The Grey Chronicles


What Type of Boss Are You? Part II

How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive Without Killing Your BossThis continues my post on Dr. Hoover’s eight classification of bosses from his book: How to Work for an Idiot (2004). The narrative was spiced with humorous anecdotes and advice. Yesterday the post introduced Good Bosses and God Bosses. The following is the summary of their respective attributes and the manner of dealing with them.

I have excluded most of the funny anecdotes but only highlighted the attributes. If you want to read, then laugh at the funny scenarios described by Dr. Hoover, you could buy the book from Amazon or read it on-line (note: a previous edition) at Google Books.

Machiavellian Bosses

Machiavellian BossThey don’t think they’re God, but only be content or benevolent when they are in the top spot, especially if they perceive the universe as an enormous pyramid. They are ticked off they can’t bump God out of His job and don’t mind taking out their frustration on the rest of us. They are extremely intelligent, shrewd and not clueless, except for things that don’t matter to them. They are highly focused, highly driven, and highly efficient . . . lean, mean, killing machines. They will not rest or won’t be denied and committed to achieving the top spot without care what or whom they must climb over to get there. They want to hear only what they want to hear.

Dr. Hoover suggests:

  1. Use the words “for you” often. To merely say, “I’ll take care of it,” can actually be interpreted by a Machiavellian as a threat to go over their head. . . saying, “I’ll take care of it for you,” sounds far less threatening, almost as if you’re doing it in their name.
  2. Alert them to intelligence. When you find something out, even how trivial, tell them. The competitive Machiavellians appreciate information that might be useful to them. Let them tell you if they don’t want to hear it. Withholding information means you are a competitor.
  3. Accept their invitations. Resistance, disinterest or turning them down can be interpreted as threats or a power move on your part.
  4. Frame your contributions in terms of whom they can impress. “That oughta make Mr. Big a happy camper,” is much better than saying, “I hope Mr. Big likes what I did.” When complimenting a Machiavellian, be aware of the people higher on their food chain and construct your comments in terms of how they will be impressed and appreciative of what they did, even if you did it.

Finally, Dr. Hoover cautions, “Although you and your boss might march to different drummers, the boss sets the rhythm around the office. Learning a new cadence will serve you better than forming your own drum line. You’ll probably just frustrate yourself and your boss, who in turn will drum you out.”

Masochistic Bosses

Masochistic BossThey believe that they should be punished…must be punished, or they will punish themselves if nobody else will. Compliments only annoy them, and respond by doing something particularly despicable to make a point. They make sure they fail so they could the get punishment they deserve. Neither will they ever allow their subordinates to accomplish anything that might make them look or feel good. When their subordinates accomplish something good, they will mock the sense of accomplishment and they’ll be first to beat their own heads, just for the sake of letting you feel guilty of knocking them off the management ladder. They will wallow in negativity.

Dr. Hoover suggests:

  1. Frame your comments in the context of avoiding problems. If you have a proposal you want to advance, say, “This will assure we’re in compliance with the organization’s parameters without drawing any undue attention our way.” Your Masochistic Boss will hear in your comment an absence of reward and appreciation, which to him is the next best thing to actual punishment.
  2. Point out possible down-side outcomes. Saying, “This could result in some negative consequences that we’ll have to deal with,” can be a perfectly honest and truthful statement. Your Masochistic Boss will hear the possible negatives, while your fellow team members will simply take it as a heads up.
  3. Don’t engage your Masochistic Boss’s negative conversation. Listen respectfully, but don’t pick up the negativity. Avoid negative energy around you than necessary. Strike a compromise by being attentive when it’s appropriate and steering clear whenever you can.
  4. Acknowledge what can happen includign what bad things are likely to happen in any given scenario or initiative. Note for future reference what he is most afraid of, to hear him tell it, and point out up front the possibility that his specific fears could be realized. Then offer that it might turn out another way by the luck of the draw.
  5. Include but don’t invite. Copy your Masochistic Boss on all e-mails and announcements of activities that you cook up with your coworkers, but don’t specifically invite him. Issue a blanket invitation. The last thing you want to do is act as if you’re cheering him up. Don’t specifically exclude him either.
  6. Give him a virtual hug. Physical contact is rarely appropriate in office settings, but a well-timed nod of the head, sigh, or shrug of the shoulders can have a similar effect. A virtual hug for your Masochistic Boss is a nonverbal way to say, “I know you’re under an immense amount of pressure that you don’t deserve and I’m powerless to help you.”

Dr. Hoover’s final advice on the best way to deal with a Masochistic Boss is to get out, unless you’re a sadist.


Hoover, John (2004). How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive Without Killing Your Boss. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2004. xx, pp 38-59. back to text

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