The worst bosses aren't like Darth Vader anymore

Buried in a survey about work software is the revelation that the boss who makes workers life a misery is more like Mr. Burns from 'The Simpsons.'

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No longer the worst boss? Giddieup/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I bathe in knowledge, just as I imagine Mariah Carey does in champagne and goat's milk.

Most of my knowledge comes from surveys that fly into my laptop like owls of wonder. Often, they elicit howls of laughter.

I was just at the point of nodding off, thanks to a new study about work software.

It offered copious details about how employees don't use all of it. It crashes their computers, as well as being crashingly dull. It doesn't work. It's outdated. Sometimes, apparently, employees don't even know it's been installed.

Then I fell upon a cultural gem: the most annoying bosses no longer make people think of Darth Vader.

Could it be that there simply hasn't been a "Star Wars" movie for so long that Darth has slipped from consciousness? Could it even be that many have forgotten Dick Cheney and his pleasure in being compared to the great man?

It seems that, these days, bosses who make your life a misery are more like Monty Burns from "The Simpsons."

This, at least, is the conclusion of 1,000 Americans surveyed between July 22-28 on behalf of Coupa Software. This is a company that claims to make purchasing approval less expensive and less taxing on employees' nerves. It codifies procurement (oh, what joy) and shoves it in the cloud where all procurement belongs.

When it asked these no-doubt noble employees whom their annoying, procurement-obstructing bosses most resembled in contemporary culture, Vader came in an ugly 4th. Yes, he was only just ahead of Michael Scott from "The Office" and Dr. Evil from "Austin Powers."

It's understandable that Mr. Burns' excellence in annoyance cut deep with America's functionaries. However, Miranda Priestly from "The Devil Wears Prada" and Gary Cole from "Office Space" both succeeded in out-Darthing Vader's dark arts.

This is something that the creators of the forthcoming "Star Wars" movies must address. Vader has always symbolized what is worst in modern corporate life. He was once one of us and moved over to the dark side. That very regression is one enjoyed by so many bosses.

Mr. Burns, on the other hand, has always been just a nasty piece of work, irredeemably grasping and with no salvageable positive traits.

When "Star Wars: Episode VII" finally emerges, though, one can only hope that Vader will regain his rightful status as the world's corporate worst.

On the other hand, will he appear at all? Can we be sure? This is important for business people everywhere.

Here is my proof.

One of my CNET colleagues told me this story: "One of my early associations with 'Star Wars' is watching Vader choke someone and my uncle shaking his head and saying cheerfully, 'I wouldn't work for the guy.' As a result, ever since, I've evaluated villains from a management perspective."

 

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