LIFE SUCKS – LIFE IS NOT FAIR GET OVER IT But, forgive your silly Boss completely and get on with your life. Search out a better job with a better salary, opportunities and Boss(es). Your unfair Boss(es) opened the door for it. Once you have that in place, a curt, "Thank you, Good bye" is all that is needed. Nothing sparks more commentary than asking about what makes a manager a bad boss. With my recent started Web Site Poll and its lengthy comments thread, I found some common themes in site visitor responses. Want to avoid becoming a bad boss? Maybe you are afraid that you may already be considered a bad boss? Just want to commiserate with other people who have bad bosses? Here are their thoughts about what makes a bad boss, well - bad? Consensus doesn't exist, but several themes occurred most frequently in the comments my various sites receive from readers. Bad bosses, in order of their frequency in the comments thread, do the following: Love brownnosers, tattletales, and relatives who report to them. They choose favourite employees and cover up and make excuses for the poor work of their incompetent favourites. They ignore selected people and discriminate against many employees. Fail to communicate, and may not even have, expectations, timelines or goals. Bad bosses change their minds frequently leaving employees off-balance. Bad bosses change expectations and deadlines frequently. Use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple, positive communication would correct the problem. Bad bosses ignore employees until there is a problem, and then pounce. Speak loudly, rudely, one-sidedly to staff. Bad bosses don't provide the air time for staff to respond to accusations and comments. They intimidate people and bully staff. They allow other employees to bully employees. Take credit for the successes and positive accomplishments of employees. They are equally as quick to blame employees when something goes wrong. Fail to provide rewards or recognition for positive employee performance. These six were the top "bad boss" characteristics cited by readers. The following came up less frequently but were contributed by more than one reader. The bad boss: Is not qualified for the boss job by either skills or experience. Will not let go of problems or mistakes. The bad boss returns to discuss negative events continually and searches for faults in employees. Will not accept constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. The bad boss can't deal with disagreement from employees who have their own opinions about work related issues. Lacks integrity, breaks promises, and is dishonest. Does not have the courage to deal with a difficult situation despite knowing that it is the right thing to do. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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LIFE SUCKS – LIFE IS NOT FAIR GET OVER IT
Causes dissention among staff members by his or her actions and comments.
Reader comments also made the point that a lot of bad boss behaviour is enabled, or at least allowed, by the boss's bad boss. These comments provide a snapshot about what employees believe makes a bad boss. Listen and learn or listen and commiserate. For the full flavour of the comments - I can't capture them in a summary – But let me add from my own experience: Brings up past transgressions months later. Does not have a clue as to the definition of performance versus behaviour Can’t deal with intelligent employees who disagree or have their own thoughts/opinions Is dishonest Overbearing in expectations Does not communicate expectations or goals Ignores people and/or plays favourites with staff – superstar today, black hole the next Loves brownnosers and tattletales Lack of integrity, breaks promises Complains and does not solve problems Can’t handle the truth or perceptions about the organization Uses people without reward or recognition Is your boss a liar, a cheat, a swindler or just plain sneaky in how he or she operates? This is the most common and clear way a boss can break our trust. But beyond the secret conversations, hidden bank accounts/bonuses, broken promises and back-office deals, what are some of the more subtle things a boss can do that would prove to be unethical? And how can we tell? Here are a few good warning signs:
How does your boss treat your co-workers? If your boss is playing nice with you, but back-stabbing your co-workers, be warned. While we might like to think we are special, the reality is that we are likely no different than our co-workers. Your boss just simply hasn’t gotten to you yet.
How does your boss choose vendors and/or make deals with outsiders? Does your boss have a “fair” process for deciding who is going to win his/her business or is the decision based on who has the best box seats, similar collegiate affiliations, and mutual back-scratching? If those are the rules they are playing by with outsiders, what happens if they apply those same rules internally? Can you play… or more importantly, do you want to?
Does your boss keep the BIG promises? I’m not talking about little promises that bosses make that get broken (Ex: he or she can’t meet with you for lunch due to a last minute conflict, he/she couldn’t make the conference call or meeting because of an emergency, etc…). I’m talking about the BIG promises. Did your boss promise you a promotion, raise or significant opportunity and now pretends as if that conversation never happened? If that is the case, watch out. This may be the
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LIFE SUCKS – LIFE IS NOT FAIR GET OVER IT beginning of a pattern in which they make you false promises in order to string you along, ultimately keeping you at your current position for as long as they possibly can.
Does your boss cut your salary in order to increases his/her own or meet his targets? If you are being asked to forgo your bonus or take a pay cut, watch carefully and listen closely to see if you boss is doing likewise. One of my favourite story related to this behaviour involves a seasoned attorney at a law firm who was told that she needed to take a pay cut despite her performance and years of service to the firm. It was explained to her that the economy had taken a significant toll on the firm’s overall book of business. Reasonable enough, right? A few days later she noticed that the firm’s admin inadvertently left copies of the partners’ bonus checks next to the copier. She quickly found out where her pay cut went. Don’t just assume the boss is reciprocating your sacrifice. You should have the courage to ask.
So what can you do? This is a potentially sticky situation that we need to address carefully and discretely. I never recommend getting into a bar fight with an unethical boss. They play dirty. However, there are two good steps you can take: Step 1: Document everything. If you notice your boss has the propensity to slip on promises or make sneaky dealings, make sure you are documenting EVERYTHING. How you might ask? Put everything in e-mail and save it all. Confirm promotion schedules in e-mail. Confirm salary cuts/increases in e-mail. Even include your recommendations on vendor choices in e-mail. This serves two purposes. First, it helps to keep your boss in line and second, it protects you in the event your boss gets caught and an internal investigation ensues. You don’t want to be mistaken for crew on his or her sinking ship. Step 2: Develop an exit strategy. As my friends in the entrepreneurial world say, “you should always have an exit strategy.” Do you have one? If not then get one. The odds of making an unethical person change their stripes are virtually non-existent. You may be wonderful in your own right, but if you think you can help your boss “see the light,” you may be just as delusional as they are. More importantly, depending on the degree of unethical behaviour, you may be putting yourself and your career at serious risk by sticking around. Not simply because your boss could continue to hurt you by limiting your opportunities and/or stealing from you, but more importantly because you are under their reputational umbrella. If they go down, your reputation could be stained… permanently. You could be one of those unfortunate individuals who have Arthur Andersen or Enron on their resumes and forever are defending their reputation and arguing their innocence. Dealing with an unethical boss is no laughing matter. It won’t go away easily and likely won’t get better. Just be sure to take the necessary steps to ensure that you have some distance and adequate cover from their eventual implosion. Trust me, it won’t be pretty. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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LIFE SUCKS – LIFE IS NOT FAIR GET OVER IT When you promise something to an employee, they take it as a done deal. For example, if you promise a promotion to a staff member at the completion of a project, he/she will be expecting a promotion at project end. If you can’t deliver, then at best, you have lost credibility, at worst; the employee will be on his way to Human Resources or his/her lawyer to complain. As another example, if you tell a staff member that if he/she works through the weekend then he/she can go to an up-coming user conference, then don’t let him/her go. Not only will you lose personal credibility, but you will never get the person to work another weekend. By making promises you can’t keep, I don’t mean to imply that you are purposely lying to your staff. I mean that you should carefully consider your ability to keep your side of the bargain. That said, if you continually fail to follow through on your promises, even if it truly is with the best intentions, you will eventually be viewed as either a liar or ineffective. Early in my career, I made this mistake. As a young and new project manager, I told a member of my staff, that if he worked on a Saturday/Sunday to finish a specific project, I would give him two days off during the next week to make up for working Saturday and Sunday. He worked on Saturday and Sunday and did a great job. That Monday, I had a meeting with my boss and told him the project was done because he had come in over the weekend. I then said I told him he could have another two days off during the week to make up for his weekend efforts. My boss then said giving time off during business hours for time spent during non-business hours was against company policy. I felt terrible for telling him he could have a two days off and my boss was upset with me for not checking the company rules before offering this arrangement. My boss then told me to go talk to him and who had been at the company much longer than I, said he knew the policy and thought it was odd that I made the offer and figured the two days off would never happen anyway. The moral of this story is that even though I tried to do the right thing, my lack of knowledge of company policy and inexperience as a manager caused me to make a promise I couldn’t keep. I was fortunate that my boss just considered it to be a learning moment for a new manager and the hard worker, thankfully was forgiving of my error, but it could have been much worse. Also, as a young manager, I learned an important management lesson. Before making a promise to a staff member, be positive you can follow up on your promise. Know that this issue doesn’t just happen to new managers. I was also on the other side of this issue as the employee and my boss was a VP level executive. There was an organizational change coming and my boss promised me that I would be receiving additional responsibility. When the organizational change materialized, the size of my boss’s team was cut in half. As a result, I ended up with less, rather than more responsibility. My boss had no idea that the organizational change would affect him in this way. He thought he was going to get more responsibility, not less. He felt personally betrayed by his manager over the change and even worse for not being able to follow through on promises he made to me and his other managers. He eventually left the company. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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LIFE SUCKS – LIFE IS NOT FAIR GET OVER IT The primary advice I have given in the takeaways from today’s column is to know that:
Don’t make promises to your staff you can’t keep, you will lose credibility and potentially end up in real trouble You can promise to try, but don’t promise to deliver unless you are 100% sure it is within your authority to do so
Some might say “Promises are made to be broken” -- especially if you're the boss. Workers don't care so much about whether their employers deliver on specific promises, according to the latest research in organizational psychology. What matters most are the rewards and opportunities they end up getting, even if they were initially promised more. Most psychologists have assumed that broken promises in the workplace spell serious discontent. But previous studies have tended to record workers' perceptions about such breaches, without determining what promises were actually made.
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Published on Feb 2, 2014