The Teflon Boss

One special kind of hellish boss is the one who does the opposite of what Jim Collins describes and recommends in “Good to Great”. Collins found and suggests that great leaders “looked out the window” when things were going well, to credit others for their contributions to the organization’s success, and “in the mirror” when things went badly, to take personal responsibility.

However, we’ve all known “successful” bosses who are highly skilled at taking credit when things go well and denying blame when things head south.

In my experience, among the worst, demoralizing things a boss can do is to be an unfair blamer. Among the best, most loyalty-enhancing things a boss can do is to be fair and balanced when he or she assigns credit or blame. What I’ve often advised clients to do, however, is to be strategic in their pursuit of credit, and in their attempts to avoid blame, no matter how unfair. Sometimes it makes more sense to “take one for the team”, or at least for your boss, if 1) you trust that your boss will make it up to you somehow, or 2) if the costs of getting your due credit exceed the benefits of claiming the credit.

Credit and blame can be thought of us a kind of currency, a currency that should be spent or saved carefully.

For some additional thoughts about credit and blame in the workplace, why it’s so important, and why it’s usually so broken and unfair, see this presentation.

I look forward to hearing from all of you. In particular, do you agree with the following proposition?

“All toxic bosses, in some form or other, are unfair in how they take credit and assign blame.”