The Case Of Horrible Bosses: How To Be A Good Boss That Employees Won’t Want To Strangle!

“I never happened to be around a good boss. I once had a boss who knew that I need to attend daily physiotherapy sessions due to a bad accident. He told me that wouldn’t be a problem. Yet, when one of those sessions was at the end of the day on Friday—he had plans too. So, in front of a very senior leader at the company and a client, he said that I’d take the lead on it, then took off.”

“My boss was an ex-con who was the least honest person I’ve ever met in my whole life. He was also in the list of top ten dumbest humans ever to live. His favorite activity was sending me and my SEO coworker outdated/wrong/black-hat SEO ‘tips’ that, if we had followed, would have gotten our sites penalized pretty effectively.”

“I once had a boss who decided that, despite very strong performance, they didn’t like someone on our team and wanted to see them gone. They didn’t have the ability to fire them, but looped the employee out of emails and conversations, talked poorly about them behind their back, and disregarded any good performance. Not only is that unethical (and possibly illegal), but it also made actually getting our team’s work done way, way harder.”

These are actual stories I have heard from my friends who have had to deal with embarrassing, demeaning, and sometimes downright offensive managers. In fact, we hear about horrible bosses all the time! Sometimes, I wonder if those bosses knew how condescending they were, or perhaps the worst thing about being a horrible boss is that you don’t even realize it.

You think that your employees genuinely like you (they do pretend do), enjoy working with you (all the laughs and nods) and sing praises of your generosity and leadership qualities. Then, suddenly it dawns on you that conversations stop in mid-sentence when you’re entering a room. People cringe when you address them. And that you’re the only person that’s not invited to a party.

The fundamental values of good leadership determine just how effective you are as a boss, and as a leader who inspires their employees to perform well and be loyal to their organization. Here are a few habits to adopt to be a good boss that employees won’t want to strangle in their sleep:

1.    Praise Your Employees

When employees feel appreciated and valued, they would always be willing to exceed your expectations. The importance of workplace recognition cannot be stressed enough. In fact, research shows that,

  • 16% employees left their previous job since they didn’t feel recognized
  • 35% of workers claim that lack of recognition hinders their productivity to a great deal
  • 78 percent of US workers put recognition as the greatest workplace motivator

This translates into the fact that employee recognition spawns an efficient, well-motivated team. When you learn to give praise where due, you will have a bevy of satisfied and loyal employees, who are easier to retain.

How to recognize your employees:

  • Reward them with a gift (A ticket to the theater for that great client presentation).
  • Be sure to highlight the value added to the organization by their contribution
  • Thank the person by name
  • Be sure to announce their contributions within your team, as well as in your organization
  • Award an employee of the year and employee of the month certificate

2.    Be Your Team’s Umbrella

I learned this one from an amazing book I read, ‘Become a Better Boss One tip at a time’: “When it rains on my boss, everybody gets wet unless I become the umbrella.” No matter how higher up the echelon you move, there will always be people above you who can rain all over your team unless you become the umbrella. When it rains cats and dogs, try to keep your employees from the worst of it. When you care for your people, you instill trust in them, which will go a long way towards keeping them loyal.

3.    Be The Fixer

Here’s what’s written in every page of the workplace book: the boss passes the buck whenever things go south. Know that mishaps and mistakes do happen at the workplace, and that your employees are only human. No matter how insignificant or disastrous, each mistake is an opportunity to learn something new. Don’t be the boss who finds scapegoats to blame for their own foibles, one who flies off the handle everytime a team member errs. Clear communication is the key here, since it can nip most problems in the bud. For everything else, be a fixer. Be like bob the builder; he can fix anything. Make sure you are always honest with your employees about what went wrong (instead of dwelling on whose fault it was), and make sure to provide solutions on how to fix it. This leads to win-win situations.

4.    Champion Your Employees

Sydney Finkelstein, a Dartmouth business school professor and the author of “Superbosses”, asserts that bosses should help their high potential employees be the better version of themselves and focus on employee grooming and nurturing, not just retention. When you support and challenge employees to break through the glass ceiling, retention is automatically guaranteed.

Know that someday, your best employees may feel like they have outgrown your team and have nothing more to learn from the workplace, regardless of how much you invest in making their role valuable. When they leave the nest, be understanding and don’t try to hang onto people or hold them back from achieving big. Support their ambitions and they would be more willing to learn and perform better.

5.    Remind Yourself That You Have No Power

When you were an individual contributor, you could do anything you wanted. But being a boss strips you of that power. You have to convince your team members to do things, get them on the same page, and then let them have the final word. If that has put a damper on your spirits, the good news is that you’ve got boatloads of influence which you can cash when you feel like your decision would turn things for the better.

6.    Be A Good listener

Good bosses focus a lot on transparent communication. They hold both individual as well as team meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page and has all the information and resources, they need to successfully complete tasks. Great leaders regularly open the floor for collaboration and questions to get their buy-in and make sure the team gets along.  

Coming back to communications, it’s not enough to be articulate. Listening is a trait that 88% of employees value in a boss. However, sadly, not many employees can say the same for their bosses.  Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. The trait of a good leader is the ability to portray that they are open to what employees have to say, perhaps via body language or making eye contact. They put away their phones, lean slightly towards the talker, keep nodding, and repeat back snippets from time to time to make sure their team member knows they have heard it. Anytime an interesting perspective or an idea comes up, they keep an open mind and elucidate on it further.

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant says,

“To be an effective leader, you have to be a really good listener. And not to what’s being said, but to what’s not being said. ”

7. Don’t Take Things Personally

Office relationships seem complex sometimes, but your coworkers are not your family, and neither are your friends. Great bosses have a knack for maintaining a warm relationship while still keeping an appropriate professional distance. So, let’s say you heard something bad about yourself at the workplace. Instead of taking it personally and exacting revenge, take the criticism constructively and learn from it. If the naysayer was just venting out, take it for what it is; a mindless rant, and let it go. Don’t dwell on it or use your influence to seek revenge.

8. Adapt To The Needs Of Your Team

All members of a team bring something unique to the table and have their own tendencies and preferences. We all have our own workstyles and there is no such thing as a good or bad work style. We have our own faults and strong suits. For instance, you could be one of the strongest collaborators in your organization, but you lack the courage to call out the problems, lest you disrupt team harmony. You could have many traits of a good leader, but you don’t resonate well with people.

Good bosses master their own work style. They know they are not perfect, but they make peace with their drawbacks and are well aware of the things they’re really great at. Even better, the best bosses not only master their own work styles but also those of their teammates, to see differences and how to overlap interests.  They strive to adapt their management approach and style to every person reporting to them, knowing fully well that no-one-approach-fits-all.

If you feel at a loss where to start, why not have a heart-to-heart with your teammates and ask them their likes and dislikes, things they would like to change around the workplace, and any suggestions they have for you. The key is to listen to their answers thoughtfully without pushing back and try to embed their opinions in your processes.

In addition, a good boss is able to discern between their own personal beliefs and the beliefs and thoughts of others, especially the mix of generations in the team. This is ideal when it comes to motivating and leading staff to achieve goals.

9. Inspire Your Team Members

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
Albert Einstein

Workplace inspiration is all about passion and commitment. If your employees love their jobs. It wont take much for them to spread their wings. How about you communicate your vision, and make your employees feel confident that you are confiding in them. Convince them of the benefits of your approach and delineate a road map to get there. Share your knowledge with them, encourage them to grow, praise them, acknowledge feedback when given.

10. Resist The Urge to Gossip

Your employees confide in you as their boss. you’re privy to confidential information that was meant for your ears today. Perhaps one of your teammates is upset since she is filing for divorce, or perhaps one of your team mates is thinking to switch. While the temptation to engage in a little office water cooler gossip might be killing you, you have a responsibility to stay out of the interpersonal dramas. Sharing secrets, encouraging fighting and gossiping create a toxic office environment which can lose you good employees.

11. Be Upfront About Your Quirks

The best bosses are self-aware and can put themselves into the shoes of their employees and feel what it’s like working for them. Insecurity prevents us from seeing our own flaws, but when you become upfront about them, it can wipe off misplaced anxiety and prevent miscommunication.  Perhaps your closed doors make employees think you are closed off but maybe it just helps you focus more. Why not tell this to your employees and how they can come to you anytime they want. If you value efficiency and refrain from small talk, be casual about it. Your honesty will make sure they are not embarrassed when you interrupt an amusing story about someone’s weekend to start a meeting.

12. A Good Boss Is Supportive

No-one wants to work with an uncaring or difficult to get along boss. A good boss is one who is kind, compassionate, caring, and helpful. I am not asking you to be a pushover or become a doormat; just show your human side and be willing to bend your rules when needed. As humans, our lives are a rollercoaster of ups and downs. For instance, you can support an employee caught up in a family emergency, or in sickness by granting leaves or through kind and sympathetic words. Employees who work for a supportive boss are 10 times happier and less likely to quit.

13. Understand That Your Employees Have A Life

Being frank with those working under you helps you learn a bit about their life outside the workplace. This enables you to create new opportunities by better understanding their strengths and challenges. Showing that you’re human is important. Modeling positive behavior—accepting someone’s need for a mental health day, not sending late-night emails, not forcing people to burn the midnight oil, taking your kids to visit the office – contributes to a healthier and happier work environment.

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