When Bad Bosses a.k.a. TOTs, Mark Their Spot

The recession isn’t over yet, but some economic sectors are sprouting again, so some of your managers if left unchecked, a.k.a. TOTs, may be taking this opportunity to act out in some specific ways.

As BusinessWeek and MSNBC point out this week, Terrible Office Tyrants (TOTs)TM are in full season.

In particular, TOTs are now marking their territories like never before. Maybe they’re attempting to amass office space, sales forces, or “marking” sales territories with hoarded executive office pens! They might as well hang a sign on their doors that reads “This is MINE; go get your own stuff!”  Territorialism is rampant, as mentioned in detail in my Psychology Today blog and in Forbes.com.

The problem is your staff may have just been assigned a part of your TOT’s old sales territory – and he’s not real happy about it – even though he’s been your employee’s mentor for 11 years and has diligently learned some of his best sales techniques. Now your Terrible Office Tyrant manager is calling on his former clients, telling them that your staff member is a “rookie” and they should contact him because he’s the “real deal.”

What makes your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT) display these territorial claims in the office?

It stands to reason that the same skills your TOT used to survive childhood and/or a former job would serve him well in the hand-to-hand combat of corporate life, as explained in Psychology Today entitled Why Bosses Act Like Toddlers. His goal is to get stuff – and keep it. Your goal is to have him let go of it and delegate.

To avert conflicts, make sure that your TOT knows how much you value his mentoring of more junior staff. Assure him that you value managers whose staff is strong.

Once your TOT realizes that you’re not a divisive leader, and that a solid staff is an asset that helps the company grow, you’ll mitigate the power grab syndrome. In Tame Your Terrible Office TyrantTM (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, there are many more suggestions on how to handle difficult managers in your ranks.

Territorialism is just one of 20 Terrible Office Tyrant behaviors outlined in my book, by chapter. I am often asked to describe all of them. See if you can find one, two or more of these bad behaviors in your office in a given day or week:


These are the more aggressive traits that are typically activated when your TOT is operating under stress, has been taught that this behavior will achieve self-serving results, or your boss is fearful of an impending outcome:

1.   Bragging

2.   Bullying

3.   Demanding

4.   Ignoring

5.   Impulsiveness

6.   Lying

7.   Self-Centeredness

8.   Stubbornness

9.   Tantrums

10. Territorialism


These traits are often born out of incompetence or general fear of inadequacy. While they seem benign, these boss behaviors can be just as irritating – and equally as unproductive in the workplace.

11.  Whining

12.  Endless Questioning

13.  Fantasy World

14.  Fickleness

15.  Helplessness

16.  Irrational Fears

17.  Forgetfulness

18.  Mood Swings

19.  Neediness

20.  Short Attention Spans

For more details on TOT-proofing  your company and creating a humanized workplace that is safe for success (meaning decreasing territorialism), you can order the book at Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com or Borders.