About 12 percent of workers have fantasized about killing their bosses, according to a recent survey conducted in the United Kingdom by consulting company Expert Market.
Rates varied by industry. Construction workers were at the top, with 22 percent admitting that, at some point, they’d had bloodthirsty thoughts about supervisors.
The survey responses shouldn’t be taken too literally, said Rachel Frieder, an assistant professor of management at Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business.
“We’ve probably all joked, ‘He makes me so mad, I could kill him,’ ” Frieder said. “But it’s just an expression. We’d never act on it.”
Even then, such thoughts are likely reserved for the worst managers.
Some tension is inevitable. Workers spend much of their day on the clock, earning paychecks that are vital to their family’s stability. Managers can stir emotions that can get out of whack.
One in five workers surveyed said they’d give up a pay raise in exchange for having their boss fired.
Frieder said employees want different qualities in a leader. Some like plenty of interaction. Others prefer the boss at a distance.
But two traits lead the typical wish list: warmth and competence. Of those, warmth is the most important. Incompetence — though frustrating and annoying — is easier to forgive.
Good managers see their employees as valuable individuals. “They step outside their office and talk to people,” Frieder said. “They find out what they need, what motivates them, what makes them tick.”
On the flip side: bosses who steal credit and dodge blame, treat workers like easily replaceable property, have overinflated egos or are chronically grumpy, angry and disappointed.
Of the people who said they hate their jobs, more than half said they felt that way because of their bosses.
Companies have money invested in trained employees; bad bosses drive them away.
Frieder remembers her own “Tasmanian devil of a boss.” She was heading for the world of finance, and had just landed a summer internship at her “dream company.”
“He left nothing but havoc in his wake. Everything you could do wrong, he did. A classic kiss up, kick down. Kiss up to everyone above him. Kick everyone below him. That summer, I had a death in my family and he never even mentioned it. Never noticed my puffy eyes, or the tissues all around me or anything. He just didn’t care.”
Did she ever lie awake at night plotting his demise?
No, “but I did dream about giving him an eloquent rendition of what I thought of him.”
She never did, preferring not to burn bridges. But she was so baffled that such a person could rise so high in a multibillion-dollar, international organization, and was obviously being groomed for more, she changed her field of study.
She dedicated her doctoral dissertation to her “loving husband, and to the one absolutely horrid boss who changed the course of my career for good.”