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Are you a bad boss?

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Sunday, March 2, 2014, 2:51 p.m.
 

We hear so much about “bad bosses” — that they are the No. 1 reason why employees quit; that they are more common than ever because of lack of training and development; and that they struggle with managing people of different cultures or age groups.

I come across all types of bosses, and clearly, bad ones can be found in any industry. One of the worst I can recall was a woman who required her staff to work long hours each day and then expected them to work a full day on either Saturday or Sunday. On top of that, this boss's behavior was unethical and her tongue was biting. To her staff's relief, the company president finally had a light bulb moment, and he fired her.

Micromanaging bosses often qualify as bad bosses. Phyllis Hartman, president of PGHR Consulting, Inc. in Wexford, says, “Micromanager bosses may lack the self confidence necessary to delegate responsibility to employees or be so afraid that the employee will make a mistake that they never let them try new things.”

Hartman says that many bosses don't realize they are responsible for cultivating the environment that helps employees succeed. “Instead,” says Hartman, “they blame poor performance and negative behaviors on bad employees. They fail to make employees feel valuable.”

Though the employees do have responsibility for doing their jobs, they need to have the ability to do the job and they need their boss to clearly define expectations.

Do you ever wonder if the people who report to you consider you a “bad boss”? If you truly want to know, here are some barometers:

Turnover

Compare turnover rates in your department with that of others. Some variations can be explained, but certainly not all. Consider both the employees who leave and those you have fired. Take into account whether your employees would leave “if they could” — perhaps the job market or their skill set limit their movement.

Be brave. Have a conversation with someone in Human Resources to learn what employees say about you in exit interviews.

Feedback

When conducting performance appraisals, make it standard practice to ask for feedback on how you can be a better manager. Not a good sign: if all your employees have a great deal to say. Even worse: if they steadfastly refuse to comment.

If your company does an employee attitude survey, thoroughly analyze the feedback. If employees fear retaliation, try an online survey to assure anonymity.

Ask a trusted peer to give you feedback, especially regarding whatever the (usually shockingly accurate) grapevine is saying about you.

Speak with an objective and astute observer such as a visiting consultant for some honest feedback.

Having reflected on all the above, if you think there's a chance you might be a bad boss, Hartman's advice to you is, “Resolve to make a change. Start listening to your employees. Try to understand your own feelings so that you don't react emotionally when problems arise. Think about how you are communicating about the work and treat mistakes as learning opportunities.”

If you are determined to change, let your employees know and actively enlist their help. That's one assignment in which they will be thrilled to support you.

Chris Posti is president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at 724-344-1668.

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