Inspirational Leadership Fails: 25 Years Of Top Bananas

One of my favourite movies of all time is Office Space. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a ‘take this job and shove it’ comedy about authority and the burning resentment that its lazy application engenders. One of the central characters in the film is of course the boss, Bill Lumbergh, who could make a sloth look industrious. When it comes to inspirational leadership, the film is the perfect summary of what not to do.

A quick analysis of other office humour revealed that the boss is pretty much always the architect behind the chronic misery of cubicle culture, which got me reminiscing about the fearless leaders that have been in charge during my 25-odd years of office servitude. What did I learn from them, and more importantly, what did I need to unlearn?

These #leadership fails will make you laugh (or maybe cry). Click To Tweet

Welcome to a quarter of a century of top bananas.

Tough Banana

Inspirational Leadership Fails 25 Years Of Top BananasI’m pretty sure that tough banana is dead now. I know that sounds awful, but she was already 105 or thereabouts when I started working for her, so you do the maths.

She was a career woman who had carved out a career during an era when women weren’t expected (and certainly not encouraged) to have a career or display inspirational leadership. Consequently, she was as hard as nails.

She wore austere looking tunics and cardigans with button-down shirts and talked in acronyms at the speed of a bullet train, and she forced me to take a shorthand course so that I could take notes when she talked. She also made me eat my lunch with her every day in the lunch room, which she considered a team-building exercise, despite the fact that this was the only period during each and every day that she would scarcely utter three words.

The good lesson:

Shorthand can actually be kind of useful (even though I had to make up my own symbols for swear words)

The bad lesson:

Expecting your employees to sit and watch you eat your vegemite sandwich 5 days a week is a bit beyond the call of duty.

Lazy Banana

Inspirational Leadership Fails 25 Years Of Top BananasLazy banana is still very much alive, although retired, which is very apt considering that the word ‘retirement’ summed up his entire attitude to employment.

He was an absolutely charming fellow, and focused that charm with laser precision on the complete avoidance of work. When we met, his first question wasn’t about how well I could do my job, it was about whether or not I knew how to do what he did (‘did’ being a euphemism for action on his part).

Accompanied by this desire to exert himself as little as possible was a few shades of deviousness. This extended from the housing of golfing magazines inside manila folders and keeping a small television hidden inside the top drawer of his filing cabinet. The TV was set at a right-angle to his desk so that he could slide open the drawer and watch TV using a set of headphones whenever it suited him, and he thought he could get away with it. I sat at a desk outside his office and was expected to alert him when his boss was coming so that he could feign industry when the need arose.

His brand of inspirational leadership inspired little more than my eventual resignation.

The good lesson:

You can get quite good television reception by taping the antenna to a metal filing cabinet.

The bad lesson:

Charm can make up for a lot of short fallings

#Leadership fail: Stowing a #television in your filing cabinet. Click To Tweet

Amorous Banana

(who was having an affair with Sleazy Banana)

Inspirational Leadership Fails 25 Years Of Top BananasAmorous banana was a starry eyed 20-something who was barely six months my senior. She had risen to the great heights of being my boss because she was exceptionally bright – in all areas except for her judgement in the area of romance.

I had no idea how or why the affair actually started although I could pinpoint the date – it happened after a team outing to a bowling alley. A large amount of beer had been consumed that night, which I am blaming for the initial lapse of judgement, but I can’t for the life of me come up with a reason as to why it continued, considering sleazy banana was a good 12 years her senior and she was allergic to cats.

You might consider this to be a random piece of information until you realise that if you are a cat allergy sufferer, even being in close proximity to someone who owns a cat can bring on an allergy attack. Consequently, on the days during which they would have a liaison, she would have red eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing attacks that would leave her gasping. Not really the sort of gasping that you would want to be the product of an illicit lunch hour with your paramour, and far from a display of inspirational leadership.

I took to leaving a pack of Telfast on her desk on a fortnightly basis, because I was worried that all that sneezing would give her a heart attack. I think she mistook them as coming from him, because she used to keep the cardboard boxes and draw little love hearts all over them with a red Artline texta. 17 boxes later, it was all over. I found her one day in the utility room carving up the boxes into teeny, tiny little pieces with the paper guillotine.

I tendered my resignation the day after, figuring that she could go postal any moment. It was time to move on anyway.

The good lesson:

Never, ever have an affair with a colleague.

The bad lesson:

Never, ever, EVER have an affair with your boss.

Nasty Banana

Inspirational Leadership Fails 25 Years Of Top BananasNasty banana was just plain mean, and behaved like he had fallen from top bunk height out of the wrong side of the bed every single day. On the spectrum of inspirational leadership, his ratings failed to make the cut.

He gave sketchy instructions, then bawled you out if you asked questions. And if you improvised or used your common sense to fill in the gaps, it was never right, so you would become the subject of lengthy ridicule, often with an audience.

I once saw him set an office junior a task, and then allow said office junior to finish that entire task incorrectly over the course of two hours, forbidding anyone else to set him straight under the guise of the fact that it would be a ‘learning experience’.

His meanness also extended to his attitude to money. Once, after a particularly long week, the big boss had instructed him to order in dinner and a DVD for the troops and to let us all leave early that Friday. He extracted money from all of us – not only for the food but for our share of the cost of the movie hire – the princely sum of 20 cents each AND he forced us to make up the Friday early mark with extra hours the following week.

None of us could stand him.

The good lesson:

Keep asking questions, even if does make you unpopular – it can save a lot of wasted effort.

The bad lesson:

You can actually split the cost of a DVD among six people down to the last five cents.

And the final lesson?

I guess for me the final lesson from a string of dodgy bosses is that there’s nothing like a common enemy to unite a team. It was just a little unfortunate that the lesson didn’t emerge from a more constructive place or a more competent display of inspirational leadership. There are far better ways to foster team spirit than being a bad manager (just like there are far better places to find yourself a boyfriend than the local bowling alley).

The moral of these #leadership fails: nothing unites a team like a common enemy. Click To Tweet

Achieve actual inspirational leadership

Better communication wouldn’t do much to help these bad bananas (and in most cases, the less I had to talk to them, the better).

Fortunately, you’re a Good Banana who wants to display inspirational leadership, and Blrt can help you get everyone on the same page. Unite your team around a great idea (or a common enemy) today:

About Blrt

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