Is Your Boss a Genius, or Just Crazy?

Elon Musk is back in the news as he took to Twitter to respond to allegations in a new book that he chastised an employee who skipped a meeting to be at the birth of his child. He also denied comparing himself to a Samurai.

Also in the news yesterday, was that AOL sold to Verizon. Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO, was in the news barely a year ago when on an earnings call, he publicly blamed an earnings miss resulting from healthcare charges due to the pregnancy of one of the employees. And that was after he publicly fired a senior marketing staff member on a call, which over a thousand AOL employees were dialed in to.

We hero-worship and fetishize both genius and bad behavior in the media. In the aftermath of the Steve Jobs years, you have managers walking around pretending to be hyper-demanding savants with impeccable taste, and you have employees too willing to stick with a bad boss thinking that a lack of empathy is a necessary side-effect of being competent. It isn’t. Moreover, as better biographies of Steve Jobs are written, we get a more complex narrative of a manager who employees were so loyal to, they were willing to give him their liver.

Which brings us to our latest Tapwage listicle, Are You Working for a Genius or a Tyrant? (If you are a manager, substitute this with “Are you a genius or a tyrant?”):

  1. Is your boss really focused on delivering a product that clients will love (even internal clients) after truly understanding the clients needs, or is he focused on superficial changes and putting in the long hours?

  2. Does your boss require you to be in the office a lot because producing great work requires collaboration and team work, or does she judge your productivity by whether your light is on after 7pm?

  3. Does your boss spend her hours thinking about how to design the perfect solution and then impulsively email you at 2am because she is so excited about the idea, or does she spend hours thinking about how to please the bosses, and then emails you at 2am copying them to show how hard she is working?

  4. Does your boss fail to empathize with your personal struggles because he isn’t much of a people person and sometimes forgets, or because he doesn’t think that the lives of underlings matter?

  5. Does your boss think that to rise in a career, you need to be tested by fire and is focused on giving you an apprenticeship that will train you, or does he think that the nature of hazing is to pass it on to the next generation?

  6. Is your boss meticulous and detail oriented driving the team harder, or disorganized and cluttered and wasting peoples time repeatedly?

If the signs are that your boss is a tyrant — its time to leave. If the signs are that you are a tyrant…maybe its time to change your ways. Ask yourself if your employees would voluntarily give their liver for you (or maybe just their time).

Important caveat: Just as a tyrannical boss is not necessarily a genius, a nice boss is not necessarily great to work for. In our career, we would rather pick fair over nice, even if that meant toughness. As an employee or a candidate seeking a job — choose wisely.