Ever since I started writing this column six years ago, a month rarely goes by when I don't get a letter exhorting me to write about bad bosses. In the words of one reader, "You've written about socially dysfunctional catalogers, loopy children's librarians, and psychotic circ clerks, but never bad bosses. Why not?"
The simple answer is that the bad boss is too easy a target. Poking fun at a bad boss is like telling Viagra jokes about Bob Dole. Where's the challenge and what's the point? I wouldn't be saying anything that hasn't been said already. Also, I happen to be a boss, and wouldn't it be a tad hypocritical of me to ridicule my peers while pretending that the jokes don't apply to me? Simply put, people who work in glass offices shouldn't throw insults.
On the other hand, the letters I get from librarians with bad bosses seem to be arriving with greater frequency and increased intensity. One reference librarian writes, "I'm happily married, I have two wonderful children, a loyal dog greets me at the front door every evening, I live in a nice house on a wooded lot, but my life is miserable because I have a bad boss."
That's the bad thing about bad bosses. They can ruin your whole life. Studies show that you spend more time with your boss and your coworkers than you do with your spouse and your children. So in a sense having a bad boss is worse than having a bad spouse, and a really bad boss will not only ruin your work life but will also send you home with a residual headache and high blood pressure.
What are the signs of a bad boss? My readers have given me some clues:
* Has a sign on the office wall that asks, "What part of 'NO' don't you understand?"
* Office hours are posted on the door as "By appointment only (if you've got the guts to do it)."
* Her idea of a compliment is "This was a good day. You only made three mistakes."
* Brags about giving his spouse an annual performance review at anniversary time. …