Saturday, April 20, 2024

Signs of a Bad Boss

February 28, 2010  
Filed under The Workplace

Bad boss

(Decoding flawed management systems based on Stephen Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership book.)

He leads by intimidation and makes you anxious every time he walks by your cubicle. She micromanages and looks over your shoulder every 10 minutes. He changes your schedule last minute without prior notice, forcing you to cancel your date. She makes you do things she wouldn’t do. He’s unpredictable. The list could go on and on for pinpointing the signs of a bad boss.

Many bosses will use the carrot-and-stick approach to managing, but in this method, bosses view people as “stomachs” or economic beings. Stephen Covey points out four interesting management paradigms by using “need” metaphors, three of which are faulty though it may not appear like it on the outside.

The Management System Your ‘Bad’ Boss is Unknowingly Practicing

Of course, many employers think their bosses are managing that way intentionally, are stubborn and don’t want to improve, but to give them the benefit of the doubt, they just don’t know how to do it otherwise. Blame it on their environment, education, or the way they were brought up, but they probably do want to improve like all of us want to. And you just might be the lucky person to make that happen.

Here are the four management principles that Stephen Covey identifies for us. The first three are flawed because they operate on a false assumption about the nature of people. Ordered from worst (in our opinion) to best:

1) Fairness. You give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want—money. The boss/manager here says “I know what’s best; I’m the authority.” He/she can lead by force or intimidation and entices you with the economic rewards. It’s the sign of the carrot-and-stick approach that treats humans as having only physical needs. (the stomach metaphor)

2) Kindness. The boss is like the father figure—still in authority but is aware of people’s physical and social and emotional needs. He/she is nice to employees as long as they conform to his wishes and demands. (the heart metaphor)

3) Use and Development of Talent. Bosses using this approach may not seem like bad bosses because they are fair, kind and efficient. They see people as having minds as well as hearts and stomachs. These bosses know that humans have the need and desire to grow, develop and have their talents used, which also accomplishes the goals of the company efficiently. (the mind metaphor)

4) Meaning. This is the system used by a great boss. Everything feels right. There’s fairness, kindness, efficiency and effectiveness with a focus on the whole being. This boss views people not just as physical or mental beings but as spiritual beings who want meaning in their work. He/she shares the power and control with the people, allowing them to experience ownership and joy. Employees are empowered, challenged and inspired. (the spirit metaphor / principle-centered leadership)

What to Do About a Bad Boss

So since a great boss is a rare find, a diamond in the rough, what should you do since you can’t just call it quits when you see all the signs of a bad boss?

1) Communicate. It might be hard to do face to face, so send a nice email that shows your empathy with the boss and your good intentions. Choose the words carefully and point out what you think he/she might be doing wrong without sounding like the authority. Avoid accusations, point out their strengths, highlight the issues from your angle, and then offer solutions—the most important part.

2) Offer the tools. Give the manager/boss the tools to change, such as buying the boss Stephen Covey’s book.

If you’ve done all this without making a dent, maybe it’s time to move on. It’s not your problem anymore.

Recommended Reading:

How to Manage Your Boss


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