A friend of mine sells golf equipment. He's been with his current employer for several years, and from what I know he's done a good job. In that time he's had five different bosses. His most recent boss just left the company, so my friend has a new person he reports to. The problem is the new boss doesn't seem to have a clue about how to motivate and inspire people. If I can believe everything my friend told me about his new manager, the guy is somewhat of a jerk whose method of motivation is to demean and instill insecurity in his employees. My friend once told me: "After we make a call together, even if we get an order, he tells me all the things I did wrong. He never gives me a pat on the back." My friend checked around with some of his fellow salespeople to make sure he wasn't the only one being treated badly, and he found that several colleagues in other territories were having the same experiences.
The discussion with my buddy took place on a Saturday, and the next day a story appeared in the Chicago Tribune "Jobs" section headlined "Who's afraid of the big bad boss?" with the subtitle "How to fight back when you work for a bully." It discussed in depth the very situation my friend was facing. Unfortunately, the kind of "management" I described isn't uncommon at all. I hear horror stories all the time about people in supervisory positions who just don't know the fundamentals of effective leadership. They seem to think that intimidation is the way to get the job done. That may produce results in the short term, but we all know such an approach usually leads to unhappy employees and poor productivity. Maybe Carl Robinson, vice president and principal of Organizational Psychologists, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in human resources management, has the right spin on "bad bosses." Here's what he says in the Tribune article: "Tyrannical bosses remain in their positions because most companies narrowly define performance by financial results. The bad boss is not reprimanded because he or she is a small price to pay for the exceptional company performance."
Robinson also believes bosses behave like tyrants because they feel insecure in their managerial skills and take out that frustration on their employees. Quality leaders seem to exude confidence and instill a positive outlook in their charges. They build their people up, but when they see something in a person's performance that needs to change, they try to mentor that person in private, not scream at the employee in front of a group of colleagues. Top-notch bosses know how to be firm without being an ogre.
What's my advice to people like my friend who are unfortunate enough to be held hostage by bad bosses? Get out of the situation as soon as you can. In the Tribune article, Sheribel Rothenberg, a Chicago attorney, looks at the situation like this: "Remember, it's a sick organization that tolerates and supports a manager's unprofessional behavior. When management and human resources do nothing, you don't want to work for that company anyway." That's good advice. Find a company that's known for treating its employees well. These places really aren't hard to find. Just ask around. In fact, books have been written about such organizations. Treating people with dignity and respect is what leadership is all about. Empowerment goes along with it, too. Good bosses give their people plenty of freedom to do their jobs properly.
A good boss is hard to find,
Charles S. Lauer