The Notebook Boss and Why You Should Avoid Working for Them

Expecting staff to take notes studiously during a meeting is a sign of a boss that wants conformists, not thinkers.

Lance Ng
Published in
4 min readJun 28, 2021


Photo: Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash

During the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work for various types of bosses — different gender, nationality, industry background and ages. I’ve also started my own businesses and been the boss.

I’ve noticed that some bosses have a habit that risks forming a highly damaging culture within their organizations. Over the long run, the company or team which they lead may become political and non-innovative.

This habit is that of expecting subordinates to gather in meetings with notebooks (or laptops these days) and studiously take down notes when they (the boss) are talking.


Holding on to your every word

Have you ever joined a new company or a team where you have your first meeting with the boss, and you are told by your manager or colleagues you should go in with a little notebook and pen and be ready to jot down notes as the boss speaks?

It could be for a regular update session, where work in progress or the state of the business is being presented to your boss. Or it could be an ad-hoc meeting to discuss a project or problem.

The common trait is this: after the initial presentation or briefing by their staff, the boss becomes the one who talks most of the time, prescribing advice or solutions.

At this juncture, the staff present are expected to listen attentively and take down notes of the analysis and solutions being doled out by their boss to accurately and faithfully carry out the instructions afterward.

Interruptions, if any, are made by subordinates only to clarify the actions desired by the boss. Differing opinions, if raised, often produces a frown from the boss; and sometimes looks of trepidation from more experienced colleagues.

Rank and file

I have to admit; whenever I am the boss myself, I feel very good too when an employee does this to me — studiously take notes as I speak to them and ‘mentor’



Lance Ng
Writer for

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