Which One of the Seven Dwarfs is Your Boss?

A difficult boss may resemble one of Disney's Seven Dwarfs

Do you remember the Disney movie based on the fairy tale, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ? As I was preparing to write articles about coping with difficult bosses, I had an "aha" moment. Each of the seven dwarfs with their unique personality traits resembles seven of the ten "difficult" types of bosses you may encounter in the workplace.

When people are being difficult, their behavior is generally a result of the way they defend themselves when they feel threatened, or the mode in which they operate in order to receive the reward they seek. Note: Although I use the masculine gender in describing these "dwarf" bosses, be aware they come in all shapes, sizes and genders.


Doc is the Bellowing Bull boss that I have described in "Dealing with Difficult People." He is a natural-born leader who is forceful and is often seen as aggressive and intimidating by employees and colleagues. He has a strong need to prove to himself as well as other people that his view of the world or the issue is always right. He wants others to know he is in charge and has no difficulty offering strong opinions on almost every subject.

Grumpy is the Genuine Know-It-Owl. You can spot Grumpy easily because he is often negative, his arms are crossed over his chest, and he looks annoyed or irritated or exasperated. Grumpy really is an expert who knows it all because he has been there and done that. He is assertive and self-confident and puts great value on competence, efficiency, and quick results from his team members. Impatience is his middle name.

Dopey is the Bogus Know-It-Owl. People we see as “dopey” take life very seriously and are convinced they have all the answers even when most of the answers they have are very wrong. They often parrot whatever the Genuine Know-It-Owls say. They are difficult because they earnestly believe the erroneous and skewed information they provide. To help them save face, do not openly contradict their statements.

Bashful is the Uncommunicative Clam. He avoids eye contact with team members and others whenever possble, hoping not to be called upon, and wants to hear everyone else’s opinion before he speaks. He may appear to look away or down often but don’t be fooled by his behavior. Bashful is highly observant and deeply sensitive to the feelings and non verbal communication of other people..

Happy is the Pleasant Puppy. Happy is a smiler. He sends little smiley-face emoticons with his emails. He is warm, energetic, and very responsive to the needs of others. He may try too hard to please and to provide the “right answer” so that he becomes inauthentic in his input. He is passive rather than assertive but only because he finds it very difficult and almost impossible to refuse requests and say, “No.”

Sleepy is Calamity Chicken Little. You know you are reporting to a Sleepy because he is usually bored, staring out the window, or hiding in the middle of the group, and probably yawning. Sleepy can be rational and logical but he fantasizes frequently, and is prone to see the negative (the sky is falling, the sky is falling) rather than the positive in almost every issue.

Sneezy is the Complaining Crocodile. Sneezy generally acts sick He even looks sick. He lets everyone know he’s unwell, constantly interrupting with coughs, sneezes, or clearing his throat. He complains about the environment (“It’s too cold. It's too hot.”) and his favorite phrase is: “Yes, but …” Although he can be organized and methodical, his behavior often wears you down.

Whatever your behavior in response to the actions of difficult people, if they are the boss, do not cause them to lose face. You could easily win the battle and ultimately lose the war.

© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2010, 2012. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Readers of my book say it provided the information they needed to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview professionally, and negotiate assertively. Includes a chapter for older workers.

Graphics Credit: Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

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Comments for Which One of the Seven Dwarfs is Your Boss? 8 comments

kaltopsyd profile image

kaltopsyd 6 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

Cool Hub! Let's see... my boss will be Happy (seeing that I'm currently self-employed). Haha. :D

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida Author

Hi, kaltopsyd, thanks for stopping by my almost forgotten hub. I'll have to give it a shot in the arm to revitalize it.

Delighted that you are both Happy and self-employed - that's the best type of job security - which is BTW, an oxymoron!

Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

As I go through a reflective journey on my own leadership styles due to adapting new roles in different organisations, your 'what type of boss ' article is a clever compendium of classifications. Using narrative allusions to illustrate psychological types is a great gift, and you've got it in spades drbj. Your ability to explore and explain is immense. I sense a fellow creative generalist in you and it explains my enjoyment of your wonderful writing. voted up, as always!

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida Author

What a treat to have you visit here, Mohan. I am delighted to note your reflections concerning the various types of bosses. Being labeled a creative generalist by you - an extremely talented fellow writer and one whose ingenious literary creations I adore - is a nomenclature I will not soon forget. Thank you for your sublime commentary as well as your visit and the Up vote.

And you are so right - effective leaders do adapt their styles to fit the situation, the organization's culture and their employees' perceptions.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Good morning

I no longer have a boss...lucky me..but I was so blessed when I was teaching. All of my 'bosses' were superb except one that I had early in my career. Poor soul, he was pretty much bald and he did not like it so he wore a rug, a bad one. It was always askew and I always wanted to reach over and straighten it. He was Dopey but if there were a Sneaky, he would be that too.

This was a great read---and understanding our supervisors is so important.

have a lovely day :) Sending you more Angels this morning :) ps

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida Author

So happy to see you here, Patricia - this hub has always been one of my favorites. So you are boss-less. Lucky you. I laughed out loud when you described an early boss with a really bad rug - sneaky, too. Reminded me of someone I once knew. No names.

Thanks for the gracious comments and the Angels, m'dear.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

You are too funny and so very imaginative. Since I'm my own boss I am a bit hesitant to comment. :) How's this: I don't think I see my boss in these choices. LOL

drbj profile image

drbj 2 years ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, dear Bill. You win the award for Carefully Evading the Issue - which is usually given to high-level politicians. :)

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