Are You A Really Bad Boss?

In a recent Struming, Do Your Employees Hate You, I looked at  the reasons why employees may hate their company.  One primary reason for possible “hatred” is one’s immediate boss. I’ve told many people not to “jump ship” and leave an otherwise good company because they despise their current boss, particularly if there’s a chance that within a few months that either you or he/she may be separated. This is easier said than done however, particularly in the heat of the moment.

There was a very interesting recent article on this subject in CNN / Money called 5 Ways to be a really bad boss. I conceptually agree with most of what was said, but here’s my take on the worst qualities of bad bosses:

1. They reward tenure over performance.

This is a tough one, particularly if the long tenured employee was once a high performer, but is now just mailing it in. Business is not sports where time erodes talent. One does not lose speed off of one’s fastball in business. So long as you are willing to adapt to change, longevity, combined with continued high performance, should be rewarded. But when longevity is rewarded over performance, then lesser tenured, yet higher performing, employees become disgruntled and understandably leave.

2. Shifting Blame

I hate this quality and  we all screw up sometimes. But when we try to throw others under the bus, and not take responsibility, that’s awful. When a boss does it to their direct report to try to cover their own ass, that’s criminal.

3. The screamer

I had one of these bosses once. I told him brazenly I wasn’t going to take his s&%t any longer. I played my card, didn’t get fired, but certainly didn’t make my stock rise either, and it wasn’t my proudest business moment. But I would not allow my boss to wrongly berate me. But even if someone is performing poorly, and deserves to be slammed, the best way to deal with it is forthright discussion. In those occasions I used an expression that was a dagger in their heart of the recipient, “I am really disappointed”. No employee wants to hear that. But when it’s warranted, the impact is made. Bosses who scream actually deflect the performance issue and allow the employee to be mad at them, rather than themselves.

4. Dishonesty

A corollary of #2, this goes beyond obfuscation, a crime in itself, to outright lying. Not keeping promises falls into this category even if not intended. My advise here, “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver” to make nice at a particular moment.

5. Passive-aggressive behavior

This unfortunately is all too common when a boss thinks an employee is performing poorly, but is unwilling to say so directly, and demonstrates their unhappiness in subtle but unclear ways. As a boss if you feel that a direct report’s performance is poor, say so and tell them how it needs to change. And while obviously weak performance should be noted in written appraisals (this isn’t always the case either), feedback is a 12-month responsibility. No one should ever be blindsided if they fired for poor performance, whether they agree with the appraisal or not.

We are all human. Otherwise good bosses can have occasional bad days. But if you are someone’s boss and exhibit the behavior described above, I sincerely hope your boss catches on, and deals with you appropriately.

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