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Business, career development, outplacement

6 Cold, Hard Facts About Your “Awful” Boss (or maybe it’s you?)

– Why 46% of people quit their jobs?
– Bad boss or dull employee?
– How to have a good boss

Have you ever had a good boss?  When I ask this to a group, I’m lucky to get 10% of hands raised.  When I ask, have you ever had abad boss, the response is +80%.  Sometimes two hands per person!

Are 80% of bosses really bad?  No.  But 46% of people quit their jobs, according to the US Dept. of Labor, because they feel unappreciated and unheard.  That is, almost half the workforce leaves their job because they feel their boss isn’t listening.  (Hurty feelings!)

Ahhh, but are those employees worth listening to?  Is the boss “bad” or the employee dense?

Here are 6 Hard Truths about your supposedly Bad Boss.

1-  They don’t give a f*** about your career.  You’re right.  They don’t.  Why should they?  While working in psychiatry I learned an important truth:  most people cannot support themselves emotionally, let alone support you.  So expecting your boss to take great interest in your life, career, ambitions, goals, progress, or happiness is naive and childish.  Maybe you need to grow up, curtail belief in Santa, forget the Easter Bunny, and stop seeking the imaginary Saintly Boss who will recognise your untapped genius.  Only mothers do that.

Far better to make mama proud and do well the job for which you’re employed (and paid) while learning the rules of the corporate game.  That’s the one thing any boss can teach you (because you can always learn from their mistakes).   “Office politics?” you say, “I’m not into that.”  Many employees say this and think it’s not important (it is) and that they are above it (they’re not).  To advance in any career, you need to learn the rules of the game.  And all games have rules.

2-  You’re not worth a s***, (yet).   Sorry to break it to you but it’s true (or true enough).  You’re simply not worth the boss’s investment of time, effort, input, required to improve you.  Not yet, that is.  Many employees (including senior execs) exaggerate their value and contribution to an organisation.  We’re all replaceable cogs in the commercial machine, worker bees in the hive of business (disagree?  does somebody else sign your pay slip?  I thought so).  Your value rises everyday you’re in the workforce if you’re learning, developing, and honing your skills.  Are you?

3-  Most employees are not good enough to promote, and not bad enough to fire.  They’re just average.  Like you, probably.  And that’s fine; it’s perfectly acceptable.  But please stop waiting to receive accolades that you haven’t yet earned or warranted.  Showing up to work, punching the clock, doing what you’re paid to do doesn’t earn you medals, commendations, promotions or accolades.  It earns you a pay check.  Is that not enough?  Then upgrade your efforts, actions and results.   Promote yourself first from average and I guarantee you’ll be noticed (because there are so few of you to notice).

Your boss really has one simple task:  to add value to employees.  Some bosses do this; some don’t.  But why don’t they?

4-  They don’t want to.  The best bosses I’ve seen, interviewed and coached have one thing in common:  they really want to manage well.  Bad bosses aren’t interested.  Good bosses like to coach, assist, develop, and teach people.  They like sharing and enjoy seeing people progress.  They work at being a good boss.

Alas, that eliminates many bosses right there.  I see many bosses who are simply, primarily and sometimes exclusively interested in getting their ‘ticket punched’ to the next plum posting, earning their bonus, obtaining a promotion, impressing head office, achieving their numbers, and so on.  You simply don’t enter into their equation.  But why should you?  Face it, you’re not that special!  They’ve got their agendum, you’ve got yours.  Those agenda may be related but they’re never identical.  Just know where they overlap and use this to your advantage.

5-  You wouldn’t recognise a good boss anyway.  You probably think a good boss is kind, supportive, and helpful.  But what if you’re a sub-standard employee, a self-satisfied drone, a Gen Y dimwit whose inflated notion of self-worth is unencumbered by evidence?  (I’m describing people I met this morning!).  If you’re one of those people then you don’t need support, you need instruction.  You need coaching.  You need lessons in the reality of business life.

You may need effective feedback such as a smack upside the head with a 2 x 4.  (Hey, it helped me!)

There’s no substitute for straight talk and a good boss knows it.  A good boss will instruct you when you need to hold your tongue, keep your opinions to yourself, change your tone, check your ego, dress appropriately, adjust your attitude, pull your head in (or take it out), stop gossiping, get on with your job, and deploy your attention productively.

If kind words and thoughtful gestures were effective with employees, then bosses wouldn’t need to be forceful and direct.  Many “bad” bosses are just telling you good things that you need to know if you’re going to advance (or survive) in the business world.

Personally, I’ve had to advise employees at the basest level:  wear a suit and tie, lose those red socks, your deodorant is not working, your cursing is undermining your credibility, you reek of cigarettes, etc.  Here’s the point:  a good boss tells you things that you don’t know but need to know.  So maybe your “bad” boss is actually a good boss in disguise?

6:  The boss’s job is more difficult than yours, a fact which escapes many employees.  A supposedly “bad” boss is probably just busy.  They’re preoccupied with their job, not your career.  Do you really think it should be otherwise?

How to Have a Good Boss:  Want to have a good boss?  Then be a good employee.  Find ways to contribute, be low-maintenance, don’t broadcast your personal problems at work, participate positively in the team, be of good cheer, be easy to work with, do your job well, make a positive difference.  These are the things that get you promoted.

Your boss doesn’t listen?  Ensure that your speech is worth listening too.  Don’t offer half-baked ideas and idiotic suggestions revealing only that you fail to see the big picture (which a boss always views).  Have something to say that’s worth hearing.

To find a good boss, think like a boss.  See it from their perspective.  Look at the whole, not just your small part.

Manipulate your boss, positively.  Manage up.  Help them out, solve some problems, resolve some issues.  That’ll get you noticed, quickly!

Lastly, promote yourself above the average by your actions.   Don’t tell the boss, show the boss!  It’ll set you apart.

Bottom line:  Not having your interests at the forefront doesn’t make the boss bad, it makes them human (just like you).   Don’t wait for the Perfect Boss to materialise (s/he isn’t coming).  Start now, develop yourself, behave like the good boss that you’ve always wanted.  We’ll all benefit from that.

Duff Watkins is a former psychotherapist turned executive search consultant and career advisor.

He hosts the AmCham Business Podcast and is Director of ExecSearch International- Australia.



About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


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