Lis­ten up, lousy bosses... turns out you’re the prob­lem

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - COLLEEN COATES

MOST of us have ex­pe­ri­enced re­port­ing to a bad boss in our life­time. If you haven’t yet, I’m sure you will as there is no short­age of th­ese peo­ple in the work­ing world.

I’m usu­ally much more of an op­ti­mist than this state­ment in­di­cates.

How­ever, hav­ing stum­bled across a few ter­ri­ble bosses in my work life so far — and lis­ten­ing to the odd one here and there in the work I do — I know they are still out there.

I re­ally don’t think th­ese “bad bosses” in­tend to be hor­ri­ble. In many cases, I would say it is prob­a­bly a lack of man­age­ment train­ing. In other sit­u­a­tions, it is well-in­ten­tioned or­ga­ni­za­tions who ei­ther pro­mote peo­ple into a su­per­vi­sory role be­fore they are ready, or — maybe worse — the in­di­vid­u­als lack the abil­ity to be ef­fec­tive su­per­vi­sors.

There are also peo­ple who know what they need to do to be a great boss, but get caught up in meet­ings, emails, phone calls, daily prob­lems and so on and for­get about the peo­ple they’re lead­ing.

Fi­nally, there are those smart en­trepreneurs who start up busi­nesses but re­ally need to find some­one else to man­age the peo­ple side of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Just be­cause you are a bril­liant busi­ness per­son doesn’t mean you make a great boss.

If you are start­ing to cringe be­cause this is sound­ing like you, here are some signs you should watch for to con­firm whether or not you are your em­ploy­ees’ worst night­mare — the hor­ri­ble boss.

1. You scare peo­ple. Does it feel like peo­ple won’t come and talk to you? Have you no­ticed none of your em­ploy­ees comes to you with ideas or sug­ges­tions, plus they avoid telling you about any prob­lems that have arisen? Do peo­ple stop talk­ing when you show up in the room and quickly dis­perse? Just be­cause you’re the boss doesn’t mean you can com­mand re­spect; you need to earn it. And stop scar­ing your peo­ple — that’s noth­ing to be proud of!

2. You are not in­cluded. Does it seem all the work gets done with­out your in­put, even when you should have a say in it? Do you find im­por­tant de­ci­sions are made and peo­ple for­get to ask you? Does it feel like you are not trusted? It may very well be your team thinks you are in­com­pe­tent. As a so­lu­tion, talk to your team, find out what’s go­ing on, or ask a trusted col­league for his or her in­sight.

3. You think you are sur­rounded by id­iots. Are you reg­u­larly mak­ing com­ments about how stupid the peo­ple around you are? Do you find your­self do­ing ev­ery­one else’s work be­cause you don’t trust them to do it? Does it seem you have to mi­cro-man­age ev­ery­one to en­sure the job gets done? Con­grat­u­la­tions — you are an of­fi­cial con­trol freak and your peo­ple will leave as soon as they can. Some su­per­vi­sory coach­ing can help you with this af­flic­tion.

4. You are the eter­nal pes­simist. Does the worst thing al­ways hap­pen to you? Do you think your com­peti­tors are out to get you and your peo­ple? Do you feel you need lots of rules in place to con­trol your peo­ple be­cause they can’t be trusted? If you are the type of per­son where you think life hap­pens to you rather than you con­trol­ling your life, then you will drive your team and your busi­ness to de­struc­tion. Peo­ple want to work for some­one who is con­fi­dent, op­ti­mistic and suc­cess­ful — wouldn’t you?

5. You can’t con­trol your mood. Do peo­ple look fright­ened when they come to see you? Do peo­ple avoid telling you bad news? Does your team seem jumpy and in­se­cure? Chances are they are walk­ing on eggshells be­cause they don’t know when you are go­ing to ex­plode. If your mood is un­pre­dictable from one hour to the next, you could be cre­at­ing a volatile work en­vi­ron­ment that’s un­pro­duc­tive and un­healthy.

6. You have wan­der­ing hands. Have you no­ticed peo­ple don’t come to your of­fice alone or don’t work late if you are the only one around? Does your team mem­ber avoid ac­cept­ing a ride home on a cold, rainy night? Do peo­ple flinch when you get too close and take a step back when you ap­proach them? Well, you may have very well earned the “lech” ti­tle in your or­ga­ni­za­tion. The cure — take some much needed re­spect­ful work­place (a.k.a. ha­rass­ment) train­ing.

7. You are only con­cerned about your­self. Do you take credit for your em­ploy­ees’ work? Do you care only about your own ca­reer path and for­get to ask your team about what they want to do? Do you feel threat­ened by one of your team mem­bers and make sure their tal­ents aren’t seen by oth­ers? This of­fi­cially makes you a hor­ri­ble leader. To be a great boss, you need to set aside your in­se­cu­ri­ties and fo­cus on help­ing your peo­ple to be­come suc­cess­ful. You won’t be suc­cess­ful for long with­out the help of your team.

8. You blame oth­ers. Do you point the fin­ger at oth­ers when you make a mis­take? Do you pre­plan what and who your scape­goat will be just in case some­thing goes wrong? It’s time to own up to your wrong­do­ings and be a bet­ter per­son.

9. You can’t make a de­ci­sion. Do your em­ploy­ees seem con­fused a lot? Do you lack fo­cus? Do you con­tra­dict your­self by your ac­tions? Does your team tell you they don’t un­der­stand what they are sup­posed to do? There’s noth­ing more ir­ri­tat­ing than the boss who can’t make up his or her mind. OK, there is: a boss who changes his or her mind reg­u­larly. Set your vi­sion, fo­cus on the goals you need to at­tain and share this with your team — you’ll be sur­prised at the re­sults.

10. You lose your cool. Do you yell at your team? Do you hurl in­sults at peo­ple? Do you lose your tem­per? Are you im­pa­tient, short and growl at peo­ple when they ask you a ques­tion? If so, then you too have earned the Bad Boss award.

If you rec­og­nized one or more of th­ese signs in your­self, there’s good news. While some of th­ese char­ac­ter traits and be­hav­iours may be more dif­fi­cult to mod­ify if you’ve been be­hav­ing this way for a long time, a lot of it can be cured with some ba­sic su­per­vi­sory/man­age­ment skills train­ing. The key is to take ac­tion now; pro­cras­ti­na­tion is not a good friend and could re­sult in a de­mo­tion to a po­si­tion where su­per­vi­sory qual­i­fi­ca­tions are not re­quired. Or worse, you could find your­self out of a job.

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