So, my editor sent me a link to an article about how employees can deal with horrible bosses.  Turns out, there are loads of articles on this topic.  Well, I wanted to approach it from a different angle:  what can an employer do to make sure it’s not employing horrible bosses?  You can’t kill them, like in the movie of the same name.  Plus, you may just be trading your Kevin Spacey for a Bob Newhart (you’ll just have to check out the film to understand that one).  Naturally, the guidance on the web for this question is a lot more sparse.  It primarily focuses on who makes better bosses.  Women?  You bet we do.  Men?  Absolutely.  Aliens?  Even they have potential.  But then I found it . . . robots.

Clem Chambers is the CEO who runs the financial Web site ADVFN.  He described his experience running his business as a robotic avatar in his article “How Robots Make CEOs Better Bosses.”  The link is here.  As he described zooming around his offices in various countries at a whopping 1 mile per hour as a four foot high “Clembot”, I realized that life as a robot boss had lessons which could be applied in any workplace.

Be approachable.  Robots come in all shapes and sizes, just like managers.  In my view, working through intimidation ultimately drives off good employees, lowers morale and productivity, and is simply bad business.  If you have a manager like this, you’ll see it reflected in the numbers.  Talk to your managers – be sure you are approachable too.  It may be that too much pressure or not enough guidance is coming from the top down, making your manager act like the Terminator.  Or maybe your manager simply doesn’t know how to communicate with his employees.  Set a good example yourself, then get that individual the training he or she needs to run your business or division like a cuddly R2D2.

Be present.  One benefit Chambers noted about his robotic avatar was that, while you can press the ignore button on your cell phone or monitor your caller ID, you can’t ignore a small robot bumping into your desk for attention.  Face-to-face (or to-monitor in the case of our robotic friends) is almost always a more effective way to manage.  Do your managers walk the floor?  Do they keep up to speed on the changes in how things are done in the ranks?  Horrible bosses may act as they do because they do not understand why employees work the way they do.  The manager who is present can ask questions, have procedures demonstrated, and become a better manager for it. Encourage this in your workforce.

Be chatty.  On the TV show The Big Bang Theory, in an episode entitled “The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification,” one of the characters, Sheldon, creates a mobile virtual presence device so that he can preserve his body until the singularity (the time when man’s consciousness can be fused with a machine).  One side effect of his creation is that his ability to interact with others actually enhances – which for Sheldon is a pretty big deal.  Not only can Shelbot share meals with his co-workers and friends, he can research and display the results on his monitor, play video feeds, and access documents to be shared.  This may be a bit more than the Clembot can do, given the difference between TV and real life.  But, are they truly that far apart?  The point is that better communication equals better bosses.  When expectations are communicated, employees and managers perform better.  Communication grows trust.  Teach your managers that it’s okay – and dare I say, beneficial – to share information.

The beauty of living in a technological world is that we continue to learn and grow.  Plus, robots are fun and exciting!  If you think about it, managing like a robot boss would mean we’d always have to abide by the open door policy – because robots don’t have hands.  That’s never a bad start.


Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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