Bad Boss Alert

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Event Date: 08/02/2000.

Is The Man bringing you down? Nationally syndicated radio host and advice columnist Krs (pronounced Chris) Edstrom, MS, joins us for a talk about problematic workplaces and unmanageable superiors.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the guest's alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Hello and welcome to WebMD Live!

Joining us this afternoon is Krs Edstrom, MS, an author, lecturer, and retreat leader whose work has been featured in such publications as USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour, Kiplinger?s Personal Finance Magazine, Fitness, First for Women, and Entrepreneur. United Airlines and American Airlines have featured Edstrom's audios as special in-flight relaxation programming. Her HealthStyle advice column "Ask KRS" appears in Mirabella and Elle magazines and on America Online. Her unique radio show, "The KRS Edstrom Show -- Time Out For Time In," offers advice along with guided meditation. You can find her website at

Thank you for joining us today.

Edstrom: Thank you for having me.

Moderator: What's the worst bad boss story you've heard?

Edstrom: I've heard a lot as I speak with corporations. I think one of the worst scenarios in the interest of confidentiality is poor communication. Especially these days, bosses will email coworkers instead of face to face communication. And this can go on for days where they don't even see each other.

Moderator: Do you think email has improved business communication, overall?

Edstrom: That's what the current problem is, and the solution in a sense. "Technostress" is a term used for information overload for the overabundance of communication tools. So that what has been a blessing in communication tools such as emailing, faxes, beepers, and so forth, has in many cases turned out to be the enemy, especially in regards to communication. Ironic, isn't it? Meaning, just as I said, more technological communication and less person to person communication. More quantity also, less quality. Thus, the stress is felt by especially those under the authority position. The boss position. Specifically uncertainty, ambiguity, lack of personal recognition, all contribute to stress, which in my opinion can be easily remedied if recognized by the authority position, superior, boss.

Moderator: What factors make for a "bad boss"?

Edstrom: I'm so glad you asked. I'd like to preface it by saying that you may not even be aware of all the ways that your boss is inadequate. You may think it's you, or you just feel bad for no reason. Yes, let's define what a bad boss is, and it might help you separate your perceived inadequacies from reality. A bad boss instills a feeling of low self-worth. He/she also limits your freedom and input. A bad boss offers little support. A bad boss is consistently unpredictable. A bad boss sets win or lose work goals, a black and white approach to things with no in between. A bad boss also makes excessive physical demands and psychological demands. Specifically, one of the red flags that interests me is the loss of freedom within your job, or creative input. Studies show, in fact that if a boss increases the demands on a worker but limits his freedoms to make decisions, the worker often experiences raised blood pressure. Elevated cholesterol is another symptom. Insomnia, boredom, alcoholism, gastrointestinal problems, psychiatric or mental problems, depression, apathy, feelings of dread and even panic, smoking, poor performance, and many, many other symptoms. The point is, if you start taking the mystery out of it and get a clear definition of who this boss is, and who this boss should be, it will help your feelings of confusion and inadequacy.

Moderator: Where should one start with that process?

Edstrom: Like lifting the curtain from the Wizard of Oz, the Almighty Wizard of Oz, there was actually a little old man sitting behind the curtain, more than likely. If you have a boss, you are a boss to someone else, more than likely. This finger is not just pointing one direction, nor is it pointing at all. This is meant to be educational for all involved. And that's what's missing, is education. To answer your question, first of all I mentioned that communication would be one on my list. This means for employee and boss, this includes communication for both. Be willing to be vulnerable, whether you are the boss or employee. Specifically, don't be shy, don't try to tough it out. Go in to your boss, be willing to be vulnerable; set a meeting, through email if necessary, and set an exact time for a meeting.

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