The Prosperity Gospel and Bad Bosses

Bad bosses come in many stripes, but among the worst is when they are adherents to the Prosperity Gospel. Run away

The Dude has been around the block a few times, and had some great bosses, but also some real turds. The Dude is cool with abusive bosses, and to some degree can deal with a bully boss (just stand up and fight back), but one kind of boss is really corrosive to any organization, the “Never a Rainy Day” boss.

They are not exactly common, but usually they wash out before they get to a position of real power. However, when they do make it to the corner office, watch out.

How to identify the type:

  • Regardless of the tactical situation, always having a positive view. A huge customer (to the tune of $20M a year) could tell you that they hate your business tactics, and this boss would turn it into a positive reflective moment (true story)
  • Significant softness in bookings, caused by neglect and wonton disregard in the sales team generates a “We will just need to convince them (or do their job for them)” attitude.
  • Even behind closed doors, when laying out the evidence of why the guano is hitting the fan, blaming it on “negativity”, and “bad attitude”
  • Loyalty to a customer/industry/market that was a past high flyer, but is in decline
  • Unable to decide to end of life a product that has no market forecast
  • Leads from the Gut, ignoring hard data and solid business cases

I believe that the rise in consumerism and materialism is largely a societal symptom that has lead to this personality type. An analogy that fits well is the phenomenon of the “Prosperity Gospel”, the idea that God wants us to be rich in material goods, that Financial Blessings is the will of God. Even a quick search on the internet brings an enormous body of knowledge on the Prosperity Theology (from both sides). I first became enthralled with this concept when I read “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (2009)” by Barbara Eherenreich (a totally worthy read).

In its essence, it says that if you have positive thoughts (If you want that $300 coach bag enough, and if you can visualize yourself holding it, you will get it) and be pure of spirit and soul, you will prosper. In the case of the $300 Coach bag, I suspect that eventually getting it in your hands leads to a $300 debit on your credit card.

Now the Dude is all about positive thinking, and the good Lord knows that he is pure of heart, but Product Management is about dealing in realities. Not all products succeed. Great revenue driving products reach a stage where demand falls off, and reinvestment in the ability to produce these products to address a shrinking market is poor use of capital. Sometimes, it is the right decision to say no.

However, to a “Never a Rainy Day” leader, the corner is always about to turn, we just need to be more committed to completing a project/product/solution, “Sales needs more help from Product Management to close orders – so get on the road to close the quarter”, “The Semiconductor industry is about to boom again, let’s keep that over the hill monstrosity on the price list, even though the forecast is 0 units, I know that any day now we will grab the reins again.”

I know what some of you are saying, “Outwardly, an executive needs to project and portray a positive image, and leadership”. I get that. But, when you are in a closed room, mano e mano, and are working through the business vitality, the numbers, the forecast, the market trends, it gets tiring when all trends are saying “Move away from data storage, that sector is a dog” and your boss says “Well, I see the numbers, and your point, but these companies count on us to continue to support them” (even at floor scraping margins).

Working for one of these people is truly destructive to your spirit. Analyses, data, hard market surveys, peer company trends all get discarded for the ego lifting project. You will continue to chase markets, industries, customers who will bankrupt you. My advice is to find a new job, before you blow 6 years there, trying to bring sanity to the discussion.

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