BAD BOSS phenomenon

Stressed businessman governed by puppeteer hands

Creating a compelling place for employees to work is a critical success factor for a business.

By MIRIAM M. CHEGE

Research indicates that the biggest determinant of how satisfied, committed and engaged people are at work is the immediate supervisor. An interesting observation is the correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction and ultimately revenue regeneration plus profits. This employee-customer-profit model has been deployed in turning around companies such as Sears, a merchandising group in America.

New research is adding a new twist to this by suggesting that bad bosses affect how an employee’s whole family relates to one another; one’s physical health, as well as raising the risk for heart disease; and employee’s morale while in the office.

In a study that interviewed over 1,100 employees in diverse companies, it was noted that when bosses were controlling rather than encouraging, employees’ well-being was low. On the other hand, when employees felt that their autonomy was encouraged they had better overall well-being. Further, it was noted that the psychological climate of the organisation also affected the participants’ happiness, with the more supportive companies having happier employees. The research was conducted at the Université Francois Rabelais, and findings published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

Creating a compelling place for employees to work becomes critical success factor for business success.

A compelling workplace entails establishing an environment that facilitates personal growth and development, nurtures ideas and innovation, empowers and creates a sense of ownership in the people who work with the organisation. My observation is that immediate supervisors have a direct role in connecting with their teams, empowering them and encouraging them to bring their A game to the business. Unfortunately, many bosses do not fare well in motivating their teams. Indeed research has confirmed that people do not leave jobs, they leave managers.

Dealing with a bad boss

A bad boss can be such a burden to deal with. Waking up to an otherwise rewarding job, can be negatively impacted by a lousy supervisor, usurping one’s enthusiasm and joy and if not well managed, can make you exit an otherwise good company.

Critical to managing a bad boss is understanding their motivation, their goals, what they are seeking to achieve and what it means to achieve it then supporting them to succeed in their work by lifting them where they are weak and promoting their strong areas. Further, you have to be cautious not to disengage from your job or lose interest in what you do or become a perennial whiner.

Resigning, succumbing to resentment or mentally checking out can be the greatest disservice to yourself in dealing with a bad boss. The call here is to remain upbeat and engaged regardless of the shouting, yelling, criticism, judgements and bashing.

Taking the high road by remaining professional and calm will certainly add value to the situation. At the right time, encourage yourself to share your sentiments with your boss if he/she can listen. Sharing on how undervalued you feel in the job can be one of the biggest acts of courage that you invest in and the payoff is likely to be positive. Many people prefer to say this when they are leaving during the exit interview but this may not provide the much-needed panacea.

In a situation where the boss is a bully and seems to derive pleasure in putting you down or making judgemental remarks yet you know that deep down you are doing the best you can, stand firm as opposed to cowering and chickening out in his presence. Seek clarification on how you can improve in your work as opposed to walking away to cry in the bathroom.

So what makes a team leader a bad boss?

There are those who micromanage teams, literally choking their creativity and ingenuity by issuing commands on what needs to be done, how it should be done and by when. There are those who are all-knowing, perennially criticising other people without even taking time to understand their context or challenges. Then, there are those who are insecure and most of the time seek to outshine their teams. Dealing with these varieties of bosses would require different strategies.

In my leadership experience, I don’t imagine that a team leader would set out to be a bad boss. One’s leadership style and impact is seen on the job in the course of interacting with his or her team. Managing teams is not a walk in the park. Effectively leading them for results in a way that inspires and motivates them is equally a difficult task that calls for a tricky balance between connecting with your team at a human level and inspiring their actions for business results.

Between these two variables, many things happen that can strain relationships and cause acrimony, especially when deadlines are not met, results don’t measure up and mistakes happen. It is these situations that test the effectiveness of a leader. Showing respect in the way you talk to your team members, listening to them and seeking solutions together in everyday situations as well as during tough situations is equally critical.

The role of business in developing better leaders

My experience is that organisations are quick to offer leadership positions through new hires and promotions. Unfortunately, a deliberate, systematic and consistent approach to ensure that these leaders develop to become effective team leaders is ever wanting. Sometimes even the leaders don’t seek support in areas they have challenges in. On many occasions, the measurement of a good leader is purely pegged on financial results and if the profits are good, all is well. I highly believe that non-financial measurements around people engagement, happiness and satisfaction should also be part of measuring a leader’s performance. The premise here is that business results can still be achieved in a positive environment devoid of strife and fear.

Miriam is the Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs, KIM. Email: mchege@kim.ac.ke

Twitter @Mukamiwachege

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