What Bosses Must Understand
lovely • onManagement 12 years ago • 6 min read

So, did you find out what type of boss you are and what type of boss you have at your workplace? Last week, I had focussed on types of bosses and how bosses can hope to be the best what their subordinates can ask for. As I said, everyone can’t be Jack Welch or Iacocca. But everyone can be a good boss.

That brings us to the question, what makes a good boss. Here, remember that no one can be called a good boss by all subordinates. There are always two kinds of people. If you are a boss, you need to make sure to have most of your people with you.

Also, remember that no boss, especially if he happens to be very young, is easily respected. If you’re promoted to be a supervisor or a manager, suddenly you are not viewed the way you used to be. You are now a person from the other side. One does not have to be disappointed by this. That is the way things work at a workplace.

Many new leaders are inheriting the bad feelings created by their predecessors and other less-than-competent bosses in the organisation. These pioneers have a chance to repair these attitudes and change the preconceived idea that all bosses are bad – but it needs to be done quickly while the person is new to his or her leadership role.

So what do managers need to know as they embark upon his or her new job? Let me do some plain talk here.

If you have been made a boss, you’re not really your colleagues’ friend anymore. In fact, many workers do not want to be promoted to a supervisor’s post, because they tend to miss the freedom that they used to enjoy with their friends. They also miss the coffee machine gossip, which could now be turned against them.

This is uncomfortable because suddenly, if you are a boss, you can’t ignore a teammate’s weaknesses or poor performance, and harder still, many bosses are responsible for employees’ pay hikes, promotions etc. The new manager has to hold his or her former peers accountable – and treat the whole team equally, friend or not.

Remember also, when you become boss, your team actually compares you to prime-time boss caricatures such as Scott Adam’s pointy-haired boss. New bosses need to be effective from day one to prevent being ‘Dilberted’. Once you’ve been tagged as the pointy-haired boss, it takes a lot of time and effort to recover respect.

Suddenly, you realise that employees are wasting time. Nearly one-third of all employees spend at least 20 hours a month lamenting about the boss, which adds up to a lot of negative energy. It is best addressed head-on after identifying, if it is truly a leadership issue or the rantings of problem employees. Experienced managers know that poor performers often complain the most. Still, it raises real concerns from other team members about the skills and behaviours of the boss.

You’ve got to know that employees will accept change, if they’re consulted first. In a recent survey, majority of workers responded that the most important thing a new boss can do is ask them what they think should be different. If change creates stress, a new boss can foster a fear of the unknown in employees.

In fact, 60 per cent of employees said the most respectable quality in a boss was their ability to help them succeed. Effective leaders relinquish the spotlight and put others there instead. It is a stressful transition, going from being judged on your own accomplishments to those of your team, and leaders have to help employees shine by putting their success ahead of his or her own.

Sometimes, you may feel that your team doesn’t share your goals. A great disconnect between a boss and his/her team is in their priorities. Many bosses put the bottomline on the top of their priority list, while employees rank it as the least of their worries.

A leader has to connect everyone’s priorities and help individuals understand their contribution to organisational goals. At the same time, they have to listen to what is important to employees as well.

Don’t worry about having employees who don’t like you – they’ll just leave. There is no honeymoon period for new bosses. Workers won’t stick around once they realise they have a bad boss, with nearly half finding the door within six months. So if you can’t improve yourself, just accept the fact that some people are bound to leave anyway.

If you are a direct supervisor or manager, you may think that you are probably the cause of most of your subordinates’ problems at work. Far from it. If you’re a supervisor who feels unfairly blamed for bad morale, you may well be right. Truly bad bosses are relatively few.

Praise is important, but it can’t serve as a substitute for money in motivating employees. Employees’ basic needs can’t be substituted for one another. A ‘thank you’ from the boss can’t take the place of money, and money can’t substitute for praise. I have heard many persons remark, ‘who wants verbal appreciation, all I want is money’.

There is a misconception that when employees complain about their pay, they’re usually unhappy about something else. Complaints about pay are almost always about pay, not about anything else. The research reveals a strong correlation between people’s pay and how well they perceive themselves to be paid. Workers know when they are working for an employer who pays well and when they aren’t.

Profit-sharing is not a major motivator of employee performance. For people in many types of work at the average big company, an overall corporate profit-sharing programme doesn’t lead to noticeable increases in productivity.

Employees understand the large difference between their own pay and that of senior management, and they don’t object to it. Employees get upset about the large difference between their earnings and top-executive pay only when a company that is doing poorly demands wage concessions and job cuts from the rank and file while leaving senior management’s compensation untouched. At enterprises that are thriving, and where employees perceive that they are sharing in the company’s prosperity, there are likely to be far fewer gripes about hefty salaries at the top.

It is not true that most employees resist change. Employees resist change they see as harmful to themselves or to their organisations, such as speeding up the pace, which hurts work quality. However, most people gladly welcome changes they view as helpful.

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