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the best boss is a fake asshole
one who put on the asshole face
when he see's a problem to kick everyones ass into gear to solve it and move on

those who are nice but incompetent are far worse because when the shit hits the fan they someone below them gets fired quite often a better man

and just flat out assholes are by definition simply incompetent as they simply do the same but more often purposly pick out the better people and have them fired as they see them as threats

Adriana B.

Hi, Dr. Sutton. I agree with most of what you wrote, but in my experience, this advice is not very practical:

"if you are a truly crummy boss—but care as much for others as they do for you—stepping aside is the noble thing to do."

The reason is that I'm yet to find an incompetent and nice boss that isn't also deluded into thinking that, because people like them, they are doing a great job.

As a consultant, I met a few who would always blame some external factor as the cause of the poor performance of their teams, when clearly other teams facing the exact same circumstances, but led by a competent boss, were doing much better.


A nice, but incompetent asshole is still, in short, an asshole.

Either they need performance-modifying feedback to improve, and a timeline in which to achieve that improvement, or they need to seek opportunities for fulfillment in a different role (either themselves, or led to that action by others.)

The carnage caused by the "nice and ineffectual" is almost as bad as the straight out assholes.

Joe Marchese

"Talent makes winners, not intangibles. Can nice guys win? Sure, nice guys can win - if they're nice guys with a lot of talent. Nice guys with a little talent finish fourth and nice guys with no talent finish last." – Sandy Koufax

I think that almost all bosses sometimes seems to be more "a good boss", sometimes "not a nice one", sometimes "an incompetent" and sometimes "competent but an asshole". I think it is much more a matter of what you want to be or in what your people is identifying you. I don't know exactly which is the best role in the right moment but I realized that some times been to good competent boss makes people around you to be more "lazy" or don't care too much about deadlines or whatever or to just rely too much on you in case of problems. Sometimes I've discovered that not being present, not caring so much and so on, forces people to cover what "is missing" and to do their best. Anyway I do not know in the long term which one is the most efficient strategy.

Bob Sutton


Nice post, just tweeted it out


Tim Ottinger

Ultimately, we want to work for people who are competent and benevolent.

Sometimes we can trade a little of one of those to get a little more of the other, as situations and frustrations allow.

I know that's not much, but it sums up my whole experience so far, and I've outlasted a great many bosses and organizations.

Thanks for your work. I've enjoyed the way it crystalizes so much research and experience.

Steve Nguyen

Dr. Sutton: I wrote about this very topic in a blog post titled, "When Clowns Run The Circus." Here's a quick excerpt: When the boss is “too nice,” the jerks, bullies, and bigmouths who report to them will actually be the ones running the show. Sadly, these poor bosses are viewed as powerless pushovers, leaders by title but not by respect. In these situations, the clowns in the office are running the circus (aka, the workplace).

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