Bad bosses come in many flavors, and they’re usually easy to identify. There was the workaholic who worked in the office until 3:00 AM every night, falling asleep as his desk, and expects everyone else to stay, as well. There was the micro-manager who didn’t communicate with his employees. There was the director who delegated responsibility without delegating authority. There was the manager who always had inappropriate comments ready to go.
Joe Goltz, an owner of five small businesses in Chicago, offers ten suggestions for assessing whether a boss is good:
1. Are you a screamer? Some good bosses are “passionate,” but screaming does not automatically make someone a good boss. Leadership through fear may work for a short time, but listening is a much better trait for effective communication.
2. Do you provide a respectful environment? Mutual respect is important for a good working environment. There have been times I felt like I was not respected, and at times, it was difficult for me to respect in return the superiors who didn’t respect me.
3. Do you provide adequate training and tools? I understand, especially in large companies, that any individual’s particular boss may have her hands tied by the corporation. I’ve worked in divisions where there was no money for training and tools. I don’t think that’s an excuse though. Training doesn’t have to come from an expensive seminar.
4. Do you provide positive reinforcement? Some bosses don’t want to give positive reinforcement because it provides their opportunities with proof that they deserve a higher salary or a larger bonus.
5. Do you have pay scales and raise reviews? More often, an employee’s pay is dictated by none other than their negotiating ability. It pays to practice and become an expert at negotiation. Without some kind of pay scale, employees might feel there is more inequity in salaries. That’s possible even with a pay scale if it isn’t specific enough. Raise reviews should be separate from performance reviews, but most bosses combine these feedback meetings.
6. Are you good at motivation? Motivation is tricky because, according to business psychologists, every individual has different motivating factors. This leads to compensation in forms other than money, like the employee recognition program at a former employer that allowed a monthly winner, chosen at random from a list of recognized employees that month, choose a gift from a catalog. This perceived choice might have come recommended by business psychologists, but every individual would have rather received money or a day off. Motivation comes in forms other than rewards, and motivation through communication is a key to being a good leader.
7. Do you offer support during a difficult time? Do be a good boss, you should care about your employees on a personal level. It may be impossible to know every detail about a person’s life, but since people spend almost all their waking life in the office, employees are much more willing to perform their best if they believe someone in the office cares about them.
8. Do you provide opportunity for people who have accepted responsibility, have done an excellent job and have shown the desire to move up? There’s nothing more frustrating than doing great work expected of someone in a position or two higher, and watching all recognition go to the individual who is a better buddy with the boss.
9. Do you offer leadership? This is a bit vague; all of the suggestions above exemplify leadership to an extent. Be a good example of the type of employee you would like others to be.
10. Are you effective? Your effectiveness as a boss is measured by how your employees perform for and with you. It may be hard to measure; some employees will be successful regardless of who is in charge. If you’re the boss in a small company, the company’s performance is partly a result of your effectiveness, but that might not be as true for bosses within larger corporations.
CNN highlights more differences between good bosses and bad bosses. A good boss accepts that he might not be right all the time and expects the job to be difficult, while a bad boss exudes confidence in his performance at all times, expecting the job to be easy and for his decisions to be right at all times. A bad boss gives orders, while a good boss brings order to what the employees do.
Are you a good boss? What makes you good? Have you ever had a bad boss, and what were his or her worst traits?
Published or updated February 15, 2011.