SURVEY SAYS: Who is Your Favorite Fictional Boss?

October 16, 2008 ( - Today is Boss' Day (don't say you weren't "warned").

This week I asked readers to identify their favorite fictional boss – and, if possible – to name the fictional boss that their real boss is most like.  

Regarding the former, the winner – by a nose – was Michael Scott of “The Office.”   The runner-up – “yeah, hi, it’s Bill Lumbergh” from the movie “Office Space”, while third place went to none other than Lou Grant – though it wasn’t clear from all the responses whether they were thinking about the city editor of the Los Angeles Tribune (on the show “Lou Grant”), or the same character (played somewhat differently, IMO, by the same actor (Ed Asner) as the WJM television station manager from the Mary Tyler Moore Show (one referring to the latter version said “he was professional, patient and had an occasional “pop” in the office.” ).

Star Trek The Next Generation’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard was the fourth most cited (“He could be tough, but he was also fair and understanding that his subordinates were only too human,” noted one), ahead of Homer Simpson’s boss, C. Montgomery Burns ( “He’s rotten but doesn’t pretend to be otherwise,” said one).  

Charlie’s Angels boss Charlie was next (as one reader noted, “he phoned in when he needed the girls to do an assignment – he left them alone and let them do what they did best. No micromanaging!”), followed by Dilbert’s “pointy-headed boss”   ( “Actually our entire senior management is like the pointy haired boss in Dilbert,” noted one).

Others cited (and, in some cases, the supporting rationale) included:

  • Admiral Sandecker from National Underwater Marine Association from Clive Clussler novels because he is up front, no nonsense type of boss that appreciates loyalty in his employees.   He is available for communication at any time.
  • Bruce Springsteen - The Boss
  • Captain Janeway from Startrek Voyager.   She was a great leader
  • CHIEF, from Get Smart.
  • Colonel Henry Blake (M*A*S*H)
  • Danny DeVito's Louie DePalma from the TV series "Taxi"
  • Ebenezer Scrooge.   He really knew how to keep costs in line and not to take any crap from employees.
  • Forrest Gump . . . BubbaGump Shrimp, Inc.     Would have loved to work for him.
  • George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life
  • George Costanza's boss Mr. Kruger
  • Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon) from NCIS - I think it's mostly because Mark Harmon is hot, but I also like that he indulges Abby's weirdness and feeds her Big Gulps habit.
  • Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H
  • Lt. Buchanan from Law and Order.   I like her...tough, but supports her people...fair as well!
  • It's a toss up between Denny Crane and Gregory House ...
  • Jack on 30 rock - hilarious
  • Jimmy Stewart from It's A Wonderful Life
  • Larry Tate from Bewitched--but I wouldn't want to work for him
  • Laura Partridge (Judy Holiday) in "The Solid Gold Cadillac" (vintage 1950s movie)
  • Martin Blank (Grosse Point Blank)
  • Mr. Humberfloob from the Cat in the Hat movie - I've just wanted to yell "FIRRRRRRRE-DUH! " to people some times.   Awful employee, bad customer service when shopping, etc.
  • Mr. Smithers
  • Murphy Brown
  • President James Marshall as played by Harrison Ford in "Air Force One" - You gotta love a man who throws the bad guy off of Air Force One in mid-air saying "Get off of my plane!"
  • Professor Dumbledore - life is never dull at Hogwarts!
  • Sam Malone of "Cheers" - aside from his sexist, narcissistic attitude, he cared about his employees enough to listen to their problems and allowed them flexibility to deal with other issues in their lives.

One reader "prediction" that didn't come hold out - "I'll bet, given the current moral state of our nation, that the winner of favorite "fictional boss" will be: (drum roll) Tony Soprano."  Oddly (perhaps), Tony didn't garner even a single vote.

One reader shared the following list of top TV bosses:

As for the real bosses - well, they came out pretty well in this week's survey.   Most people had good things to say about their bosses.   Consider the following:

"That's a toughie.   Most fictional bosses are such buffoons, and I have a good one.   Maybe King Arthur?"

"George Bailey - very positive and very much a people person - workers are willing to go the extra mile for her."

"Part Larry Tate (because he's old school), Colonel Potter (because he's ex-military) and part Bertram Cooper from Mad Men (because he seems a bit flaky but he's actually really sharp)."

"I'm having trouble pegging her...she doesn't have the experience she'd like you to think she has, but she is able to fake it pretty well.   She gives good advice at time, but her favorite way of dealing with a crisis is to say, "Let me play devil's advocate..." and she goes off on that for a bit.       I really can't think of who she'd be like fictionally... seldom are fictional bosses just average decent people."

"I would say a cross between Charlie Townsend of Charlies Angels and Louie De Palma of Taxi.   You never see him but when you do look out."

There were, of course, some "exceptions":

"Peter Pan. She's lost in her own world without a real connection to reality."

"Do you remember when Lucy and Ethel got a job at the chocolate factory?   When they kept up with or exceeded the pace they were rewarded with more work?   That's mine."

And a couple that were just a little offbeat:

"My best boss was one I worked for many years ago. His first order he gave me was six months after I started to work for him. The order was, "stir this" which was referring to a rum and coke he had passed to me in a movie theater during a non company sponsored team outing."

"A former boss I had at a small TPA firm is the model for Michael from "The Office". It hit home when Michael was trying to arrange an outing at a local mine, which included a "ride on an elevator". I had a boss who proclaimed a water filter on the office faucet as an "employee benefit"."

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who said, "I have had great bosses over the years and would not be where I am without them."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!   And Happy Bosses Day!