Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a tyrannical boss, Vice President Selina Meyer, on the HBO comedy Veep. She rants and raves at the smallest mistakes, constantly changes her mind, and demands unquestioning loyalty from her employees.
In fact, it’s pretty much a guide of what not to do. Of course, she is in a difficult position. Her job is incredibly stressful, and as a woman in politics, she has to constantly fight to be heard.
Nevertheless, a manager who goes into work every day and does the opposite of Selina would be doing a good job. Here’s what we can learn from Meyer’s (hilarious) mistakes:
Patience is not one of Selina Meyer’s virtues. She and her team will make a collective decision, but if it goes poorly, she immediately blames the person nearest to her. Then she goes on a swear-laced rampage at whoever she’s decided is at fault. This ends with the inevitable threat that that person will be fired. (Remember the total transparency episode?)
While no one likes failure, it’s only reasonable to expect that employees won’t always succeed. Dumping the blame all on one person isn’t just bad for them — it’s bad for organizational culture. This is evidenced in the show, where all of Selina’s employees are intent on passing the blame on to someone else.
The veep expects nothing less than 100% of your humanity at all times. She has zero regard for employees spending time with their families — even if your father is dying. She doesn’t care if you’re going insane from stress. This is a boss who had an employee lie to the press about having a miscarriage so it wouldn’t get out that she had been pregnant. “Work-life balance” is not a term in Selina’s vocabulary.
In one episode, it’s brought to Selina’s attention that her employees, who work essentially 24 hours a day, aren’t feeling appreciated. Her awkward, insincere attempts to recognize them for their efforts culminate in her telling off her assistant’s girlfriend.
Having a basic capacity for human empathy is a good quality for a leader. When that empathy translates to consistent, genuine attempts to recognize good work, all the better.
Selina’s tunnel-vision focus on maintaining her public image and gaining more power means that her focus is constantly shifting. She will do whatever it takes to reach those objectives. Clean jobs? Sure, she believes in them if they help her enhance her public profile. American hostages being held overseas? She definitely wants that photo-op! Even though she has no passion for or interest in, you know, governing.
Values are important for any organization. They determine where you’re going and what impact your organization will have.
Possessing a calm, even demeanor is a good quality for a leader. Selina Meyer is all over the place. One second she’s demanding praise from everyone around her, and the next moment she’s cursing everyone she knows and demanding their blood.
Luckily for us viewers, it’s exactly these qualities that make Veep so fun to watch. Here’s hoping none of us ever has a boss like her — or becomes a boss like her.