Bad Bosses Ruin Lives – book review

On the left a covber of the book "Bad Bosses Ruin Lives" and on the right the TJ logo and text saying book review

David Hayden reviews a guide for aspiring bosses and those in need of transformation to unlocking the secrets to great leadership

Book: Bad Bosses Ruin Lives
Authors: Debra Corey and Ken Corey

There’s lots to like in this very accessible book, with hints and tips on how to be a great boss on every page! It is easy to digest and has some very relatable examples of bad bosses and their impact on others. However, taking a step back, the fact it needs to be written somewhat rubs against the word ‘like’.

A few of the bad bosses I have come across appeared to have no self-awareness that they were indeed a bad boss

I read it in two different ways, first by dipping in and out, jumping through a number of different pages and then, a few days later, I had an ‘end to end’ read. Both brought me something new. Those bosses who are time poor will gain from the dipping in and out. Those who take the time to read from page one to the end will be rewarded with a deeper insight and a wider set of areas to focus on. 

As I read it, I did wonder if the people who really, really need to read this book will actually read it. A few of the bad bosses I have come across appeared to have no self-awareness that they were indeed a bad boss, nor seemed to be inclined to embrace development. I do have a hunch that many who do buy and read this book are on the path to being great bosses themselves and may well have read some of the books the authors acknowledge on pages 243–245. For these readers there is also a great deal to pick up on to build and develop further their own skills and knowledge.

What type of bad bosses are there?

I like the way the book is sectioned; firstly, the authors categorise bad bosses, giving them labels such as ‘ignorer’ and ‘blocker’ and then in part two they offer ‘building blocks’ to address these categories. Both parts are peppered with some research and input from 20 contributors to add to the authenticity of the stories shared. 

In part two the authors offer a model comprising of ‘foundation’ and ‘connecting blocks’. In the descriptors they offer tips for how these can impact positivity on the categories of bad bosses – aiding any action planning, which is explicitly laid out. There is also with a handy self-check grid to help the reader target their priority areas and needs. The model is very relatable and the authors use the term ’six-pack’ for the foundation elements of having a strong core or foundation they argue is key to the path of being a great boss.

Is this book just for the boss?

Whilst I have concerns that the people who really, really need to read this may not, I do think it can massively help those people who are managing upwards or working with peers and colleagues (such as coaching or mentoring) along with anyone with a manager or leader in a performance improvement plan situation. Be it explicit signposting to the book, starting a conversation about the impact of being a ‘bad boss’, or using some of the foundation and connecting block areas in a coaching session to help the improvement process, there is actually lots of potential for getting the content of this book in front of anyone who may be considered a bad boss.

At 253 pages long it is a compact read. I think there could have been room for a few other insights that would have elevated its impact further. For instance, a few case studies to help readers see the journey from bad boss to great boss peppered within part two is one element that could have supported the evidence base for this section. Additionally, I would have liked to have seen the impact on organisation success elevated within the narrative in both parts. There is some data contained, but I would have liked more on the business imperative! That said, this book has made think and reflect on how I approach certain aspects of my work and consider some actions. It also motivated me to search out the website linked to the authors and have a worthwhile hour or so looking around it and bookmarking a couple of pages.


David Hayden is Owner of Talent Delivers

David Hayden

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