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Are you a bad boss?

An old adage says, “People don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers.”  There are lots of reasons an employee may leave a company . . . higher pay, better hours, shorter commute, etc. . . . but in many cases, a bad boss is in there too.  Think about your own work experience and you’ll probably be able to recall a boss or two (or more) that you really wouldn’t want to work for again.

At a recent meeting of the Schaumburg Business Association, Jeff Anderson, President of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, spoke about bad bosses and how badbossmanship (my made up word, not his) can cause good people to leave their companies.  He outlined the most prevalent bad boss behaviors in hopes that bosses in the room might recognize some of those behaviors in themselves and try to mitigate them.  I have listed those behaviors below.  If you have the honesty, courage, and self-awareness to learn if you are guilty of any bad boss behaviors, please read on.  If not, better stop right here.

Are you a bad boss?

Business owners and upper level managers I’ve known over the years would rarely own up to being a “bad boss.”  Demanding?  Yes.  Challenging?  Absolutely!  But bad?  No.  The problem with terms like “demanding” and “challenging” is they are often an attempt to mask negative behaviors that the boss knows he or she has, but doesn’t want to acknowledge or change.  So let’s take a look at these bad boss behaviors and you can decide whether you own any of them or not.

  • Poor emotional control.  Are you easily upset by the faults of others?  Probable bad boss (BB).  Do people keep their heads down each day until they figure out what sort of mood you’re in?  Most likely BB.  Under stress, do you yell, scream, turn red in the face, slam doors, even throw stuff?  Definite BB.
  • Lack of integrity or consistency.  Do you ignore rules you hold others accountable to follow?  Do you fail to honor your promises or follow through on your commitments?  Either one of these will earn you a BB plaque for your wall.
  • Poor at building or leading teams.  Are you unable to clearly communicate what you want your team to do and why you need them to do it?  Probable BB.  Do you ignore alternative ideas and opinions from your team members?  No doubt BB.  Do you hog the limelight and take credit for the work of your subordinates?  Oh yeah, big time BB.
  • Doesn’t nurture relationships well.  Have you ever said, “I don’t care if they like me as long as they respect me?”  Automatic BB.  Do you like to work alone or only with your most inner circle?  Probable BB.  Do you know your employees on a personal level . . . what their aspirations and challenges are?  If not, probable BB.
  • Indecisive.  Do you procrastinate when confronted with a tough decision?  Likely BB.  Do you consistently ask for more and more information . . . more than is necessary to make an informed decision?  Likely BB.  Do you ever delay making a decision in hopes the situation will somehow resolve itself?  That will earn you a BB label every time.
  • Micromanager.  Are you a perfectionist (c’mon, be honest)?  Almost certainly BB material.  Have you ever said, “By the time I show somebody else how to do this, I could have done it myself?”  Yep, BB.  Is it difficult for you to trust others?  Also an almost certain BB.
  • Poor at managing change.  Do changes in your industry or market tend to sneak up and bite you without your seeing them coming?  Way BB.  Are you in denial, telling yourself, “Aw this is just a blip that will pass and then it will be business as usual?”  Another way BB.  When change is upon you, are you able to fully and honestly communicate the change to your employees and what the company’s response will be?  If not, another BB plaque for your wall.

The key here is awareness.  Sometimes we may exhibit some of these behaviors unconsciously, or at least we may be unconscious to the pain these behaviors can cause our employees.  But once we become aware of our negative behaviors, as thinking, intelligent beings, we can do something about them.  We may not be able to change our spots entirely (after all, these behaviors began forming when we were in the cradle), but we can come up with coping mechanisms or workarounds.  If you’re a boss and are comfortable in your leadership role, you can even enlist the aid of your employees.  Tell them, “Hey, I’m not happy with the way I handle myself in these kinds of situations, but I’m working on it.  You can help me by telling me if I’m making progress and by letting me know if I start to slip and fall back.”

Even one of these behaviors can be toxic to an organization, and the more of them there are, the worse it gets.  Good people will tolerate them for a little while, but ultimately, they’ll leave in search of something better.  If you’d rather spend your time recruiting to fill empty seats than try to change your behavior, fine.  That’s your conscious decision.  But since it’s easier to hold onto good people than it is to find new ones, it makes more sense to try to purge these behaviors not only from yourself, but from all your managers as well.

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