Sitcom Management – Is it real?

“Sitcom Management” – you know the type of management you see on television…. where you wonder if anyone is really that bad.  Is it real?  Have you ever experienced it?  Well you know the saying:  Does life imitate art or art imitate life?


Below is an example of pure Sitcom Management:


Monday Assignment:  Paint the wall red, to be completed by end of the week.


You:  Go to the Home Improvement Store, and pick up gallon of red paint.  You drive back to the wall and open the can of paint.  Feeling pretty darn good that you are ready to begin painting.  Then your boss walks up…Sitcom Management - Is it real?


Boss:  “What are you doing?”


You:  “Painting the wall.”  You smile.


Boss:  “Why are you painting it red?”


You:  “um…”


Boss:  “I wanted it yellow.”


You:  Go to the Home Improvement Store, and pick up gallon of yellow paint.  As you are walking out of the store your phone rings.


Boss:  “Did you get the paint?”


You: “Yes”


Boss:  “Light Purple, right?”


You: “Excuse me?  You told me to paint the wall yellow.”


Boss: “No I didn’t I want it light purple.”


You:  Turn back around and go into the Home Improvement Store, return the yellow for a loss and pick up a can of light purple paint.   As you are walking out the of the store your phone rings.


Boss:  “Where are you?”


You:  “At the Home Improvement Store getting the paint?”


Boss:  “I told you I wanted this wall painted by the end of the day.”


You: “The end of the week… you mean?”


Boss:  “NO… I said by the end of the day!”


You:  Drive as quickly as you can back to the wall and when you arrive, there stands your colleague prepping to paint the wall a beautiful shade of green.   


Colleague:  “I have to paint this wall.”


You:  “Why?”


Colleague:  “I was told to by Boss.”


You: “When?”


Colleague:  “Just now”


You:  “I just got off the phone with Boss…. I had to exchange the paint… there was a miscommunication.  Boss said to get light purple.  I was coming to paint the wall.”


Colleague: “Oh….?”


You:  “Let’s just paint it the light purple and get it done…” as you and colleague prep to paint the wall in an effort to complete the assignment by the end of the work day, New Hire walks up.


New Hire:  “Boss just called me and told me to come supervise the painting of the wall.”


You: “We’ve got it… thank you!”


New Hire: “No, I have to oversee this work and report back to Boss.”


You:  “Um… ok.?”


New Hire:  Looks at the cans of paint.  “I thought Boss wanted red.”


You:  “Yes originally but has since changed direction.”


New Hire:  “No, you two just need to stop!  This is not correct, let me go back to boss and get clarification.”


You:  “It has to be complete by the end of work today.”  New Hire leaves and You and Colleague wait for New Hire to return.


New Hire:  returns….”Ok… Boss wants it red like I said.”


You:  Gather all the cans of paint and return to the Home Improvement Store.  You get the red paint and as you drive back to the wall you dial into the weekly staff call… only to hear Boss.


Boss:  “Listen… we all need to really focus hard on pressure washing the fence.  So let’s not worry about the wall right now.”


Have you ever been in a scenario like this… One where you feel like Jack from “Will and Grace”?   (Starting at 1:30)

The sad part of this scenario is that this behavior goes on daily throughout businesses, organizations, schools and churches.  Managers who are only focused on themselves, the power of their position and an arrogance that they are never wrong.  This type of manager believes their own press, thinks everyone loves them and loves to hire new people – as those new people typically are trying to please and enjoy the spotlight of being the Sitcom Manager’s Golden Child – willing to do whatever is asked of them with no discussion.


Truly this manager is a narcissistic leader with active and passive aggressive – micromanagement tendencies.


This manager destroys those that work for them and not just in a small way, but in a life changing way.  And this type of manager strategically rotates through staff members as those who are in the “golden child” role- where they can do no wrong and those in the “red headed step child” role. – where they can do no right.

People who work under a sitcom manager, will find over time they change:

  • They begin to lie just to stay under the radar.
  • They stop contributing to discussions and at meetings.
  • They lose sight of their skill sets and are beaten down to believe they are mediocre at best.
  • They begin to believe that they are forgetful and can’t keep things straight.
  • They have no idea of their standing in the organization.
  • They feel like they are on a very fast merry-go-round and have no idea how to get off.


The first step in working with someone like this is to acknowledge and realize this is very real.  You are not losing your mind… You are capable and you can contribute to the good of the organization, school, business or agency that you work for.


Here are some tips to help you work under a Sitcom Manager:

  • Document absolutely everything.
  • Focus on the good work that you do through the organization that you work for.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Accept that you will never be completely prepared for what Boss will bring – however being prepared for that is enough.
  • Have a wait period before you jump into a project (because you know Boss is going to change the game)
  • Be a cheerleader and be excited about your work.
  • Understand that Boss is the Boss and you do what they tell you to do.  You arguing your point will get you nowhere.


Always stay aware! If you begin to find personal changes occurring like those listed above,  you might need to consider a transfer, tendering your resignation or looking at a new career path.

Sitcom Management - Is it real?


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