetic replacements you find will experience the same leadership style you’ve been showing for years, and they, too, will slide into mere survival mode.
Please think about it, boss. Is this the legacy you want to leave behind?    

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© 2005 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development, Inc. You may freely forward this information on condition that you send the text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author, date, and source.
Dan Bobinski is a certified behavioral analyst, the President and CEO of Leadership Development, Inc., and the co-author of Living Toad Free: Overcoming Resistance to Motivation. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.
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