Top 5 anti-boss songs … and guess who’s listening

Isn’t it hard enough gaining respect from your employees without a bunch of recording artists egging them on to disrespect you and the jobs you’ve given them?

Next to helping their listeners navigate the choppy waters of love, loneliness and drug usage, these pop stars seem to want them to hate their jobs along with the person supervising them. That would be you.

Here are the top 5 songs that put you, dear boss, on your employees’ dart boards:

Takin’ Care of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive

And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed, look at me, I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day …

These burly Canadian rockers just couldn’t keep their workplace negativity above the 49th parallel. There they go: ragging on the sluggish morning commute, debasing a job that the employee sought on a wage he agreed on, and spewing their “That ain’t workin,’ that’s the way you do it” pomposity. But take heart, BTO is rollin’ down the highway with your employees’ money, caring little for their plights or whether they did make it in by nine, or even at all. The trouble is, the point they hammered home in 1973 still gets a lot of airplay.

9 to 5 – Dolly Parton

9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fat promotion
Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is out to get me …

Dolly lays it out clearly. Your workers:

(a) are hard-working and devoted

(b) recognize promotional opportunities and are indeed qualified for one

(c) think you’re a bastard.

How did that happen? Dolly cleverly turns your employees (who are hard enough to motivate in the first place) into paranoid goofballs. It’s easy for you not to buy into it, but the song has been saturating mainstream and Froggy radio for 25 years.

Take This Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck

Well that foreman he’s a regular dog
The line boss he’s a fool
Got a brand new flattop haircut
Lord he thinks he’s cool …

This is the fantasy anthem for the fed-up worker. How many employees get a vicarious thrill out of Paycheck’s parting rant, “Take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more”? So now you’re a dog. A fool with a bad haircut. But the truth is, the type of workers who actually go live with these lyrics eventually would’ve been fired anyway. You win.

Working for a Living – Huey Lewis and the News

Hey I’m not complaining ’cause I really need the work
Hitting up my buddy’s got me feeling like a jerk
Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.
I get a check on Friday, but it’s already spent …

Nothing deep here. Huey’s just reminding your workers that they’re paycheck-to-paycheck malcontents. They borrow money from a friend who’s a little better off financially than they are, make a car payment, pay the rent, and hopefully have a little left over for a Huey Lewis download. The salvage line here is that they’re not complaining. Yet.

Bang the Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren

Listen to this every day when I get home from work
I feel so frustrated the boss is a jerk
And I get my sticks and go out to the shed
And I pound on that drum like it was the boss’s head …

The Toddster hasn’t had a boss in decades, so it’s plausible he could confuse a supervisor with a snare. In reality, the workaday world as you and your employees know it is not lost on Todd. Hitting all the sore spots—employees coming home from work mentally whooped by an overbearing jerk of a boss (that would be you)—Todd knows the lyrics will resonate. The wizard that he is, Todd creates a cunning catharsis for your disgusted workers. Unfortunately, you’re on the beaten end.


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.