How to avoid being a bad boss like David Brent

Published: 19/09/2018

Bosses from TV shows are all the same aren't they? They will usually have large plush offices, speak with a gruff voice and are generally well... bossy. But then there is David Brent, the character that made Ricky Gervais a super star. This was the character who defied all of the boss stereotypes and was instead a bumbling attention seeking buffoon.

He should certainly not be an inspiration to any managers or business owners. There is so much that is wrong about David Brent’s approach to management that this could be 5 blogs. But we think one will suffice. So what exactly makes David Brent the worst boss - fictional or otherwise - to learn from?

Inappropriate jokes

Can you imagine anything worse than a senior manager or even the CEO making a racist joke and spreading it around the office? Well this is exactly what David did in one episode. Because of the nature of this particular joke, we won't mention its contents here. But if you want to watch the scene, in all its cringeworthy glory, you can see it here. If you are in a senior position then there is nothing that will alienate you from other members of staff than offensive jokes. Not only could this get you in serious trouble, you probably won’t make any friends either.

Terrible speech to greet new staff

In the climax of the first series, David finds out that his branch will merge with another paper merchant based in Swindon. To make matters worse, he finds out that Neil (the Swindon branch manager) will become his boss. This means more staff to look after and a line manager to report to. Not an ideal situation; but once again our lovable idiot makes things worse with a calamitous speech. He proceeds to make a series of terrible jokes, which get worse very quickly. You shouldn’t be making it your mission to be an entertainer. A couple of jokes is fine, but if you don’t take yourself seriously then neither will your staff. You’re a boss, not a comedian.

Delivering news terribly

Ah the old good news bad news scenario. It puts us all on tenterhooks and makes us excited and anxious at the same time. But there needs to be actual good news worth telling. David tells his staff that due to the merger, some of them will lose their jobs. But what’s the good news? Perhaps there is a silver lining that will make this tough situation more bearable. Instead he tells them ‘I've been promoted’ to which an employee rightly responds ‘more like bad news and irrelevant news’. When you run a business sometimes hard decisions have to be made. This is the unfortunate reality sometimes. But you need to deliver this type of news in a very careful way. Telling people that they may lose their jobs and that you have been promoted is incredibly foolish and provocative. We don’t recommend following this line of thinking, unless you are looking to get a black eye.

Be responsible

Everyone is answerable to someone. Even if you are the boss, it's very likely that your performances will be reviewed by someone higher up in the company or maybe by an investor. David is no exception. When he forgets to pay one of his employees for the month, Neil enters David’s office to have a stern word and criticises his overall performance. If you run your own business, you still have to work hard. If you think you can take it easy just because you are at the top you then you would be very wrong. You are always accountable, whatever position you are in.

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