Boss Attention Deficit Disorder

Doctors Can’t Treat It So It’s All Up To You


While out-of-line behavior portrayed in the “Horrible Bosses” movie is thankfully more fiction than the norm, there’s no denying that some bosses can easily revert to babies in their terrible twos – fussy, unrestrained babies in corporate suits, otherwise known as a Terrible Office Tyrants – or TOTs for short. Although even the most out-of-hand behavior will hardly drive employees to the extreme measures they take to in the movie, it surely doesn’t help productivity and team spirit. I often advise employees on how to “tame” their difficult bosses, but conscientious managers, being the other side of the proverbial coin, can monitor their own tendencies to make sure they don’t become a negative factor in their work environment.

My book Tame Your Terrible Office TyrantTM: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley) lists 20 classic types of bad boss behavior, such as: stubborn, demanding, fickle, self-centered, needy, whiny, tantrum-throwing, and the ever so annoying B.A.D.D. boss (for Boss Attention Deficit Disorder). Short attention span can make communication a real chore. There are, though, quite simple but also quite efficient techniques I propose to employees for saving their sanity and their jobs.

Managers should be aware of how their behavior affects their team. Use my book to get more perspective on the employees’ point of view. For a quick reference, browse my blog at And since there is nothing like a smile to make a problem easier, watch this childish boss video for a light-hearted laugh (and I hope you don’t recognize yourself in any of them).

Toddler/Boss Parallels: SHORT ATTENTION SPAN

Toddler Behavior 1: Your child eats five chocolate cookies she got from a friend and spends the afternoon playing “trampoline” on the sofa, her bed, your bed, and the dog.

TOT Behavior 1: After her third espresso, you notice that your boss is talking on her cell phone, glancing at a webinar, checking e-mail, and texting while “listening” to you.

Toddler Behavior 2: You’re in a hurry and try to get your toddler to dress himself so you won’t be late for the kiddie gym class, again. He runs from room to room, turning it into a game, not noticing that you’re not smiling.

TOT Behavior 2: Your TOT brings you along so you can talk as he’s heading down to his car. However, he stops at every desk along the way to “touch base.” You never get to say anything except “Bye-bye.”


• Help yourself by keeping your baby/boss from having a mind that wanders. In meetings, focus on the objectives and make sure communications are lively and interesting.

• Babies like bright colors. Baby bosses like bright colors. Make your pie charts accordingly.

• Be vigilant. With a very busy boss, you have to watch for opportunities that will allow you to get his or her attention.