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Horrible Boss? How dare you ever call or think of someone in that way. I could never be a horrible boss, everyone loves me, I am an angel all the time…my staff is lucky to work for me. Sound like you? Well then this post might just enlighten you just a little bit (and may even benefit your staff).

If there is one thing that I have learned, and I mean fully learned, during my several years as an employee working under other individuals in other companies – it is that there is such a thing as a horrible boss. And honestly, any “Boss” isn’t great at whatever that title is supposed to mean or do. I am sure you are all well aware, and hopefully if you weren’t the title of this post maybe enlightened you tad, that there is a major difference between a “Boss” and a Leader. We’ve all seen the graphic that floats around that depicts a “Boss” yelling at a group of 6 workers to pull something faster and harder. While the other half of the graphic shows a “Leader” at the front of the load pulling with his team. Don’t get me wrong, that is exactly the tip of the iceberg of what a Leader is. But nonetheless, this post is to first identify the signs of a Horrible Boss, and then we will get into how to change that (because seriously, please do become a leader if you are a boss currently, the universe and all its hardworking individuals will thank you).

Sign #1: You’re a micromanager

It is hard, or near impossible, for you to hand off tasks to your team. You spread yourself thin because you feel like you have to do everything yourself. Those times that you do give your employees projects or tasks, you’re constantly checking in on the status of them and need to know every single detail of what they are doing. You are found frequently standing behind your employees watching them do even the simplest tasks. You only give your employees one task or project to do, which then forces them to check in with you for more work.

Sound like you? You might be a micromanager. Micromanagement is the most common complaint fo employees. Eventually staff will become bored, disengaged, and unmotivated as they feel as though they have no responsibility and no way to improve or contribute. So how do you improve? You bite the bullet, and realize that the only way your employees are going to be able to learn anything and to contribute is if they are allowed to be creative and allowed to do things themselves. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to look at anything they do, but it should mean that they should be able to come to you when they have questions about various projects you’ve assigned. Cutting back on micromanagement saves you time – and saves your employees time.

Sign #2: You don’t trust Your employees

Ahhhh, trust. The most valuable component in ANY relationship. Chances are, when you read this as number two, you thought one of two things. The first being “Well duh, everyone knows that” and the second being “Well you don’t know my staff, you wouldn’t trust them either. You don’t allow them to make decisions or to be present in key conversations. You might even micromanage because you don’t trust them.

So let me say this, if you cannot trust your employees it is because either you are a distrusting person personally – even though they haven’t even had the chance to gain your trust because you’re closed off – or because they’ve done many things that have caused them to lose your trust. If it is the first one, you need to step down from being in charge and work on that issue – both personally and professionally. You cannot serve anyone- yes I said serve – if you are distrusting. Managers are to serve their employees just as much as much as employees serve management – both sides contribute. If it is the latter, then you need a new crew, because this one is not morally working for you. You cannot coach personal morals, it just doesn’t work that way. Start looking for employees that share the same morals as you and your company mission.

Managers are to serve their employees just as much as much as employees serve management – both sides contribute.

Sign #3: All of your feedback in negative

There is this concept that I actually really like, its called a coaching sandwich. It’s when you start with positive feedback, then tell them what they need to work on, and then you follow it with another element of positive feedback. Have you heard of it? Because it works really well. If everything you say to your staff is negative, all your feedback to them is negative, and all you talk to them about is what they aren’t doing right, they are not going to have any self confidence left at all.

Employees are people, they are human beings with feelings and emotions and the desire to satisfy those above them with their hard work. As much as you want to say to check your emotions at the front door, it just isn’t that simple.

And please, don’t just throw in random non-meaningful positive feedbacks around that harsh thing you want to say – make them correct, make this coaching opportunity effective and meaningful (to both sides). No one likes a wasted conversation. A leader takes the time to think through a coaching opportunity to assure that it both addresses and corrects the concern at hand.

Sign #4: You don’t actively pursue employee development

You don’t ask how your employees want to grow. You don’t take a genuine interest in their future both with your company (and maybe at others). You don’t ask where they want to be in a year, three years, five years. All your conversations are regarding their current role. Sound like you? Well then this one might sting a bit. “Gasp! What do you mean I need to spend time developing my employees?! Abby don’t you know, I don’t have the time or the resources for that!”

Well then don’t have employees. There is my answer. And you probably don’t like it.

If you cannot afford your team members full cycle, then you don’t deserve to have them. If you aren’t going to be actually interested in them, their development both in their current and future roles, then please just wait until you are ready for that commitment before you have employees. Because if you don’t, your turnover will be insane (and costly), you will waste time training new employees who won’t be there in 3+ months because they will figure out they aren’t cared for personally.

Remember how I said that employees are people? This still remains relevant. Each person is different and deserves a custom approach to coaching, learning and development, and interest. If you want successful employee relationships and those 5+ year employee anniversaries, then take the time to develop them more and more and more. As a leader, you need to keep watering them.

Sign #5: You’re inconsistent

Do you promise to meet to discuss something and you don’t follow through? Do you enforce a new rule and don’t enforce it the same with every employee? Are you very responsive and productive for a few weeks and then you are no where to be found when your employees need you? You don’t hold employees to the same standards as you hold yourself. Well then you’re inconsistent. Being inconsistent means that you are not dependable, and if you are not dependable your staff cannot count on you to be there when they need to communicate with you or work with you.

Have you ever had someone say to you “We should meet up for dinner sometime soon!” and then that never happens because no one ever follows up to make it happen? Or maybe you’re guilty and have done that yourself. I know I have been guilty of doing that. Being consistent is directly connected to your personal and professional reputation. Being consistent doesn’t just mean can go two ways, either you are consistently respectful, kind, hard working, communicative, etc. – or you are consistently disrespectful, slacking, uncommunicative, etc. When people figure out that you are inconsistent in positive practices as a leader, your respect goes down the toilet. Bye Bye. And those who have addressed and fixed this problem in their own lives know that it is hard to get that respect and trust back.

A leader is consistent with what they say is correct and researched, there is no favoritism, no lack of response, no random emotional decisions, no reason to believe they aren’t keeping their commitments. Everyone needs consistency to build that trust. You become consistent by thinking through decisions before you make them. So when you decide to create a new checklist for staff, be consistent with your expectations that it is completed on time and correctly. When you decide on a dress code, be consistent. When you respond to emails, be consistent with your timely response time. Be Positively Consistent.

Sign #6: You’re only focused on “Work”

You only ask your employees work related questions and have work related conversations. Oh you’re mother is in the hospital? When are you coming back to work? You send your employees emails and Slacks after 7:00 p.m. You send them multiple notifications during their out-of-office time. You expect your employees to put in time over the weekends. You don’t know much about your employees beyond their name, their salary, and their performance.

Your employees don’t know any better because that’s all you’ve done is focus on work when you’re at work (and maybe even at home). You transition from a boss to a leader when you start actually caring about what is going on in your employee’s lives. When you learn about them, what they like and don’t like. Do they have children, pets, or family members that are a big part of their lives? Learning about each employee personally doesn’t just help relations, but it also helps you as a leader foresee anything that could help or hinder that employee down the road. It helps you know them well enough to avoid wasted time on coaching that is irrelevant and helps you support them when they come to you with concerns or problems. If you build an environment of mutual trust and appreciation, employees will feel more comfortable coming to you with problems and concerns, and you’ll be able to better support them when difficult times come up – in their personal or professional lives.


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