Thursday, January 22, 2015

Where to Find a Horrible Boss

Here’s an intriguing comment by Slate’s Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence.

While responding to a question sent in by someone who works for a nonprofit, Yoffe remarked:

Horrible bosses show up everywhere, but my inbox shows a preponderance of them are do-gooders by profession. The work required to make the world better seems to attract people with a gift for making the lives of the people around them worse.

Ironically, those who tend to believe as an article of faith that the profit motive corrupts people by making them into oppressive exploiters tend to be more inconsiderate and exploitative than are those who work for profit-making enterprises.

We can extend the question: are do-gooders by nature horrible people? Or do horrible people try to mask their bad character by becoming do-gooders?

It’s not a scientific survey, but it is well worth some consideration.


n.n said...

The more elaborate the persona, the less virtuous their nature. For most people, acting is not an aptitude, but an acquired skill.

David Foster said...

I've heard many things that lead me to believe that the organizational culture in "nonprofits" is generally pretty awful, and that the leaders are driven by raw ego much more than most of those in the for-profit sector....but I'm not sure that this phenomenon is about do-goodism. Some of the worst examples can be found in Washington DC trade associations, which are typically by no means focused on the general good, whatever that might be...

JP said...

This does not really apply to law.

The organizational culture in law firms is often pretty awful, which makes public interest a better option.

Ares Olympus said...

Definitely nothing scientific here, but what could we say?

You might also try turning it around and ask "Where to find horrible workers?" assuming nonprofits are full of incompetent do-gooders from top to bottom.

My girlfriend loves to volunteer (a step below nonprofit, since she's not even paid) but does this at a diverse set of groups and afterwards speaks frequently against incompetent leadership, but also against incompetent workers, like those who want to "feel good" to volunteer, but not to show up on time, or follow through with promised tasks.

I imagine at a for-profit organization, people are paid very well, and those who fail to act competently are easily fired, because there's someone else ready to step into the place and work hard, but when you're getting paid nothing or minimally, workers can better get away with just saying no to things they don't want to do, or doing thing poorly until someone else does them, so basically being passive aggressive.

So none of that excuses poor bosses or organizational leaders, but perhaps many such leaders DO find themselves OVERWORKED, and UNDERAPPRECIATED for all that they do, and so feeling of things falling apart unless they keep the pressure on. So self-pity, resentment and burnout can be close at hand at times.

Myself, I volunteer with a running coach too, and events he sponsors, and he's the closest I found to a "horrible boss". Basically he uses guilt a lot, and since he's spent 20 of the last 24 hours preparing for this event, he wants everyone who hasn't worked as hard to know if it looks like they're not doing their fair share of work in setup mainly.

What's interesting also is to see how different people respond. I usually fall for the guilt-trip, at least accept I'm probably not working hard enough, while others have no problem telling bossman to back off.

Being a computer programmer, and working alone 90% of the time, I don't see all this in the office, so it doesn't bother me too much on volunteering. I mean I'm not the one responsible if things are done poorly, so I can swallow my pride for a few minutes here and there and imagine what pressures a leader has on team efforts.

Anonymous said...

1. A few years ago, 6 local HS valedictorians announced their professional goals in the Tribune. 5 were girls.
All 5 aimed for NGOs. The lone lad, Chemical Engineering.

That puzzled me. Then I learned about the pay, lush life in guarded compounds (even in Haiti - NGOs swarm there), power, elite contacts, travels. Eureka! (or Aha!, as Oprah says).

2. Since Rousseau, Utopian humanitarians have killed or "liquidated" 100+ million people. Any atrocity for "wreckers" of Universal Happiness is justified.

I've read of Marx or Lenin "he loved humanity, hated people".

The Puritans deemed super-righteous nags & Nosey Parkers "common scolds" and dunked them. Good. -- Rich Lara