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What Separates a "Good" Boss From a "Bad" Boss?

Horrible bosses. Almost everyone has had at least one in their working career. The effects that a bad leader has can ripple throughout an organization and leave the bad boss with a bad rap making it difficult for them to promote (Rightfully so!). It’s certainly the last person you want to become in your organization. Not only would you be risking your reputation, but you would also be the boss who causes good employees to cringe when you enter the room. Or worse yet, be the one who causes good people to leave the company!

You want to be the type of leader that employees are willing to go the extra mile for. A leader that inspires and nurtures your team and gives them the confidence in performing. You want to be their leader that offers guidance and motivation while showing integrity and modeling the behaviors you want to see in your organization. You want to be more than a boss. You want to be a leader.

So, what’s the difference between a good boss and a bad boss?

Remember your favorite teacher? Most people remember a favorite teacher as a gentle elementary school teacher greeting you with morning smiles showing patience in abundance to help tie shoelaces or offer a constant supply of tissues to wipe runny noses.

For you, maybe a high school teacher who nurtured a love for classic literature. Or a math teacher who made numbers and formulas fun and introduced you to the Pythagorean Theorem.

Maybe later in a university where your unconventional professor challenged you to open your mind and demand more of yourself. Or perhaps a young professor who joined you and your friends at the campus pub rather than spend their Saturday night grading papers.

Many of us have had one or more than one teacher we will never forget. Of course, we all have a teacher or professor who stands out for all wrong reasons too. Those who were too strict, demanding, unfair, unavailable…etc. And chances are we have all had, at some point in our working careers, that one boss who stands out as a horrible boss.

Can you remember a terrible boss? Perhaps they were a poor communicator and an even worse listener. Or an unapologetic narcissist and thought of no one but themselves. Or managed staff through intimidation, bullying tactics, or by general fear and scaremongering. It has been said that employees do not leave good jobs, they leave bad managers. Or people do not leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.

Bad managers often make several common mistakes that cause loyal, dedicated staff to leave. A good boss will avoid these mistakes or risk sabotaging staff retention:

12 Behaviors of a bad boss and the consequences of those behaviors...

Are unreachable: Employees need input from managers from time to time. Staff who cannot count on a timely reply to emails and voicemails may be frustrated and seek greener pastures.

Micromanage: This shows staff that you do not believe they can make good decisions on their own. This is demeaning to employees who want to prove they can shine.

Shirk responsibility: Everyone wants a leader who leads, not someone who just occupies the corner office.

Waste others’ time: It causes frustration among employees.

Are disrespectful: People want to work for someone who makes them feel valued, appreciated and treats them like they are an integral part of the team.

Does not give feedback: How does a staff member know they are being effective if they are not told? Recognition for a job well done is also essential for staff retention.

Picks favorites: This is a sure-fire way to make other employees feel unsatisfied and like the playing field is stacked against them.

Ignores toxicity: When the boss ignores the difficult team members and the problems they cause, top performers may get frustrated. That leads to unhappiness on the job and is a big reason why good employees leave.

Breed negativity: Negativity is contagious. Managers who complain can expect the same from their employees. The tone is set at the top.

Keep employees from growing: Bosses who do not foster growth will see good employees leave because they often feel stifled and like they have hit a plateau. 

Cultivate an intimidating reputation: Temper and impatience are a bad combination in a manager. Employees should be able to come to their boss when they need support, see hurdles ahead, or worry that something is about to go wrong.

Take things personally: Bad bosses fail to move when things do not go as planned. They hold grudges and may let conflict fester. They refuse to take responsibility.

Being a good boss means...

Being a good boss is an effort that many bad bosses don’t put in. You don’t want to become bad bosses. So, you have to work on being a good manager. You want to treat your employees with fairness and respect and earn their respect in turn. You want to be the type of leader who motivates staff and inspires them to go the extra mile for you.

A good boss should be helpful and promote a sense of purpose without being controlling. They are concerned about staff retention and do everything in their power to keep quality employees happy. Good bosses are easy to identify because they possess certain characteristics and exhibit specific behaviors, such as put in the effort to make sure that loyal, dedicated staff never want to leave.

12 Behaviors of a GOOD boss...

Are always available: Even the best employees need direction from their boss from time to time. A good boss responds to staff through email, voice mail or in-person in a timely manner.

Trust staff to work on their own: A good boss who does not micromanage demonstrates trust in employees; this tends to improve staff retention.

Take charge: Leaders lead; they do not wait for someone else to take charge. A good boss leads by example.

Value others’ time: A good manager recognizes that time is valuable and productive. They do not call a meeting to decide whether to have a meeting.

Respect staff: Employees are not necessarily looking for a best friend in their boss. But a good boss makes his/her staff feel valued. Simple things like remembering the names of an employee’s children and celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries go a long way to making an employee feel valued.

Provide feedback: Professionals need feedback on their performance and constructive advice they can use to improve. A good manager recognizes that a job well done is essential for staff retention. And he/she shows team members they appreciate their hard work.

Treat employees fairly: Every boss has a staff member(s) who they consider to be their go-to person, but they do not show favoritism to any one person because they recognize this can breed contempt.

Deal quickly with issues: An effective manager deals with difficult situations and toxic employees right away. Toxic employees can wreak havoc at work, and this can cause top performers to harbor resentment – both for their bosses and their colleagues. Unhappiness on the job is a big reason why good employees leave, and good bosses do their best to prevent this.

Foster positivity: A good boss leads by example. They know that if they have a poor attitude, so will staff. Great managers give staff members a reason to care and display the level of enthusiasm they hope to see from staff.

Help employees grow: Managers who value staff retention help employees expand their knowledge and abilities – even if that means the employees leave the team to hone their skills elsewhere, working for another great boss. Good employees leave because they feel constricted. Good bosses help their team member be all that they can be.

Cultivate a ‘team’ attitude: Employees should be able to come to their boss when they need support or have an idea they feel could work as a solution to a situation that may arise. Good bosses recognize the value of remaining even-tempered and approachable to foster great relations with staffers.

Do not hold a grudge: Good managers take responsibility when they are wrong or are responsible for a failure; they do not hold grudges against employees who point out the boss’s misgivings. They recognize that everyone has their own opinion, and it is the collective workings of a team that brings about the success of a project.


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