They yell at you and fire you twice a day. They insist that a five-day job should only take five hours. They flip-flop and then blame you for their mistakes. Star Trek's captains model all kinds of bad boss behavior, but luckily they also show us what to do with a boss who's out of touch with reality.
We already covered the 7 kinds of highly effective leadership as demonstrated by space captains. But captains can also model some pretty awful management, and noplace is this more apparent than in dear old Trek.
The bully. He alternates between jolly and grouchy — but even his jolly side is a little scary sometimes. He enjoys "teasing" his subordinates, especially anyone who's different in some way, like having funny-shaped ears. "Notices" his female underlings a little too closely. He does give an inspiring speech about risk-taking, but that's usually just to drag you into some weird body-switching scheme that will leave you with a weird rash for a month. He's also the original "I want it done yesterday" boss, who's "sick of hearing the word 'can't.'"
How to handle him: If he yells, yell back. Say "Dammit" a lot. If he asks how long something will take, exaggerate by at least 200 percent. If he starts cracking jokes at you, just ignore it, and he'll probably go away. But never, ever make fun of him back. (I've totally had this boss, like twice, and thinking of him as Captain Kirk really helped.)
The father figure. He's your best pal, playing poker with you and listening to you whine about your holographic love life — until you piss him off, and then suddenly he's all shouty and mean. He's like your nice uncle who suddenly turns vicious. It actually startled me the first time Picard showed his bitchslapping side — and yet it shouldn't have. I've had bosses just like this. They're all about "nurturing," until you don't get their drycleaning to them on time, and then suddenly it's the screamy echochamber for you. He's also incredibly long-suffering, constantly annoyed by every little thing that goes wrong. Likes to bust out with a speech explaining the "moral" of everything that happens.
How to handle him: Don't ever mistake his "daddy" act for real friendship, or let your guard down around him. If he starts quoting Shakespeare or moralizing at you, just smile and nod until he stops. Don't confide in him about your personal shit, or he'll just bring it up when he's mad at you. He likes to nurture creativity, so go ahead and share your artsy projects with him, not to mention your bizarre schemes for getting out of whatever mess you've all gotten into this week.
The politician. On the surface, he's a big swaggering warlord... but it only takes a glance to realize he's really just a conniving weasel. He'll say anything to get ahead, and always manages to wind up in charge because he maneuvers all the smarter people into destroying each other while he remains unscathed. If you start doing too well or — worse yet — become too popular around the office, he orders you to do an impossible task and then blames you when you fail. Or he tries to maneuver you into self-destructing somehow, by giving you contradictory or unrealistic orders.
How to handle him: As always, Worf shows us the way. Challenge him to a duel, and then kill him. Or if you're not in a state where it's legal to kill your boss, then challenge him head-on, and destroy him. Whatever you do, don't try to be sneaky with him — that's playing his game.
The cold fish. He's always brooding and staring into his raktagino. When he does smile, it's usually a bitter smile at some irony he's spotted. Seldom praises your work, and when he does, there's often a bit of an edge to it. His main other mode besides glowering is screaming rage. But he does at least know how to laugh at himself... in a gloomy way.
How to handle him: Keep your distance. Learn how to read his little signals — like if he leaves his "special" baseball on his desk, that means he's planning on coming back after lunch. Or if he nods slightly, that means "Great job, keep it up!" Or maybe: "I'm firing you after lunch."
The blamer. She's always right — even when she changes her mind three times. She'll take a tough stand, but then change her tune if her cronies disagree. She lectures you about her principles, but they're all totally disposable. She's all like, "No, we are not going to make an alliance with the Denim," "There is no way we are possibly going to trade technology with the Gherkins," etc. etc. But when it comes down to it, she's all about expediency. And then after one of her little ethical shortcuts blows up in her face, it's always your fault, not hers. If you ever go around her, she puts on her hurty face and talks about how betrayed she feels. I've totally had this boss, too.
How to handle her: Don't ever crawl out on a limb to support her principled stances, or she'll leave you out there by yourself. She likes it when people challenge her — so go ahead and tell her she's wrong. She may end up agreeing with you. But don't ever count on her to stick to her big principles.
The queen bee. She claims it's all about the group, and what's best for the "collective." It's not about her at all — in fact, just pretend she's not there. She's just there to speak for the group. And then she insists on being all showy — ooh, look at me lowering my head and spine into my slinky new body! She has to be the center of attention, even while she's pretending that she's one small part of a huge collective. She enjoys seducing you into her group, but once you join, you'll just be one of her bees. And if you ever get away, she'll keep bugging you and showing up when you're trying to chill in your regeneration alcove.
How to handle her: Take her at her word. Pretend you really do think she's just one small piece of a huge organization. That way, it shouldn't matter if you talk to one of her "drones" instead of her. It's all the same, right? It'll drive her crazy, and maybe she'll expose some weakness.
The hot-tub boss. Captain Archer is never mean — but then he expects you to strip down to your undies and get "decontaminated" with him every other Friday. He winks really big when he says it too: "Hey, you haven't been 'decontaminated' in a couple of weeks. I bet your rads are off the scale. Let's make a night of it. I'll bring the dog." Plus he's always inviting you for dinner in his quarters and talking about "Chef," which is probably like a pet name for a part of his body since you've never seen an actual chef around.
How to handle him: Get transferred as fast as possible.