I don't think anyone sets out to be a bad boss.
Most managers I meet are really decent people. They work hard, try to help the people who work for them and really want to make a difference for their company and their team.
But somewhere along the way, bad bosses happen. Maybe they feel they have to be "tough" to get results and so bully their workers. Or, too many team members take advantage of them, and they become defensive and vow never to give anyone a break. Perhaps their bosses are a**holes, and they figure that's the way you lead.
BambooHR recently conducted a survey about bad boss behavior and notes that managers may simply be unaware that they're being jerks.
Among the worst boss behavior, according to the 1,000 people asked:
- The boss takes credit for your work (63%)
- The boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62%)
- The boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58%)
- The boss doesn't advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (57%)
- The boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56%)
- The boss doesn't back you up when there's a dispute between you and one of your company's clients (55%)
- The boss doesn't provide proper direction on assignments/roles (54%)
- The boss micromanages you and doesn't allow you the freedom to work (53%)
- The boss focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths (53%)
- The boss doesn't set clear expectations (52%)
When I look at these results, one thing comes to mind: A failure to communicate.
While it may not be so in every case, I think many of these issues could be resolved if bosses had more conversations with their team members. These don't have to be hour-long discussions -- they can be more on-the-spot short chats that give the boss an opportunity to provide feedback that will help the employee be more productive and effective.
For example, after a meeting a boss may pull a team member aside and say, "I thought you did a great job preparing a really compelling case for your idea, but you left out a critical element. No one -- not me or the senior leadership -- will approve such an idea until you give us the hard numbers on what it's going to take to launch such an initiative. If you can put that together, I'm happy to look over the numbers and then let you present it again in a month."
This is the kind of conversation that can help alleviate an employee's belief that a boss doesn't advocate for him or her, hogs the credit, doesn't set clear expectations, etc.
The solution isn't always so simple, and I know that many workplace cultures subtly support the bad bosses because they believe these kind of managers get results.
I will agree with that belief. These jerk bosses do get results -- people walk out the door, trash the company online and make the organization less competitive and productive. Those aren't the kind of results any company seeks.
If you're a manager, it's time to pay attention to the above results. You have much more impact that you believe, and the solutions are simpler than you know.