Struggling with a grouchy boss

Jun 03 2003 by Dan Bobinski Print This Article

The other day I was talking with a friend mine, Jane, who is ready to quit her job. Why? Her boss is a grouch! Ive known Jane for over twelve years, and she is a dynamic person who engages others. People want to work for her because of her energy and enthusiasm. But her boss is the exact opposite. Janes boss believes that if youre having fun, youre not working hard enough.

Jane says working for someone who is inflexible and doesnt allow people to have fun is stifling and doesnt allow for creativity. The attitude my boss displays reduces workplace morale and it makes the job a grind for everyone.

Since joining her company a year ago, Jane has earned the respect of her staff, most of whom have been there more than six years. They say that work has never been so enjoyable since Jane came on as a manager. They couldnt believe it when Jane got them together her first month on the job and asked them for ideas on how to improve the workplace. No one has ever asked us that, they said.

Jane is right. Discouraging fun at work limits productivity and creativity. Dont misunderstand: Too much fun can diminish productivity to the point that a company doesnt get much done. But to squelch all fun has a huge negative ripple effect that many grouches do not see, and therefore they do not see the damage it does to employee morale and even the bottom line.

As an example, the other day Jane got copies of her departments financial reports: Her labor costs are down, her supply costs are down, and profits are up for the first time in several years. But does her boss congratulate her? No. Her boss says the figures dont matter and she doesnt like Jane because Jane doesnt take things seriously enough and doesnt have a sense of urgency.

That is a typical grouchy mindset. In reality, she just doesnt like the fact that Jane is a happy person.

The Jane I know is a businessperson through and through; she just doesnt run around like a chicken with her head cut off. Jane says, If I stress out, my employees stress out and the domino effect is bad for morale. I handle stress with humor and everyone on my staff likes that. We have hope instead of despair, and solutions come a whole lot faster.

Sadly, grouches like Janes boss exist everywhere. Most everyone can think of several people with whom theyve worked in the pastand maybe still dowho are absolute kill-joys.

Its amazing that we still have grouches in the 21st century, but its my wish that theyd go the way of the dodo bird. Life is too short not to enjoy it even at work.

Energizing the workplace is the subject of the book 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work by Dave Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes. They believe that work doesnt have to be bland and boring, and that having fun at work makes the workplace more productive.

Hemsath and Yerkes believe that fun is a strategic weapon for increasing productivity and employee satisfaction. They say it can positively affect quality, customer service, team efforts, and it can relieve stress.

In addition to reading the above-mentioned book, check out the video produced about the Pike Place Fish Company in Seattle. Maybe youve heard of it: Guys who throw fish around. They promote fun as a way to increase both customer and employee loyalty. The video demonstrates the kind of performance that is unleashed when each member of an organization is empowered to be creative.

Obviously, not every company can have fun by throwing things around, but the point is that people can find ways to make work a fun place to be. Have fun!

When it all boils down, grouches will be grouches and theres not much other people can do about it. Grouches are addicted to their anger and their bitterness and it takes a miracle to change them. In Janes case, she has been through the chain of command to try to resolve her situation, but to no avail. In the end, I know she will stick to having fun in spite of her grouchy boss, and I applaud her for it. She may even quit, and I would support her in that, too. As I said: Life is just too short to not enjoy it even at work.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Daniel Bobinski teaches teams and individuals how to use emotional intelligence and how to create high impact training. Hes also a best-selling author, a popular speaker, and he loves helping teams and individuals achieve workplace excellence

Older Comments

I agree that grouchy people are jealous of happy people. Do they really think that happy people have no problems??? No, we just choose not to let everybody know when we have something that goes wrong...Attitude is 99.9 % of living a positive life...the rest doesn't matter....


Great article. I have a supervisor that is bitter and holds alot of anger inside. When she is having a bad day, we all have a bad day. Your absolutely right, it is a domino effect. I feel sorry for her. I wish she could find happiness and get a life.


Jane's boss is toxic. Life's too short. Quit.


We have a mgmt. team of 5 mgrs. The GM (top boss) has the worst attitude of them all and he works the least. He also makes open comments to other employees about his mgrs. as well as non-mgmt. employees. He is totally unapproachable and very predjudiced and sarcastic.

melanie smith Little Rock, AR