Along with our daily interactions with spouses, family and friends, one of the most important relationships in our lives is the one we have with our employer. A good boss can make the place where we spend most of our waking hours a tolerable environment: one where our achievements are recognized, loyalty is returned, mistakes are an opportunity to improve, and there is a shared goal to work toward.
A bad boss, on the other hand, is a misery. Maybe you know one. A boss who demands loyalty but doesn't reciprocate. Who lies to make himself look good. Who blames underlings for failings that are the result of his own actions and words. Who puts unqualified family members in key jobs. Who asks staff to cover up his own questionable activities. Who is unpredictable, unrelieable, self-absorbed, and clearly only in it for himself.
Do we really have to tell you who we're talking about?
U.S. President Donald Trump is the Terrible Boss of the Free World. His status was made official this week by James Comey.
Mr. Comey, the FBI director who Mr. Trump fired, testified before Congress on Thursday that the President asked him during a private meeting to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser who had to resign after getting caught in a lie about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Mr. Comey also said that Mr. Trump asked him for his "loyalty" during a private dinner. Mr. Comey's written description of the incident – "The President said, 'I need loyalty. I expect loyalty" – leaves one with the impression that Mr. Trump was demanding fealty from the head of an independent investigative agency in exchange for the continued favour of employment.
Mr. Comey tried to avoid ever being stuck alone in a room with his creepy boss – and he says he took careful notes of everything that was said in each of their interactions, for a simple reason: "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document."
When it was suggested that the President may have recorded these conversations, Mr. Comey replied, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."
Where this will lead is hard to predict, other than to say with utter confidence that Mr. Trump will not agree with any assessment that finds fault with his own actions.
That's because Mr. Trump has all the worst traits of the terrible boss. There is a ton of literature in the business world describing those attributes. Here are four of the leading ones.
Your boss lies: Mr. Trump started lying right out of the gate, and on a matter relevant to his own ego and nothing else, when he claimed that the crowd at his inauguration was larger than the crowd that gathered for Barack Obama's swearing in. He kept lying when he said millions of people voted illegally in the election. And so on and so on.
Sometimes his lies are big. Often they are farcically small. Either way, it's become challenging to find the time to recount his untruths and half-truths anymore, because there are too many.
The point is that it's impossible to build a productive relationship with a boss who lies so recklessly, because there can be no trust there. Mr. Comey revealed on Thursday that, fearing the damage that could be caused to him by Mr. Trump's lies, he passed along details of his conversations with the President to friends, and urged one to contact a journalist. His aim, he said, was to provoke the appointment of a special counsel – an impartial truth-seeker able to cut through Mr. Trump's lies.
Your boss is never wrong: Case in point is Mr. Trump's failed attempt at implementing a ban on travel to the U.S. for people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries. Courts flagged this as unconstitutional, partly because Mr. Trump's repeated promises to "ban Muslims" was seen as evidence of targeting a specific religion, even if the language of the bans didn't directly say as much.
This week, Mr. Trump publicly blamed his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for failing to get the ban in place – even though the problem started at the top.
Bosses who don't take responsibility for their part in screw-ups can paralyze their workplaces, because employees will prefer to avoid doing much of anything, for fear of becoming a scapegoat. Mr. Sessions is believed to have offered his resignation over the matter.
Your boss overpromises: Mr. Trump will build a wall the length of the Mexican border, and Mexico will pay for it. He will rip up Nafta, and get something better. He will end terrorism, lower taxes, create jobs and replace Obamacare with a health care plan that does more while costing less.
None will happen easily because of Mr. Trump's other major failings. The Boss of the Free World simply doesn't have the trust of the domestic or international partners he needs to get things done.
Your boss undercuts his own people: It is not at all clear whether Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, is in fact running America's foreign policy. For instance, Mr. Tillerson was expecting his boss to endorse the NATO principle of mutual defense last week during Mr. Trump's visit to Italy. When Mr. Trump failed to do so, Mr. Tillerson was caught completely off guard, as were national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Like Mr. Sessions, Mr. Tillerson has learned the hard way that Mr. Trump is a terrible boss. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has been casting about for new people to work for him, and to fill the many vacant top-level jobs in the Washington bureaucracy. To no one's surprise, there have been few takers.