John Hoover (consultant)

author and former executive with Mcgraw-Hill and Walt Disney Company

John Hoover is an author and former executive with Mcgraw-Hill and Walt Disney Company. He has also written for Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Publisher's Weekly. He has a PhD in organizational dynamics and has worked with major corporations and government entities to develop people-centered communication strategies and relationships.



How to Work for an Idiot (2004)

"Survive and Thrive... Without Killing Your Boss"

The Idiot Boss

  • After studying idiot bosses for more than two decades, I finally understand why females in certain species eat their young.
  • Idiot Bosses are mutant hiccups of organizational evolution with cockroach-like immunity to calamities that wipe out truly talented and creative people.
  • Active idiots carry their dysfunction into positions of leadership and remain oblivious to the havoc they wreak.
  • Our own flaws are almost incredibly irritating when they show up in the words and actions of someone with power and authority over us.
  • Your Idiot Boss needs to feel that someone is on his side, in his corner, and has his back. Find times to support your Idiot Boss, especially in his times of uncertainty and doubt.
  • When dumb and dumber are running organizations, corporations, and government agencies, it's not funny anymore.
  • Some idiots are granted the freedom to do whatever they want to do - and have unlimited resources to do so. They will also receive complete anonymity on demand, no accountability - and not lift a finger to make it all possible.
  • Why must intelligent people suffer from worry, fear, and anxiety while idiots sleep well at night?
  • What purpose is being served by keeping idiots oblivious to the carnage they create?
  • I never realized what it was really like to work for an idiot until I started working for myself.

The I-Boss

  • If an employee does something wonderful, an I-Boss might feel a twinge of humiliation. He can take steps to make the employee feel what he's feeling. That's why team members who do good things are routinely embarrassed or humiliated by their I-Bosses.
  • If an I-Boss isn't sure whether something a team member does is good or bad, he is likely to err on the side of bad and seize control of the situation.
  • You can't let your I-Boss know you're training him.
  • Your I-Boss may have a greater emotional investment in getting things done right than he is willing or able to admit.
  • Don't feel dirty or guilty for kissing up. It's survival.
  • Note what types of behavior they approve of and start behaving accordingly.
  • Idiots lack imagination, coupled with the tunnel vision - means the ship will be submerged before they realize it hit an iceberg. You not only need to do or say things that warrant attention, you need to exaggerate them so much he can't possibly fail to notice.
  • Deliberately scheme how you can be a positive influence in your working environment.
  • There is nothing more miserable to a boss than a detractor.
  • Sometimes what appears to be an idiot is just a regular person with idiosyncrasies.
  • The only stupidity we can deal with is our own.
  • Once you have become a transcendent idiot - one who can reflect upon his personal condition and circumstances—you can no longer wander back into the idiot population and disappear.
  • Admitting powerlessness is the first step to recovery. Subsequent steps will reveal who has the power and how you can tap into it to achieve your own serenity.
  • You are ultimately your own boss, even if you report to someone else.
  • Good bosses provide a constant flow of clear and concise information and encourage you and the rest of your team to do the same.
  • Uncertainty always leads to uneasiness.
  • People who habitually speak positively of others tend to do so in all circumstances. Those who tend to criticize others in your presence and recruit you to agree with their cutting remarks will probably criticize you when you are out of the room.

The Good Boss

  • Good Bosses are aware that sharing information in a thorough, timely manner makes people feel included, respected, and acknowledged for their ability to contribute. And they are receptive to feedback - all the time.
  • Good Bosses treat those with more power the same way they treat those with less power.
  • Being a Good Boss is so easy, it makes you wonder why anyone would invest the extra effort and energy required to be a bad one.
  • The equitable treatment of all team members is nearly as important in the workplace as communication.
  • Fairness in the office simply means applying the rules fairly, equally, and without regard for workplace political alliances.
  • When you have a bad boss, chances are that somebody is up to no good.
  • I've seen heads of families bypass talented, capable, loyal, dedicated, lifelong employees to hand their businesses over to a son or daughter. Typically, the first generation establishes the business, the second generation grows it, the third generation barely sustains it, and the fourth generation destroys what is left.
  • There are people who think they're God. Thinking you're God transcends God Bosses play church. ...He is playing God to compensate for a tremendous lack of confidence.'
  • Lose the battles to win the war. Ask for forgiveness. Acknowledge his presence. Don't make the mistake of ignoring him. His ease is your ease. If your attitude is resentful, he will bring thunder and lightning on your head and on the heads of your coworkers.

The Machiavellian Boss

  • Machiavellian Bosses view the universe as an enormous pyramid. There is one spot at the top and it belongs to them, by divine right. It is not about you. And it will never be about you, except for the moment you are actually in their way.
  • Telling God and Machiavellian Bosses what they want to hear is always your best bet.
  • Turning down a Machiavellian invitation can be interpreted as resistance or a possible power move on your part.
  • Learning a new cadence will serve you better than forming your own drum line. You'll probably just frustrate yourself and you boss, who in turn will drum you out.

The Sadist and the Masochist

  • Masochistic Bosses attract codependents like flies to a Sunday picnic. They are about as uplifting as a boar anchor.
  • Masochistic Bosses make sure their departments fail so upper management will deal out punishment.
  • Telling Sadistic Bosses what they want to hear, like "...ouch," will only get them charged up to do more punishment... Try pretending you're a masochist. If your performance is convincing... you'll be out in a flash.

The Paranoid Boss

  • To Paranoid Bosses, everything and everybody is out to get them, including you.
  • Paranoia can feed on itself and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Paranoid Boss spends his energy searching out and exposing the conspiracy against him. The focus and leadership that should have been committed to departmental objectives is wasted and whole operation goes in the tank - thus confirming the paranoid boss's contention.
  • If escaping your paranoid boss is not easy, keep your activities in plain site; copy your Paranoid Boss on everything; spend more time with him; share the knowledge, share secrets - some of your inner thoughts, within reason.
  • Deciding not to intentionally do things to shape your environment... will help bring about the environment you don't want. Inaction around the office is innocuous.

The Buddy Boss

  • If you are equally as emotionally needy as your Buddy Boss, it could be a marriage made in heaven, although I would rather go to another heaven.
  • Invite you Buddy Boss to everything. Share information openly... Request meetings. Beware of the confessional. Your Buddy Boss will devote endless hours to hearing your confessions and making hers to you - a potential disconnect from getting any appreciable work done. Set time limits.
  • Getting along with her requires ignoring everything you're being paid to do. Dedicated workers get hit the hardest because they must work nights and weekends to do the things they would have done. With luck, you might be transferred to an Idiot Boss.

Your Choice

  • Be thankful for you I-Boss. He might be the easiest to work with and the least threatening to your health of all other boss types.

Unleashing Leadership (2005)

  • The vast majority of your organization's leadership potential is probably locked up behind the bars of bureaucracy or staggering under the weight of organizational inertia. The cultural dragon you are fighting feeds on old school notions about leadership that grew out of a Napoleonic, hierarchical military organizational model.
  • Hierarchical organizations are typically run by little Napoleons and Napoleonettes; especially at mid-organization level. A hierarchical organizational design draws leadership focus and energy away from problem solving and progressive thinking by encouraging those climbing the organizational food chain to focus instead on protecting their positions, perks, and territory.
  • Whether you like it or not, any time two or more people get together to do anything, a culture emerges.
  • When people's hopes and expectations are built up only to be demolished, they become a lot harder to motivate.
  • Classical management theory would have us believe that the fastest way to get a square peg through a round hole is to use a bigger hammer.
  • Clinging to unrealistic expectations, we can become our own worst enemies.
  • People don't learn much about themselves or others while they're succeeding in spite of poor practices. When the real outcomes reflect the real work being done, the real learning begins.
  • Most executives bring in a consultant or a new training program for course correction after they've steered the ship into an iceberg.
  • Efficiency, productivity, and performance should always be priorities, through good times and bad.
  • We define substance abuse as throwing away substance in favor of a better-looking wrapper. Running off experienced people for cheaper labor makes as much sense as peeling a banana, throwing the fruit away, and eating the peel.
  • The cost of “downsizing,” “re-sizing,” or “right-sizing” eclipses what it would have cost to unleash the pent up leadership already inside the organization.
  • Organizational performance, productivity, and profitability depend more on the emotional investment people have in meeting organizational objectives than any other factor.
  • People participate fully, with the best they have, when they feel necessary to the outcome. People want to participate, but only if they'll feel good about what they're doing.
  • When leaders are separate and definitely not equal, they tend to become ensconced in corner offices, or at least offices with windows.
  • People in intermediate organizational positions quickly learn how they can influence decisions at the top by filtering information as it makes its way up the ladder and back down again.
  • Going through channels means seeking permission from those above you. Imagine how much distortion there will be if the information is screened each time based on each person's political agenda.
  • Organizations with traditional, Napoleonic, military-style hierarchies tend to remain static. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, organizations at rest tend to stay at rest.
  • The organizational money chart enables people to isolate because they can always point upward when someone asks, “Who's in charge?” Over time, the motivation to do well dwindles.
  • If compensation is merely tied to the organizational money chart, the real contributions of many in the organization are not being recognized or rewarded. Such neglect kills enthusiasm and effort.
  • One of the things [good] ringleaders encourage is the uncensored free-flow of information and ideas, both within their circles and within the biggest circle of all, the one drawn around the entire organization.

The Art of Constructive Confrontation (2005)

"How to Achieve More Accoutability with Less Conflict" (with Roger P. DiSilvestro)
  • Conversation sets the stage for the commitment and the covenant.
  • If you are truly adverse to regular, meaningful conversation with your team members, you can skip straight to conflict.
  • An absence of effective communication will ultimately lead to conflict.
  • It is much easier to address important issues if the conversation is continuous. Don’t take your team member by surprise. Catching someone off guard produces instant defensiveness.
  • You must be willing to reconcile any difference between who you really are, as evidenced by your words and deeds, and who you present yourself to be.
  • The more feedback you gather, the richer the data pool. The richer the data pool, the more willing you should be to toss your contradictory opinions out the window.
  • Never l mind the stories of how one person, against all odds, proved the rest of the world wrong. Those things happen about as often as people are struck by lightning while cashing in their winning Lotto tickets.
  • Many people who avoid talking to one another are the people that need to be engaged in conversation the most.
  • As the leader, you must pay close attention to results and effort.

Bullwinkle on Business (2008)

"Motivational Secrets of a Chief Executive Moose"
  • Business is first, last, and always about people.
  • Even the most mechanical organizations can design and deploy a people-centered culture, even if it happens one department at a time and takes a flying squirrel to champion the change.
  • MR. PEABODY: "People who are content and confident in their work tend to be highly motivated and eminently more productive. They collaborate more freely with peers and colleagues, and cooperate better with those they report to...

Quotes about Hoover

  • There is no question that How to Work for an Idiot: Survive and Thrive ... Without Killing Your Boss... is a subversive book. People will pick it up expecting a tasty blend of commiseration and advice. They will put it down thinking, to rephrase the famous line from the cartoon character Pogo, "We have met the idiot, and he is us."
    • Claudia H. Deutsch, "At Lunch With -- John Hoover; Idiots, and the People Who Work for Them," The New York Times (Jan. 4, 2004)
  • This reporter, who invited Dr. Hoover to lunch recently in hopes of learning definitive ways to spot idiots and thwart them before they do too much damage. She came away feeling like, well, an idiot. But not to worry: Dr. Hoover, who has a master's degree in family and marriage therapy and a doctorate in organizational dynamics, says idiotism is a treatable condition. He said his book... is as much a primer for I-Bosses as it is a balm for their beleaguered subordinates.
    • Claudia H. Deutsch, "At Lunch With -- John Hoover; Idiots, and the People Who Work for Them," The New York Times (Jan. 4, 2004)

John Hoover books available in public libraries listed