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Article: Leadership: Dealing With the Pointy-Haired Boss Related Resources
Leadership: Dealing With the Pointy-Haired Boss
by Barbara Bartlein, The People Pro

Few things are more discouraging that working for a Pointy Haired Boss. Inspired by the character from the Dilbert comic strip, he has come to represent all clueless managers, especially those technologically challenged. He is described by Dilbert author Scott Adams, as “every employee’s worst nightmare.” Unscrupulous and mean, his top priorities are the bottom line and looking good to his superiors. The Pointy-Haired Boss can be spotted taking credit for other people’s ideas, projects, and work. He quickly jumps up at meetings to exclaim how much effort he has put into a new venture. He contradicts other members of his team to demonstrate how smart he is and that he IS the boss. Reluctant to thank his team or the people who actually did the labor, the PHB want to make sure that his superiors know how hard he works.

The PHB is technologically challenged but stays current on all the latest businesses trends, though he rarely understands them. He is quick to adopt the hottest buzzwords and uses them to try to impress others with his business savvy. He gets excited over mission statements, strategic plans and teambuilding exercises. To see Dilbert’s Boss in action producing mission statements, visit: . You can see the boss saying, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.”

Technology is just another way to waste time and promote himself for the PHB. He regularly “ego surfs,” the process of surfing the web to see how many times his name turns up and what people are saying about him. He occasionally blogs some useless information just to see his name in print.

The PHB uses e-mail to make himself look good. He can be found adding his two cents to the memos from the boss resulting in a “kudo loop” of meaningless e-mails. He carefully follows up to any subordinates e-mail with comments of his own to make it look like the idea was originally his. This process of “e-dundanting” others with a flurry of e-mails is designed so that everyone knows how hard he is toils.

Working for a PHB is discouraging and intimidating. He dominates others with his unrelenting quest to get ahead. He has no qualms about publicly embarrassing employees or belittling them in front of others. Often driven by an insecurity deeply rooted in his childhood, he uses others rather than working hard or getting some psychotherapy.

He is a master of creating confusion which keeps the focus off of his own lack of accomplishment. The PHB will “stir the pot,” with any office gossip. He is more interested in his own career than the organization. Making others look bad helps to elevate his position.

The more exposure you have to the PHB, the less energy you feel. To counteract this negative energy, consider the following:

Never work for someone you don’t admire. You spend too many hours at work to be stuck with a PHB. Ideally, your boss should be someone you can emulate and respect. You should look forward to going to work and feel supported.

Look for employment where you can learn and be mentored. What types of learning experiences are available for you? The best employers are interested in the development of their employees and offer them opportunities for growth. Find people more successful than you and then offer to buy them a cup of coffee.

If stuck with The Pointy-Haired Boss, limit exposure. Stuck with him? Then try to have as little contact as necessary. Practice the art of keeping out of sight and just doing your job. Avoid face to face meetings as much as possible.

Put your name on everything you do. Don’t let him take credit for what your work; put your name on it. Make sure the upper management knows your accomplishments.

Don’t be shy about taking credit for what you do. This is not the time for modesty or being humble. The PHB is not about to acknowledge your efforts so you have to. Don’t hesitate to make it clear that an idea or project was your work.

Work with fellow employees to give each other credit. It’s time to band together for survival. A tight work team can survive the PHB with mutual support, humor and camaraderie.

Nominate each other for awards and honors. Support other employees and make sure that they receive the recognition they deserve. They may return the favor.

Put up Dilbert cartoons by your desk. It will help you keep a perspective. Maybe the boss will get a hint.


FREE E-mail newsletter, sign on at Barbara Bartlein, is The People Pro, and President of Great Lakes Consulting Group, LLC, which helps companies sell more goods and services by developing people. She can be reached at 888-747-9953, by e-mail at: or visit her website at

Barbara Bartlein, The People Pro may be contacted at or


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