Select Page

We learned a wonderful Italian word the other day: ficcanaso. A ficcanaso is a busybody, someone who’s constantly sticking his nose in other people’s affairs, a snoop, a buttinsky, an intermeddler.

It reminded us of people for whom and with whom we’ve worked. Sometimes they’re called micromanagers. Sometimes they’re called control freaks. Often they’re called pains-in-the-ass. And they’re always called disruptive. Can anyone suck the energy out of people — or the morale out of a company — faster or more completely than an officious boss? And the higher the rank of the ficcanaso, the more deleterious his effect on the organization.

If you suspect you might be working for a guy who aspires to be The Big Cheese, here are The Top Ten Telltale Signs. If there’s something to be done — anything, regardless of how trivial, mundane, pedestrian, or menial it is — he:

  1. Tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
  2. Comes back every five minutes to see if you’re doing it.
  3. Emails you after hours to see if you’ve done it.
  4. Calls your cell phone to see if you got his email.
  5. Leaves a post-it note on your desk before you arrive the next morning, asking: “Where do we stand on that?”
  6. Waits till you’re almost done with it, then gives you directions that contradict his initial directions.
  7. Tells you he needs it right away, #6 notwithstanding.
  8. Tells you to order take-out for lunch (he’s not buying) so you can keep working on it.
  9. Tells you when you deliver it to him that he doesn’t need it anymore.
  10. Asks you if you know how lucky you are to work for him.

If your boss exhibits five or more of those sign, he’s definitely a ficcanaso. Everything after that is just a matter of degree. And chances are he’s never going to change his stripes, even if he finds a hobby, survives a life-threatening illness, gets put through company-paid management classes.

One last tip: If your boss refers to himself as The Top Dog, The Ultimate Wheel, Fearless Leader, The Head Honcho, The Big Kahuna, or The Supreme Commander — run.

Il Grande Formaggio won’t let you get anything done … and he’ll hold you responsible for its not being done.