Everybody has a boss, and it seems that everybody has a “bad boss” story. Here are seven questions that will help you determine if your boss is one of the bad ones. Answer each question with a “yes” or “no.”
1. Has your boss ever embarrassed you in front of coworkers?
2. Does your boss have a tough time making decisions or sticking to them once they are made?
3. Does your boss take you for granted?
4. Does your boss hog the limelight when things go well and blame others when things go wrong?
5. Does your boss argue about everything?
6. Is your boss clear about what he or she expects of you?
7. Does your boss pile on the work without any thought as to what you are already doing?
If you answered “yes” to just one or two questions, your boss is probably fine (let’s face it, a boss can occasionally slip up). If you answered “yes” to 3–6 questions, you have a boss that is likely to make you feel pretty bad on various occasions. But be careful when confronting your boss. If you are going to complain, you should cite very specific instances of your boss’s bad behaviour. You must also realize that if you are not happy with your boss, chances are that your boss is also unhappy with you. If you answered “yes” to all 7 questions, you have a big problem. You probably cannot run fast enough to keep up.
What should you do if you have a bad boss? If you want to better the situation, you might try discussing your concerns with your boss. Be sure to document your experiences and be very specific about the kinds of things that concern you. Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of General Electric, says that bosses must realize that they are only as good as the people who work for them. If a boss does not develop good people, the boss’s unit will underperform and the boss’s own career plans will be affected.
If the boss behaves badly, Welch thinks employees should not whine and be a victim. Instead, they should just quit. The practical implications of the seven questions listed above can be profound for employees. For example, for question #3, Shaun Belding, a management consultant, says that the most common complaint from employees is that they are not given any recognition for the work they do. For question #4, this type of boss behaviour sucks the creativity out of an organization because people have no incentive to come up with new ideas if they are not going to get credit for those ideas. For question #7, the fact is that bad bosses are simply not aware of the workloads of their employees. They just expect that all their requests will be met.
Some bosses are taking action to improve their performance. Robert Lemieux, the director of sales at the Delta Chelsea Hotel, is a young executive moving up the corporate ladder. He would like to be a top manager some day. He currently supervises a staff of 50, and he knows he has to be a great boss if he wants to get to the top. So, he goes to a “boss boot camp” run by Lindsay Sukornyk, a consultant who whips bosses into shape. She first interviews Lemieux’s employees to find out what they really think of him. She discovers that his employees think he is professional and intuitive, and that he cares about them. So far so good. But she also hears that he is standoffish, and that he over-promises and under delivers. He is also seen by employees as too hands-on. Lemieux has to learn to let go and to let employees take ownership of ideas. At boot camp, Lemieux is owning up to his weaknesses in front of his employees and learning to trust them to do their jobs on their own. From now on, he will be doing less talking and more listening. The employees seem to like the idea, because they want him to coach them, not get d in all the details and always be the “fixer.” As they review his performance, they point out a few areas where he still needs to improve, but Lemieux is on the road to being a better boss.
1. Think of a boss you have had and answer the seven questions listed above. Was your boss good or bad? Give brief examples of incidents that led you to answer “yes” to any question.
2. Think of a boss you have had and evaluate your boss on the Big Five personality factors. What impact did The Big Five Personality Model have on your boss being a good or bad manager? Give examples to illustrate your reasoning.
3. Think of a boss you have had and give several examples of how the various factors in Exhibit 2-1 influenced your perception of your boss.
4. Think of a specific “bad” behaviour your boss exhibited. Use the model in Exhibit 2-2 to analyze the behaviour and determine whether it had an internal or external cause. Does your conclusion match with the attribution you made at the time of the behaviour?
5. Think of a positive experience you had with a boss and use the model in Exhibit 2-8 to analyze how the experience affected your job satisfaction and performance. Think of a negative experience you had with a boss and repeat the analysis.
6. What is the difference between “leadership” and “management”? Do you think a “leader” or a “manager” would be more likely to be a bad boss?
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