We all like to think that we are awesome bosses and natural leaders who are beloved and revered by all.
Sitting in traffic, it is easy to daydream and place ourselves in the shoes of the greatest cinematic bosses of all time, from Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11 to leader of the X Men, Charles Xavier. We like to believe that we are cut from the same cloth.
But what if we’re less Mufasa and more Snow White bossing around our team which amounts to little more than seven indentured servants that we’ve made up nicknames for?
Let’s take a moment to look at the truly horrible bosses from cinematic history and maybe we can learn something along the way about the nature of true leadership? But probably not.
Willy Wonka – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Is Willy Wonka one of the best or worst bosses of all time? We enjoy his non-discriminatory hiring practices certainly, but from a workplace health and safety perspective, Willy Wonka’s management style leaves a lot to be desired.
Let’s be honest, what are the working conditions really like for these Oompa-Loompas? They are complicit in Wonka’s blatant child abuse and are being paid in literally beans (cacao beans to be precise). It’s enough to make you wonder whether they wouldn’t be better off taking their chances with the hornswogglers, snozzwangers and those terrible, wicked whangdoodles in Loompaland.
…And don’t forget that Grandpa Joe used to work at Wonka’s factory until he was fired and cheaper Loompa labour was introduced.
Bill Lumbergh – Office Spaces
Bill Lumbergh is division Vice President of software company Initech and is brought to life in excruciatingly micro-managed detail by Gary Cole. Unfortunately, this horrible boss rings a bell for lots of downtrodden folks in the corporate world.
Making an artform of passive aggression, Lumbergh’s softly spoken and infuriating portrayal is too much for some viewers who are disturbed at how closely life imitates incredibly annoying art.
The driver of the bureaucratic machine and a man who appears to be so banal he is impervious to anything his staff may have to say to him… Bill Lumbergh is the devil in a two-tone suit.
So if you could just go ahead and come in on Sunday… That’d be great… mmm..kkkay
John Hammond – Jurassic Park
It’s difficult to make the case that Jurassic Park was a success. It was an ambitious, innovative and original, but ultimately flawed experiment and many of these problems can be laid at the feet of park creator and CEO, John Hammond.
Why didn’t Hammond just breed herbivores?
Why did Hammond invite children to the park before he had finished his safety checks?
Why wouldn’t he listen to the advice of very experts he brought in to test the park before it opened to the public?
Hammond’s hiring practices are also suspect as is evidenced by the employment of Dennis Nedry (the one who gets venom spat in his eyes). It is Nedry who made the poor engineering choices on the velociraptor enclosure result in the whole system breaking down… Still Hammond’s fault though because Nedry is an expert in computers not dinosaur behaviour.
To quote Ian Macolm: ‘Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.’
Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol
The quintessential horrible boss, Ebenezer Scrooge has obviously never heard of penalty rates and pays poor Bob Cratchit a pittance to work long hours at the firm of Scrooge and Marley.
Nor does Scrooge believe in corporate social responsibility, as evidenced when a charity worker points out that many people would rather die than go to the workhouse.
Scrooge says: ‘If they would rather die…they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.’
And obviously if you found yourself working for Ebenezer Scrooge, your chances of an office Christmas party would decrease significantly. Unless you were fortunate enough to be employed by him after the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come have visited him. In that case he is probably a very nice boss
Doctor Evil – Austin Powers
We’ve all had that boss. The one who has no conception of reality, who piles unrealistic and frankly insane demands on your weary shoulders.
That’s Dr Evil. The king of blue sky thinking who believes that if he can dream it, you can do it and what he’s dreaming of is sharks with freakin’ laser beams on their heads. He’s a narcissist, a bully and a Machiavellian nightmare for his underlings. How many henchmen does he sacrifice to achieve his dreams of… one million dollars?
To Dr Evil’s credit, he doesn’t believe in nepotism and holds his son Scotty Evil back from climbing the corporate ladder. Although his preferred candidate is Mini Me who is created in his own evil image and fits into most overhead storage lockers.
Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street
Another demanding, narcissist with a delightful ‘buys or dies’ strategy, Jordan Belfort is a charismatic leader with fatal flaws.
Chief amongst his flaws is a weakness for drugs and ‘midget tossing’, but it’s hard to deny he is a great communicator and he was successful while it lasted. If you are somewhat lacking in moral fibre, you might see Jordan Belfort as a paragon of success in the dog eat dog world of the stock market.
However, as an employee of the manipulative and domineering ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, you might find yourself facing and enquiry or on the wrong side of a prison cell… or possibly with his money taped to your body trying to get to Switzerland.
James Bond – Pretty much any James Bond movie
Let’s be honest with ourselves. James Bond is kind of a jerk. He’s self-obsessed, arrogant and totally lacking in accountability. Also, if you’re a female secret agent working for Bond, you can pretty much guarantee that workplace harassment will be on the cards.
But what can we do? Nobody does it better than 007 after all so we just have to put up with his high-handed management style, his on-the-clock drinking and his total lack of awareness when it comes to workplace health and safety.
In the positive column for James, he has poise, authority and he makes decisions and stands by them. He’s reliable for the most part and if you die working under him it probably won’t be because he didn’t try to save you.
And he will avenge your death and crack a joke afterwards… How many bosses can you say that about?