We’ve all had bad bosses. In fact, bad bosses are so abundant that a number of organizations run contests like this one to identify the worst of the worst. Being a bad boss isn’t good in any organization, but it can be completely crippling for a small business.
Given a thin management structure that has only one boss (the owner) or just the owner and a couple of mid-level managers, having any of these leaders labeled “bad” by employees can be quite damaging. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that the top reason people quit their jobs is because of a bad immediate manager. If there’s a revolving door at your business, perhaps there’s a bad boss somewhere.
This topic came to mind yesterday as I was reading an article in Money magazine entitled “Good Ways to Deal With Bad Bosses.” (Unfortunately, they don’t have this article online; it’s only in the print edition so I can’t share it with you.) This article identified five types of bad bosses and gave advice on how to cope with having such a boss. I’d like to flip that around and ask you to consider whether you (or one of the people you’ve hired to manage employee) fits into one of the descriptions below. If so, please consider what changes you could make that would move you into the good boss category, a move that would surely help you retain good employees.
The micromanager: I almost break out in hives just thinking about the micro-manager boss I once had. This wasn’t the only reason I quit that job, but it is in the top two. It was virtually impossible to please this person. It’s very hard to do good work if you feel that someone is looking over your shoulder and constantly questioning your work and your judgment. Micromanagers think that the only way to do things is their way, which simply isn’t true. They also think they are better at every job than the employees in those jobs, which may be true but frequently. Their fear letting go of control of absolutely everything can severely limit a business’s ability to grow.
Passive-aggressive: This type of boss praises an employee in private but slams his/her ideas or performance in public. The genesis of such behavior is hard to understand, but it may come from a fear of direct confrontation. This boss doesn’t want to deliver criticism to an employee in a one-on-one situation but is willing to do so in a team meeting where the embarrassment of the situation is likely to keep the employee from fighting back.
I once had a boss who was passive-aggressive when it came to doing performance reviews. This man never had a bad word to say about my work throughout the year, but when it came to doing the performance review that would determine my raise, he had plenty of complaints – all of which he used to limit the amount of raise I received. This was true of everyone in our department, not just me. It was completely demoralizing.
The praise thief: Ever have an idea stolen by a boss? How annoying was that? If it happens repeatedly, an employee will decide to take all those good ideas to another organization. This type of behavior is probably more common in large organizations where there are multiple layers of management and employees have little opportunity to interact with their boss’s boss. But that’s not to say that it never happens in a small business. A good boss always gives credit where credit is due. Bosses who fail to ever given any credit to anybody also fit into this category. They may not be stealing an employee’s ideas, but by not offering up praise for a job well done, they are doing similar damage.
The hands-off Harry: In contrast to the micromanager, this type of boss has such a lackadaisical attitude and does such a poor job of communicating priorities that employees are never quite certain what it is they’re supposed to be doing. It can be pretty frustrating for an employee to spend a lot of time on a project only to find it’s something that the boss doesn’t consider to be important. Talk about how not to run a business!
The narcissist: Do you respect your employees’ right to have personal lives or are you constantly demanding that they work late? Do you call them at all hours, on the weekends and when they’re on vacation? If so, the message you’re sending is that your time and your business are far more important than anything they might be doing, including spending time with their loved ones. During the Great Recession, employees might have tolerated this infringement on their personal time, but now that job options have improved, don’t count on them sticking around.
No boss is perfect. But exhibiting any of the behaviors above on a consistent basis can spell doom for your small business. Take a hard look in the mirror and see if you fall into any of these categories. If you don’t like what you see, there is plenty of advice online about how to be a great boss. Good luck! (Readers, please share your bad boss stories in the comments section…those always make for such fun reading!)