The delicate art of being boss

There is no debating, a good boss can either make or break you.

commentary There is no debating, a good boss can either make or break you.

Telstra ended months of rumour and innuendo when Solomon Trujillo was named new chief executive on 9 June.

The search for Dr Ziggy Switkowski's replacement had finally ended; executives, shareholders, and employees could finally breathe a sigh of relief -- one big hurdle towards full privatisation was overcome.

Some bosses are generous with compliments... [others] never utter a word of thanks or show gratitude.
At the announcement of Trujillo's appointment, tough-talking company chairman Donald McGauchie was called to defend the CEO's remuneration package, which could hit AU$11 million in his first year of employment. McGauchie explained that the real issue was ensuring shareholders received optimum value for what they pay for.

"We had to pay a competitive package in order to secure the best person for the job. This is absolutely in the interest of shareholders."

That person was impossible to find within Telstra's own executive ranks, McGauchie revealed. Inadvertently, or otherwise, he let slip his true feelings on the calibre of talent within the nation's largest telco.

He was clearly unimpressed by the company's internal succession planning capabilities -- which requires much work in future. OK, so this wasn't an attempt to publicly humiliate the remaining executives but still, McGauchie's comments can be interpreted in a few ways: that Switkowski did a poor job at ensuring a proper successor(s) was in place, or that the abilities of internal candidates were not up to scratch.

It could also have been a signal to these executives that Trujillo has free rein to build his own team -- without inheriting any baggage from his predecessor.

One can only wonder if the existing executive team will be retained, especially after McGauchie's comments. After all, the 53-year-old American will need the full support of his team as he leads Telstra into the world of full privatisation. The question on everyone's lips now is "will everyone play ball?".

Telstra's McGauchie and his tendency not to mince words got me thinking of the different management styles that exist in corporate Australia or the world for that matter.

Some bosses are generous with compliments, sincerely heaping praise on their subordinates when a job is well done. There are also bosses who never utter a word of thanks or show gratitude. Others give compliments so they, in turn, can look good to their bosses and peers -- yes, it's an art that only the talented few have mastered.

Here are a few more boss species:

  • The spineless soul -- This manager never speaks up for his subordinates and constantly bends over backwards to please his boss.
  • The parrot -- Managers who have no ideas, thoughts, or comments of their own and tend to simply repeat what their bosses have said.
  • The smiling assassin -- These managers pretend to be your best friend only to stab your in the back every chance that comes along.
  • The slacker -- One who is apt at pretending to be busy all the time to avoid doing work. Also known to be very skillful at "flying under the radar" when it comes to crunch time.
  • The taskmaster -- Worse than a drill sergeant, this person rules with an iron fist. They want to know your every move and become agitated if you're away from the desk for five minutes.
  • The dictator -- Insecurity is the name of the game here. Employees receive the evil eye if they're caught speaking to colleagues from other departments. This manager always believes people are talking about him. Yes, the world does revolve around one person.
Do you have an experience with a boss that you would like to share or add to our list above?

Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor and contributing editor of T&B. Write in to and share your thoughts.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
Click here for subscription information.