As a boss, are you providing good guidance, or 'good' stories?
Say what you will about bad bosses: They always seem to create great stories. But not usually as intended.
Here's one about my first boss: The second day into the job, he said he'd meet me at the printer in half an hour to get the paper press ready. Three anxiety-inducing hours later, he finally showed up — falling-down drunk and barely coherent.
He then told me he needed to go home for the day, but that the ladies doing the typesetting would be more than happy to help, should I require any assistance. And that is when I learned just how fast a desperate newbie reporter can slap a newspaper together.
But it's one thing to work for a bad boss. It's another to be one. And if you are any kind of a leader, you probably spend at least some time wondering if you are really helping or hurting those under your professional guidance.
When it comes to business management, it's not hard to find tons of material. Unfortunately, very little of it addresses crappy bosses. So I was heartened to see an article in Psychology Today by psychologists Robert Hogan and Robert Kaiser. In it, they examine some of the leading reasons why bosses fail.
Here are a half dozen examples they provide about failing bosses:
They fail to treat employees like humans
Do you view workers as a means to an end? Do you run roughshod over their feelings and concerns? Do you fail to know your people on any sort of personal level? Even if you are a humanoid robot, it may be time to reboot.
They have expectations that are completely unreasonable
Do you believe your reports should have a 24/7 job commitment? Are you OK with sending late-night emails that demand an immediate reply? And when your people make an extraordinary effort, you treat it as no big deal? Bad boss, very bad boss.
They fail to see their own shortcomings
Are you surrounded by morons? Yet you never make mistakes? Do you expect others to match standards that don't apply to you? It may be time to take a good look in the mirror.
They punish first and ask questions later
Could your way of dealing with trouble be best described as ready, shoot aim? Do you fly off the handle and look for others to blame when the stuff hits the fan? Next time, maybe you should take a deep breath and size up the situation before pointing fingers.
They are bullies
Do you have to kick dogs? Those underlings who can't fight back when you go off? Are you making an example of the weakling so everyone else will stay in line? Then you really are a jerk.
They are dishonest and inauthentic
Are you taking credit for the work others have done? Are you telling “little white lies” to keep things rolling along? Are you playing fast and loose with the numbers? And all the while are you positioning yourself to the brass as the ultimate team player? Here's a memo: Just because the worker bees can't fight back doesn't mean they don't know the score. When the time is right, they'll pay you back — with interest.
Look, nobody's perfect. If you are managing others, you are going to make mistakes. Just make sure that you keep things in check. And if you happen to be working for a jerkaholic, feel free to leave a copy of this article on his or her desk.
Maybe the message will be delivered before they create too many more stories that begin with, “You're not going to believe this…”
John O'Connor is Editorial Director at McKnight's.