Even though I’ve worked for myself for 13 years, I’ve had plenty of bosses in my life. Only two were awful (and you know who you are.) Most were generally fine. But none was truly amazing.

In my younger days, I suspected that this rampant okay-ness was because these folks had no idea how to be a good boss. But now that I’ve matured, explored the world, and begun to understand the subtleties of organizational dynamics and human interaction, I’m certain it was because these folks had no idea how to be a good boss. Most people don’t.

Three cheers, then, for Bob Sutton‘s new book Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst. It’s a followup to his brilliant No A**hole Rule — and it’s easily as good, if not better. Sutton uses stories from the front lines and a piles of social science research to figure why some bosses soar and others stink.

The core point, at least as I read it, is that good bosses are adept at working both sides of the street. They improve people’s performance and they deepen their humanity.

As Sutton says, good bosses “do everything possible to help people do great work,” yet they also “do everything possible to help people experience dignity and pride.”

I was so intrigued by this book that I asked Bob to answer some questions for Pink Blog readers.  Alas, my questions were so numerous and Bob’s answers so rich that I had to post the exchange on a separate page. You can read the full interview here. Once you get a taste, you’ll want to pick up your very own copy of the book.  (Buy it at Amazon,BN.com, Borders, IndieBound, or 8CR).

7 Responses to “Are you a good boss or a bad boss?”

  1. Perry says:

    I hope I was a good boss when I had staff. I have to say though I’ve worked for one incredibly bad boss and I learned more from her about how to manage people than from all my other bosses put together. What I learned was how bad it was when you; fill your team with people who you could bully; yell at employees in public, have temper tantrums, accuse without research and play favorites.

    You can learn from everyone you come in contact with, it’s up to you to decide whether that is a ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’ learning.
    Thanks for the post

  2. I can hardly wait to get this book. The “No Asshole Rule”, which started as an article in the “Harvard Business Review” was outstanding. Thanks for throwing me a bone on this one.

  3. Steve says:

    I wish I’d learned the no a**hole rules earlier in my career. I don’t know if it’s dumb luck or what but the bosses I’ve had later in my career have been much better bosses than I had early on.

    Like Perry I hope I was a good boss when I had staff but unlike Perry, I worry that I “learned” far too much from my first boss (by far the worst).

    I personally think that being a bad boss is a learned process — and, unfortuantely, we often fall into patterning our behavior after bad bosses (even when we know they are being a**holes).

    If this book helps me to learn from the past and not regret it, I’m all in. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. Lorne Rubis says:


    I really appreciate you bringing attention to this website/book. Asking questions like “would you work for yourself?” is a great example of Self Accountability, which is one of the three main elements of the “Character Triangle,” a formula I’ve developed to help one thrive in work and at life.

    Lorne Rubis

  5. Bob Sutton says:


    Thanks for the kind words. I also appreciate the comments, and I especially am taken with Lorne’s question “would you work for yourself.” I tend to ask “Do you know how it feels to work for you,” as there is a lot about getting power that makes bosses clueless. But your question is not only diagnostic, I think it provokes some very useful self-awareness.



  6. Benjamin says:

    I am working for one of those clueless bosses, and it is slowly draining my soul. So many people feel the same way about her, but no one is willing to escalate to the next level for fear of retribution. I am reaching the point where I will have to leave, but I hate to throw in the towel without making her boss understand the situation. I look forward to reading this book. I hope it will give some insight about the situation I am in, and how I can move forward in a positive way and help others too.

  7. Excellent interview. Looking forward to reading the book.

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