Four ways bosses could be better

I recently did some supervisory training for a client. We discussed how they could be better bosses, but at the same time they talked about how they would like to see their boss be a better boss. I thought it might be beneficial to pull this post out from 2013 and publish it again.
We always talk about problem employees and how to solve those issues. We don’t spend as much time talking about problem bosses unless they are violating some law such as sexual harassment. Sometimes, however, the boss can be a problem for themselves and their employees.

Bosses get frustrated with employees

According to writer and professional coach Lindsey Broder, bosses often are the cause of many of the problems for which they blame their employees. She said these occur in four areas, which include:

  1. They don’t identify what is important to them for the employee. Many bosses assume their employee is a mindreader. The assume the employee knows what to do and how to do it and thus never tell them. I ran into this one time. I was calling on a prospect and talking about the high turnover they had in accounting. They had been through four accountants in less than a year. Their complaint was that “they didn’t know the system.” I asked them if they meant the people did not know accounting? They said they knew accounting but didn’t know the accounting system. I asked if they had ever bothered to tell these people what the company system was. Their response was “No, we expect them to know it already.” I was stunned. Unfortunately I was unable to convince them they needed to tell their accountant what they wanted.
  2. They don’t set expectations. In HR we deal with a lot. Many bosses just don’t really tell people what they want them to achieve. There are no measurements for success. As the old saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have gotten there?”
  3. They don’t hold their employess accountable and often themselves either. No accountability means things don’t get done. Accountability needs to be stated and public. If you don’t hold and employee accountable then you should not be surprised with no results. Not telling  employees what they are responsible for always reminds me of the “double secret probation” comment of the dean in the movie Animal House.
  4. They don’t give feedback. Quite often an employee knows when they have done something wrong, but not always. How can they if they have never had any feedback? Without feedback how do you know if you have done anything right either. So a good boss knows the importance of feedback.

Working on these four areas will improve things for the boss and in all likelihood will improve things for employees too.

Bosses cause stress

Many people think that an employee’s workload causes them stress. A recent Danish study however discovered that it is not an employee’s workload but rather their bosses’ behavior that causes them stress. An employee’s lack of a sense of justice, not being treated right by the boss is what causes employees to be stressed. Those things talked about above, lack of expectations and lack of feedback are more likely to cause the stress rather than the work being done.

Better bosses make for better workers

In my consulting and teaching I make it clear how important it is to have well trained supervisors and managers. This goes for owners as well. Without training on how to deal with people effectively they are more likely to be the problem than they are the solution.

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