What Can You Do to Avoid Being the Boss Others Dread?

My first answer is all about personality! Are you the boss that has a bad reputation with those working under you? You may need a personality adjustment! Being a boss gives a lot of people a sense of power. Power can go to your head, and make you the person everyone loves to hate!

Thinking about this I remember bosses that I have had over the years and why I did not like them. In almost all instances it was because they were mean and abused their authority. Their personalities were horrible! I am changing the names for privacy sake, but lets take a boss I had early on. I will use the name Ted, though that isn’t his real name. Ted was not only the boss, but the owner of the company. He appeared to be friendly when I first met him. He hired me to do a job, and seemed like he would be fine to work for.

I had no idea he actually thought little of women and believed women should not wear pants in the workplace. He actually sent me home to change the first time I wore slacks to work. His words? When you interviewed, you wore a skirt. I don’t allow my staff to wear pants. I wanted to ask him if that meant I should expect to see him going home and changing since he was wearing pants. I didn’t say it, because after all I needed my job. I asked the woman that was supposed to be his office manager if this was policy in the employee manual, and she firmly said no, but it was a rule anyway and that I would learn. This man was a horrible boss because he was extremely inconsistent. If he was in a bad mood, nothing anyone did was right, and if he was in a good mood, he would allow things to pass that normally he would holler about. In today’s culture, that place would have been considered a hostile environment.

What could he have done to avoid being a bad boss? His first choice could have been to have an established set of rules, called policies by most of us, that were documented. He could have ensured all new hires know the policies, so that they wouldn’t be set up for failure from the start. Honestly, if he actually cared about people in general that would have helped greatly. His lack of care for others was very evident in his attitude toward all those that worked for him. He treated his wife bad in front of his employees, by belittling her verbally, and he yelled at his staff for every little thing, using derogatory words. Caring about others would have made a world of difference.

Having had multiple awful bosses over the years, whenever I had a good boss, I took note of the difference. I will use Sarah, not her real name, as my example of a good boss. She cared about people. She wanted her staff to succeed both in their jobs, and as people. She believed in the mission of her organization and wanted others working for her to believe too, so did a great job of investing in her team members. Even when she had to give negative feedback because of an issue, she did it with the intent to help them. She wanted her team to feel valued and to seem them own their jobs for the betterment of all. So, how did she avoid being a bad boss? Well first of all she cared about people. She wanted to help them succeed. She practiced career development by asking her people what they wanted to do, and then helping them formulate a plan to get there. She did not see her team as enemies out to get her or to rob her of any type of glory. She saw the whole group as a team working together for the good of the organization and departmental goals.

The difference between these two bosses is huge! It largely comes down to personality. The first bosses personality was very toxic. He was full of negativity and saw others as out to get him. The second boss was a very optimistic person. She was proficient in her job, but also saw those around her as assets wanting to do good along with her. So this has broken down the bad boss/good boss points, but what to do to avoid being a bad boss? I held a key role in a Health System as a regional manager, and this is what I did to avoid being a bad boss.

  1. Use organizational resources to get to know my team. This means understanding their work history, what they were hired for, and if there has been any movement by them within the organization. It also includes any past reviews that have been done.
  2. Set up a meeting with each staff member on a regular basis to discuss career goals internally. When people see that you actually want to help them, and you are sincere about it, its not just to get something out of them, then they are more likely to see the value in working together as a team.
  3. Set up a system for obtaining advice from the team on process improvement and management. This is going to look different for every manager, but all managers should be getting feedback from the people actually doing the work. They see the process in a unique way as they are the ones actually doing the work. It contributes to a sense of caring and unity as well, because employees feel valued when their voice matters.
  4. Reward excellent service. Many organizations use this by allotting funds every year for their managers to have an incentive program. Make sure you choose the incentives carefully, and that might include asking your team what kind of incentives they would find valuable to them. I did this, and found that certain kinds of gift cards were actually given by them as gifts to loved one for Christmas. I wouldn’t have known the importance of that particular card if I hadn’t asked what mattered to them.
  5. Listen to your team when there are complaints. Conflict will always happen at some point when dealing with people. If managers see this as normal and don’t take it personally, or allow it to get them mad, then helping team members to resolve conflicts, even with yourself, can go a long way to everyone working together to get the job done. Unity among team members isn’t always possible, but should always be striven for.
  6. Go to bat for your team with other departments. Nothing tears down your team faster than other managers talking bad about them, and you doing and saying nothing like you agree with the bad talk. When I started in my job, I found that my department had a bad reputation, and most of it was through no fault of their own. People had the complete wrong idea of what the people in my department were supposed to do. I started doing all I could by encouragement to my team, and not allowing other managers to talk bad about my department to build a positive image in my organization. My team had no idea what I was doing in the back ground, but I worked hard to offset and answer negative words about them to others because they were each valuable and worth the effort.
  7. Know my job and what I was and was not responsible for. I watched a senior management leader boring down three levels of management to micro-manage me because he had no idea what I was required to do organizationally and legally. I had to push back more than once because he was asking me to do things contrary to corporate policy and in violation of one specific law. He wasn’t suggesting I do something illegal with knowledge, but he didn’t know the law, therefore asked me for something I couldn’t do. I had to know my job and what I could and could not do, also what my team could and could not do. He kept trying to take over jobs I was responsible for like he didn’t have enough work of his own. It eventually got him fired. I kept doing my job and being as respectful as I could along the way, but at all times I stood between him and my team. He kept coming into my department asking them to do things contrary to our procedures. I had a standing order for contact to me any time he came around. It was my responsibility to be their buffer so they could do their job with as little interference as possible.

I went into that job wanting to be a good boss. I didn’t expect all of my staff to like me, but I had bad bosses myself in the past and I didn’t want to be one of them. I was not able to do everything my team would have liked, but I cared about them as people, and wanted them to succeed. Ultimately I knew that if they succeeded in doing their job well, then so did I! A good boss becomes a gain for everyone!