Last Month’s 3 Key Points
1. A BEST BOSS EVER, recognizes polarities. It’s easy to get sucked into seeing problems because they are everywhere. Noticing a polarity is different. Problems have solutions and polarities don’t; they must be managed. There are two poles to a polarity. Both have upsides and downsides. Some people believe you can’t maximize profits and increase revenues at the same time. Opposite ends of the polarity seem to be opposed; they complement each other. Neither is sufficient on their own.
2. Excellent leaders resist the urge to fall in love with one pole. Exceptional leaders will notice which way they ‘lean’ (their preference). If you lean toward one pole, it is important to become aware and adjust your mindset. When you judge other people who are defending one end of the polarity, you create defensiveness and push the ‘either/or’ agenda. Extraordinary leaders will create environments that engage people in a positive exchange of ideas such that a meaningful discussion about the polarity occurs.
3. Effective leaders lead their team to manage polarities. Extraordinary leaders also provide wonderful examples how to manage polarities to gain benefits from both poles. They develop their team to do the same. If you allow yourself and your team to think in a binary way – ‘it’s either this or that,’ you will choose one side of the polarity, and at some point, will experience the downside of the pole you chose. Managing the polarity means working the two poles at the same time with “dynamic tension” and not let either pole win to the exclusion of the other pole. It is your responsibility to develop your team to become excellent identifiers of polarities and good debaters of the pluses and minuses of each pole.
“Polarities to manage are sets of opposites which can’t function well independently. Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a “solution” and neglect the other.”
Barry Johnson PhD.
This month, I am focusing on how bad leaders affect us and the culture we work in. My purpose in life is to reduce the amount of suffering from bad bosses. What type of bad bosses have you experienced? Is your bad boss a poor motivator, a selfish person, a micromanager, a yeller, a terrible communicator, etc.? There are many different variations of a bad boss. One client of mine described the bad boss as an A-hole and he meant it. It’s not enough to know when you have a bad boss but what do you do is the $60,000 question – I’ll give you a few options that could be helpful in your situation. Leading up or leading a bad boss may be the hardest leadership responsibility that exists!
Point # 1 – The Real Cost of Bad Bosses
Most people would agree that more people leave their bosses than their companies or at least the impetus for looking for another job came from their boss not the company. There are many companies with bad cultures, but we learn to deal with them, but a bad boss can drive us emotionally crazy.
One study showed that bad bosses cost the economy $360 Billion in lost productivity. I don’t know how they estimated this but when you add low productivity, inferior quality, stress-related health expenses, productivity losses and the costs associated with employee turnover rates, it adds up quickly. Suffice it to say bad leadership and it’s corollary – disengaged employees, affects most of us.
Another story in Inc. magazine reported “three out of four employees reported that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.” The worst part of these statistics is that they are ten years old. The great resignation was building silent momentum before the pandemic hit and from my perspective, people finally hit the “I QUIT” button (after they saw how little their manager cared about them during the crisis).
“75% of working adults say the worst aspect of their job – the most stressful aspect of their job – is there immediate boss. Bad managers create enormous health cost and are a major source of misery for many people.”
Robert Hogan – psychologist
Point # 2 – Good Bosses Improve Engagement & Reduce Turnover
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO wrote: “to predict an employee’s engagement, the single most important question you can ask is, “Does your manager care about your development?” When and if you nail that one, it fixes compensation, benefits, and work-life balance and misery magically disappears.”
The human equation is simple. You work because you have to, and you have emotional and mental needs that are fulfilled when you work. You are relational and want to be trusted & respected. When a bad boss keeps you from those needs because they are a bully or micromanager or poor communicator or saboteur, you become emotionally unhealthy, and you disengage.
We need more extraordinary leaders! The best investment for employee engagement, continuous improvement, increasing productivity and quality is to invest in meaningful and rigorous leadership development. Research into leadership competencies and leadership effectiveness at Zenger Folkman proves the better the leader, the more engaged the staff is. “You can see a straight-line correlation between levels of employee engagement and our measure of the overall effectiveness of their supervisors (as judged not just by the employees themselves but by their bosses, colleagues, and other associates on 360 assessments).” Quote from Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman. To be able to inspire and motivate others to high performance and drive results, you need strong leadership skills. It is a learned behavior to lead others at a high level.
“There’s a strong correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue… effective leaders led to satisfied employees, which led to satisfied customers, which led to a direct and measurable increase in sales revenue.”
Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman
Point # 3 – What to Do If You Have a Bad Boss
First option is to tolerate it. I dislike this option, but I think before the great resignation, it’s what many of us did. However, you may be like me. When I was tolerating it, I also talked about it to peers so that I could keep my sanity – this is not good for you or the company. Keep the gossiping and backstabbing at a minimum or choose another option.
The second option is to confront the boss and let them know how it feels to be you and which of their behaviors are associated with you feeling this way. This positive confrontation/courageous confrontation is a better option but may not have a lasting effect, and most people will not do it because of the perceived risk.
The third option is to tell someone about it. You could go over their head and tell the bad boss’s boss or tell HR. Both are legitimate options, and both have risks. Depending on your organization one or both may not be an option. You should document as many of the facts and details that are occurring before you do this.
The fourth option is to leave. The easiest option to do but if you like everything about your job and company, why let a bad boss run you out of ‘town’ so to speak? Updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, as well as stepping up your networking are critical first steps before you send your resignation letter.
Lastly, you could start by taking a hard look at yourself. Ask yourself the question: “what must they be thinking such that their behavior makes sense to them?” and “how does my behavior support or encourage their bad behavior?” In other words, try changing yourself and some of your behaviors to see if you can influence some of their behaviors. There is much to learn from bad situations and bad bosses can lead us to some powerful insights of what not to do as a leader…
“Absolutely you and I are part of the problem!” according to Lynn Taylor a workplace expert “it takes two to tango. So, if you’re defensive, if you’re not communicating with the boss, if you take things personally, you’re only making a bad situation worse.”
Three Reflection Questions
1. What can I learn from the bad bosses around me?
2. What could I attempt to do to change the way I work with my boss that might have an effect on their bad behavior?
3. How can I improve my leadership effectiveness so that my team sees me as their Best Boss Ever?
Three Things to Read to Go Deeper
1. “Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees” Harvard Business Review by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman
2. The No Asshole Rule – Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton, PhD
3. Good Boss, Bad Boss – How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst by Robert I. Sutton, PhD