Five Tips to Avoid a “Bad Boss” Reputation

Nearly every working adult reports having an intolerable boss at one point in his or her lifetime.  Conflict, and the toll it takes, surfaces through acts of bullying, bad boss practices, personality clashes, dysfunctional teams, and strained executive-leadership relations at CEO and board level positions.   California now has new legislation (AB 2053) in place that calls for mandatory training on the prevention of abusive conduct.

What does this mean to your organization?  This is not just about compliance!  It is truly a “cost” issue that leaders often ignore, writing them off as “people issues.”  What it really means is 50% less productivity and 44% less profitability.  In a time of competitive advantage when most companies need to work lean and mean, the impact and cost of bad bossing and poor leadership practices is no longer something that can be ignored.
A 2008 Gallup poll addressing the “State of the American Workplace”  conducted across one million employees revealed that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is because of a bad boss.  Companies need to not only hire the right managers, but need to make sure they have the skills to manage and motivate others.  And, it starts at the top. Promotions into leadership roles are often used as rewards for technical expertise or profitability.

People in leadership positions seldom possess the emotional intelligence and communication skills to effectively deal with people or fear dealing with the emotions that drive behavior.  However, the last 10-15 years of neuroscientific discoveries amply demonstrate that all behavior and all cognitions are driven by emotion.  Too often, people react to what they see, what they hear, and what’s being said, without going “below the water line.”

Here are five tips for developing personal mindfulness to avoid a “bad boss” reputation:

  1. Awareness—Identify your own cultural worldview.  How attuned are you to those around you, the impact of your behavior on others and the impact of their behavior on you?
  2. Attitude—Examine your attitude toward cultural differences.  Do you have internal biases towards people of other backgrounds, from different age groups, or from different parts of the country or world?
  3. Knowledge—Expand your knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews.  Learn more about those you work with…use the power of connections to find out why people are motivated to work for your company, what are their goals, and what are they good at and not so good at.
  4. Interpersonal skills—Learn to relate.  Do you know the names of your employees and co-workers?  What do you know about them?  Learn the power of open-ended questions and the four-part exchange to structure meaningful conversations.
  5. Willingness—Be open to the idea of changing your own behavior.  As Stephen Covey says, seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.  Are you getting the kind of results you want?  How does your behavior impact others and contribute to less than positive outcomes?   Time to do some self-assessment!

Over the last 30 years, investing in leadership development, communication skills, and emotional intelligence was considered a waste of time and investment with little impact on the bottom line.  However, in today’s enlightened leadership climate, investment in people management skills seems to be the most profitable answer to making miserable employees not so miserable and bad bosses into great leaders.   Why?  Bad bosses negate the work benefits and organizational profitability while good bosses lead employees to increased revenue.

What next steps can you take to avoid a reputation as a “bad boss?”

First, be curiously courageous and ask for input from your trusted colleagues – what is their perception of the impact of your behavior on others?

Next, meet with a coach to explore further assessment of your style and which behaviors may be contributing to such a perception by others.

Then, develop and implement a plan of action over the next 30-, 60- and 90-days to develop new skills, increase awareness of constructive conflict management skills, and practice to make permanent (not perfect).

Lastly, maintain a journal throughout this process, capturing difficult moments, “Aha” moments of insight and realization, and revisit the process at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals to see what has changed; and, plan for your next step of enlightened leadership development.

So, how much is conflict costing your organization and you don’t even know it!  Take steps to measure what you’re losing and how much you can regain.

Dr. Debra Dupree is a business mediator and leadership coach with over 25 years of experience.  Dr. Dupree brings humor, insight, and to leadership development as a motivational speaker, psychotherapist for executives, and conflict coach.  Contact her now to learn more about what she uncovered in her 2014 Doctoral Dissertation on the psychology of good bosses versus bad bosses.