Good Boss or Bad Boss…What Do Your People REALLY Think?

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With a few minutes to kill, I Googled the term, “bad bosses.” Want to guess how many results that little two-word search yielded?

Two million, one hundred, forty thousand — and change!

Searching just a bit further, I discovered even more valuable information. I found:

  • bad bosses on TV
  • bad boss stories
  • and why bad bosses are bad for your health.

I also learned there are:

  • 6 bad boss types
  • 8 things bad bosses say and
  • 10 signs indicating you MIGHT have a bad boss.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had bad bosses, and it didn’t take me 10 signs to figure that out!

We ALL Have Bosses

First, let’s get one thing straight. Most of us have bosses. I’ve owned my business for 35+ years. Yet during that time, I’ve had many bosses — hundreds, in fact. Every time I’m hired to give a speech or lead a training program, I get a new boss.

Thankfully, the vast majority of them are wonderful to work with. Knowledgeable, well-prepared, and respectful of others. They’re good communicators, capable decision-makers, and patient teachers.

But what about those double Bs — the “bad bosses”?

On a lark, I once asked an audience to share words describing former GOOD bosses.

Their words, frankly, were good!

Words like: trustworthy, caring, dedicated, and consistent.

But when I then invited the group to share words describing bad bosses they’d known…. WOW!!

I wasn’t ready for that. Actual words I recorded that day include:

spoiled, scatter-brained, two-faced, clueless, wormy, and after that it got downright insulting.

I’m seriously tempted to share the other actual examples, but I can’t. They were just too profane. If I did, I’d be scared to death my mom would watch this episode!

So why are bad bosses bad? There’s no one right answer.

They could have one huge glaring problem or a dozen smaller ones that cumulatively add up to create a bad boss.

Though impossible to say definitively what makes a boss go bad, two common criteria certainly play a part.

2 Reasons Bosses Go Bad

#1: IGNORANCE breeds bad bosses.

Ignorance is lacking information, knowledge, and/or understanding. Ignorance is certainly bad. But worse is boss ignorance… with no effort or intention to correct the problem.

Even bad bosses can get better when they strive to gather information, expand their knowledge, and broaden their understanding.

When employees see their boss striving to improve, they recognize the performance bar is being raised. More often than not, their own efforts shift into a higher gear, as well.

#2: SELFISHNESS breeds bad bosses.

Sadly, bad bosses are some of the most selfish people I’ve ever met. Their primary concern is for the man or woman they see in the mirror, not the employees who look to them for direction and guidance.

Good Advice From A Good Boss

One of the earliest lessons I learned as a young boss myself was taught by one of the best bosses I’ve ever known.

He once told me,

“The good boss is one who intentionally takes a little MORE than his share of the blame, but a little LESS than his share of the credit.

But the bad boss is one who intentionally takes a little LESS than his share of the blame, but a little MORE than his share of the credit.”

It was a simple lesson, that had a lasting impact. But, it’s not really about me. It’s all about you.

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Good boss or bad boss?

Do you know what your people are really thinking? What are you willing to do about it?

Your Turn: Think about the best boss you’ve had. What made you think of them this way? I would love to hear your story! 

All the best!

~ Phillip Van Hooser

Photo by Vanessa Garcia

Phillip Van Hooser

Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE, Founder & Chair, Van Hooser Leadership. A seasoned leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author, Phillip Van Hooser is passionate about developing intentional leaders who can effectively engage and empower their employees to deliver powerful results. His most recent book is “Earning The Right To Be Heard," a primer for creating greater influence and opportunities. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn.


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