Eliot's Ramblings

Debugging the Boss: The Glory Hog

The Glory Hog is really bad news. They want to take credit for the work their team does, and are more interested in their own advancement than their team members' performance and growth. This boss bug is my first example of a cloaking bug, that is, this person will often use subterfuge to prevent their trait from being identified.

As such it is very important to be able to distinguish glory hogging from innocuous behavior, and other bugs where the observed behavior can be similar.

The Glory Hog can behave a lot like the Hyper-Owner, but the Glory Hog is a much nastier creature, because they are motivated by a real character flaw, not a trait gone overboard. Like the Hyper-Owner, they will attempt to force decisions to go through them, and will suppress ideas that they did not originate. However, unlike the Hyper-Owner, they will actively quash these ideas, rather than stalling them, even if they are good.

The Glory Hog is usually adept at playing politics, which helps them cloak.

Behavior in meetings: In meetings with their reports, the Glory Hog will seem much like a friendly manager with hyper-ownership tendencies, being supportive but putting the brakes on their reports' ideas. With their peers (other managers), the Glory Hog will introduce any initiatives they think they can take credit for, and it may be hard to recognize their behavior. One potential red flag is they will talk a lot about what they personally did, without mentioning their team.

A very strong telltale of the Glory Hog is that they will do their utmost to prevent meetings from including combinations of their peers, superiors, and their reports, because that venue makes it hardest for them to obscure their scheme. This might make them seem like an Isolationist (to be covered in the future). When those meetings do occur, they will speak on behalf of their reports as much as they can get away with, and may even overtalk them.

General Behavior: Uses the “I” word too much.

Impact on team: Initially, people who report to the Glory Hog may not notice, or care, but over time they will become demoralized in the same way as those reporting to a Hyper-Owner. However, given time they will perceive their boss to be actively harming them. Then they will start putting in the minimal effort they can, and start looking for work elsewhere, since it seems unlikely that their careers will blossom at this company.

Impact on product: As the team shuts down, all progress stops.

Trait gone wrong: Being generous, I’ll say “the desire to impress”.

Debugging: If you find a Glory Hog in your midst, be prepared for a bad outcome. It’s not impossible to redeem one, but be ready for lots of defensiveness and pushback – the Glory Hog is not overly concerned with the harm they are doing around them.

As usual, debugging a boss means connecting the trait gone haywire with the improvement the boss needs to make. In this case, if the buggy boss needs to impress, it must be explained to them that the way to impress is to foster a happy, durable, highly-productive team.

Not to be confused with: The Hyper-Owner, The Isolationist, The Politician.

Notes: There are some variations here. You could have a Glory Hog who also takes all failure on their shoulders, which is at least consistent. The worst kind is the one who takes all the credit and shifts all the blame.