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When Good Bosses Go Bad Print
Okay, maybe that isn't a good title. While some good bosses go bad, it seems that more are born that way. {mosadsense4joomla ad_layout="A"ad_align=""}Working under a good boss, even at a trying job, can be heaven in the workplace - fun, exciting, a good learning experience, and worthwhile.

The opposite is true when you have a bad boss. It can be a personally deadening time - stressful, depressing, unhappy, and even painful. And let's be honest, everyone has had a bad boss at some time.

Many people suffer through multiple bad bosses and there are a few who have never had the experience of a good one. Good and bad bosses can be found in the military, Government, and private industry; in high tech and low tech; managing professionals and supervising hourly workers; and of every race, creed and religion. No profession has franchise on either the good or the bad ones. This article is to help people see their own tendencies and correct their behavior or to prevent a slide to the dark side in the first place.

Common "Bad Boss" Behaviors

Bad bosses are easily recognizable, except to themselves. They have at least one and usually more of the following traits. But remember, even good bosses slip once in a while. It is when it is habitual that makes them bad bosses.

Look at the following traits and see if you have any of them.

  • Yelling, screaming or shouting at employees
  • Berating an employee in public
  • Bullying or making employees afraid 
  • Taking credit for something an employee does
  • Giving no praise or rewards for a job well done
  • Not listening
  • Lying to workers (or about them)
  • Demanding that employees lie, cover up, or cheat in some way
  • Demanding perfection and allowing no excuses for errors
  • Expecting employees to do a task without giving guidance or direction
  • Belittling or humiliating an employee for no reason 
    Not communicating
  • Shifting his own work to employees
  • Showing bias or prejudice
  • Playing favorites
  • Making the work environment difficult for someone who has displeased you
  • Constantly checking everyone's work
  • Refusing to let employees make decisions
  • Expecting employees to do what you ask without question, comment, or reason
  • Asking them to do personal favors 
  • Not taking responsibility

Do any of these ring a bell? Are you guilty? If so, you need to make a concerted effort to change your behavior.

Bad bosses can have a negative impact on organizations. They hurt morale and productivity. They can cause you to lose valuable employees. They can even impact customer relations.

How to be a "Good Boss"

The things that make a boss a good one are the same ones that make a good person - being honest, sensitive, caring, knowledgeable, patient, and self-disciplined.

A good boss is a good communicator and listener. A good boss cares more about doing the right thing than about being popular, but is popular. Is that you? Do you want it to be you? Try to take the following traits and implement them in your daily work.

Respect your people and treat them with dignity. Treat everyone equally. Use good manners and don't degrade folks. Don't yell or scream. Correct or counsel people in private.

Good bosses are loyal to their people and that earns loyalty in return. Support your employees, protecting and defending them from outsiders. A good boss acts as a buffer. To the external world, you are the voice of the work group and shoulder the responsibility if things go wrong. Sure, you may have to come back and correct an employee, but that is internal.

The good supervisor has empathy for his people. You must be accessible and listen to them, whether it is a work-related problem or a personal problem. Be willing to help, or at least try to help. Many times, listening and allowing employees someone to vent is all that is necessary. At the same time, don't make promises that you can't keep. Don't say that you will help when there is nothing that you can do.

Empower your people. Share your authority. Give them the resources needed to do the job. Listen to their suggestions and ideas, accepting and implementing what is worthwhile. Delegate. Cooperate with your employees and don't compete with them. Have patience.

In most cases, a good boss is knowledgeable in his job and in the jobs of his people. Be willing to share that knowledge, acting as coach and mentor. Also be willing to pitch in and help, when necessary. At the same time, be willing to ask questions and learn.

Ego is something that a good boss doesn't have. Check that at the door. The trappings of management are not necessary. Be balanced. Have self-discipline and provide guidance, structure and discipline to your people. But the discipline and structure must be fair and impartial. That doesn't mean you have to be a wimp, catering to every whim of your people. Don't play favorites, but treat people equally.

Communicate with your employees, letting them know what is happening and why. Part of communication is listening. Be honest and demand honesty from those under you. Motivate them.

A sense of humor is a valuable trait for a good boss. Being able to laugh, including laughing at yourself at times, generates likeableness and respect. Humor can be dangerous, though. It is easy to overstep the bounds or offend people. If that happens, be big enough to apologize. A willingness to apologize for mistakes of any kind is necessary.

Recognize people when they do well. Personal recognition, monetary rewards, awards, promotions, or just a pat on the back and a "good job" can help put you in the good boss category. Recognition must be sincere, though, and not just rote comments. Reward and good words alone won't do it alone; they have to be tied to the other traits.

You can do it

Good bosses are the ones that people talk about and remember, even long after the employee or boss is gone. They talk about the really bad ones, too, but not in a way that anyone wants to be talked about. Anyone can be a good boss. It means developing good habits and thinking before acting (that can be tough for some of us).

Being a good boss isn't easy. It takes thoughtful actions and commitment, as well as significant self control. Sharpen your leadership and management skills. Put the good traits above into action. Continually try new approaches to learn what works for you.

Don't become known as "that @#$%^& boss I had at my last job; he was terrible." Be the one that generates comments like "he was a great boss. I would work for him anytime."

Wayne Turk (c) 2005

About the Author:

Wayne Turk is a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel and a manager with SRA International supporting information technology projects and distance learning; he has been a project manager for projects for DoD, other US federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

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