The Grey Chronicles


Dealing With Your I-Boss

How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive Without Killing Your BossThe previous posts itemized Dr. John Hoover’s eight classification of bosses from his book: How to Work for an Idiot (2004), such as: Good, God, Machiavellian, Masochistic, Sadistic, Paranoid, Buddy and Idiot Bosses. Dr. Hoover studied I-Bosses for nearly two decades, and says, “The experience of working for an Idiot Boss is so universal . . . [It] resonates throughout the human race.” He is, however, a self-confessed idiot, or more accurately, a recovering idiot. Yet, he claims: “Once an idiot, always an idiot.”

An epilogue to the previous posts, “a roadmap leading from the brink of suicide to idiot-free serenity” is summarized below. Dr. Hoover calls it the 12-Step program for recovering idiots, or transcendent idiots—who can reflect upon [their] personal condition and circumstances—and no longer wander back into the idiot population.”

First Step: “I admit that I am powerless over the stupidity of others and my life has become too stupid to manage.”

Stupidity is not a disease, but a syndrome. Acknowledge our powerlessness or loss of control then we might succeed in spite of the idiots in our lives, as well as managing our own stupidity, by keeping the “whole universal idiot thing in perspective and context.”

Second Step: “I realized that the challenge of an Idiot Boss was too big for me to handle by myself and I needed a power bigger than all Idiot Bosses combined to keep me from going crazy.”

Acknowledge that a Higher Power created us and our I-Boss. I-Bosses do not think they’re God. Believing that not every boss is an idiot and not every idiot is a boss, thus, “Let go and let God.”

Third Step: “We decided to turn over our lives to our Higher Power—as we understand Him.”

Understand how our backgrounds set us on a course of tolerance or intolerance for stupidity. We and our I-Bosses are different creatures within the same system.

Fourth Step: “We must inventory our own idiotic behavior.”

Unfortunately, idiots are only idiots by comparison. Incredibly, the higher and more powerful the I-Boss, the greater his ability to surround himself with additional idiots. I-Bosses always beget other I-Bosses producing the dreaded mushroom effect, thus:

“Give top executives lucrative bonuses at the same time as asking wage and benefit concessions from the workers supporting the stem of the mushroom and you just killed morale and caused the people who make the organization run to lose any motivation. Giving obscene financial rewards to top executives before they demonstrate they can lead the organization in corresponding growth only makes sense to an idiot. Giving obscene financial rewards to top executives after they’ve led their organization to the brink of bankruptcy only makes sense to a thief.”

Know our own motivations and methods. Change priorities and approach. Stand back and look at the organization, and see how and why I-Bosses got where they are. Also, look at the less-than-intelligent things we have done along the way. We’re all part of the idiot world.

Fifth Step: “Admit to my Higher Power, to myself, and to others the nature of my wrongs.”

Accept the full measure of our own past, present, or future cluelessness. “If you can spot it, you’ve got it.” Mirror, i.e., recognize the problems in others we have in ourselves. If you suspect your boss is blind to your talent, remember many idiots wouldn’t know talent if it bit them on the toe. True competency is usually accompanied by creativity, however, both concepts are foreign to most idiots. We all have tremendous power to alter the work environment, regardless of our I-Boss’ incompetence or his fear of our competence.

Sixth Step: “I’m entirely ready for God to remove my stupidity.”

Success and stupidity don’t mix. I-Boss’ stupidity is only half our problem; ours is the other half. Professional, like personal, growth is a process of refinement, not of perfection. Time is wasted arguing the obvious, especially to people too stupid to see them. Allowing others to be right doesn’t make us wrong, especially when we have tangible proof that the other is wrong. We all generate conversation, even when we’re not around. People will talk about us when we do good things. They will talk about us more when we do bad.

Seventh Step: “Please, please, God, remove my stupidity.”

Being real and finding ways to use our essential nature to our advantage is much better than fooling X people, X of the time. Groupthink is anonymity disguised as unanimity at quality’s expense. Idiotthink is when nobody wants to stick his neck out and risk being ostracized.

“An ambitious person studies what successful people do and tries to get the same results from similar effort. A clever person studies [the same] and then attempts to get the same results through someone else’s effort.”

Pay attention to how the I-Boss’ superiors (A) insult him when he’s not around; or (B) humor him when he is around. The difference of B from A is equal to his value to them. Also, the difference on how your peers insult the I-Boss when he IS around from how they insult him when he’s NOT around; estimates how cognizant the I-Boss is of reality. Fortunately, most don’t even know when they are the punch line.

Eighth Step: “Make a list of all persons I might have harmed with my stupidity and prepare to make amends to them all.”

It is not our moral obligation to expose an I-Boss as a moron. Doing so will not hurt him, but us it will. Discretion is the better part of valor. Become the kind of partner you would want to have.

Ninth Step: “Make amends to all of the persons I might have harmed with my stupidity, except when contacting them might place my life in jeopardy.”

What we say or don’t say and what we do or don’t do says it all. Learn Idiospeak. Learn the nuances of giving a third-party compliment. People eagerly put forth their best effort when they feel recognized, respected, and appreciated. Apply the two approaches to gossip: the trench coat—using positiveness; and the reverse osmosis—using ‘cloak-and-dagger’ intelligence.

Tenth Step: “Continue to take personal inventory and, when I’m wrong, promptly admit it.”

Talk about what the I-Boss wants to talk about. Remember the lines from Desiderata: “Even the dull and the ignorant, they too have their stories.” Your shining moment comes from helping the I-Boss shine, not in outshining him. Anticipate any faux pas he is likely to commit, research, and coach him; he’ll appreciate your efforts.

Eleventh Step: “Through prayer and meditation, I seek to increase contact with God, as I interpret Him, praying for knowledge of His will and the courage to carry it out.”

To see people irrespective of their intelligence, i.e., smart vs. dumb, elevate your perspective high enough. Spoken words are memorialized when we say something exceptionally wise or exceptionally stupid. Open palms, instead of clenched fists. It’s about working—and not about us personally. We are only the best in being ourselves, but we can always improve.

Twelfth Step: “These steps have me so jazzed, I want to share my joy with the world and apply them in all areas of my life.”

Accept the value of shining the spotlight on others, at all times and in all things. Let go of the need to be right. Each of us can be a nice person or a mean person, but not both. Being cynical engenders negativity. Being realistic is a foundation for making positive progress.

Although Dr. Hoover suggests “Do not leave How to Work for an Idiot lying around the office unless it’s on your worst enemy’s desk,” I am leaving this post in this blog, for all the others still working for one, I-Boss!


Hoover, John (2004). How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive Without Killing Your Boss. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2004. xx, pp 9, 25, 38-59. back to text

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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