Don't Be a Bad Boss

Over the years, based on the emails that clog my in box, I have apparently signed up for an enormous number of updates, tips, and newsletters. Among those is one from Harvard Business Review titled “Management Tip of the Day”. I have no idea how I wound up on their list.

Mind you, I like to think of myself as a big fan of the magazine. However, I’m really more of a “pretend” big fan. That is, there are some fantastic articles. But they are all really lo-o-o-ong. And, no matter how hard I try, I seem to have trouble getting all the way through them. I have subscribed to the magazine once or twice and picked it up at the airport a number of times. I love what I see, there are fascinating topics, the beginnings of the articles are packed with information…and I never finish any of them. Every copy of the magazine I have ever owned has ended its sad and lonely life in the “to be read” pile. No insult to the magazine; just a very telling story about how some people’s attention spans get challenged so easily.
 
And maybe that’s how I got on the mailing list. Maybe I thought I could actually finish something short and pithy.
 
But, on the mailing list I am. And last week I received one with the subject line: “Management Tip of the Day: Don’t be a Bad Boss.”
 
I fell backwards off my chair with the profundity. I slapped my forehead. Why had I never thought of that? I ran down the office halls shouting. “I’ve got it. I have the solution to all our problems!!!”
 
Okay, I did none of those. But I did chuckle in a self-important way knowing, well before opening the email, being a bad boss was, indeed, a bad thing.
 
And, upon opening the email, I swallowed my ego as I realized there was some decent material here, as well as a good reminder.
 
First, the decent material: The focus of the piece was not on those bosses who yell at people or take credit for other’s work or sit at their desk eating eraser shavings. (Yes, I worked for one of those). No, this piece described some of the subtler points of being a bad boss.
 
The email described three infractions of the bad boss: failing to inspire, not taking action on poor performance, and refusing to set direction. I have worked for bosses who exhibited the first and the last. And, unfortunately, I can point back to times when I was the cause of the middle one. (I admit this with bowed head and a large dose of chagrin.)
 
The actual blog post is pretty decent also, based on research showing what people really think makes a bad boss. It was a bit of a gut check for me. Yes, I’ve worked for people who exhibited many of these traits and, as I think about it, they are indeed why I conceived of those individuals as “bad” bosses. But I also see the times I exhibited these behaviors. Apparently I was able to overcome them because, at least to my face, people seem to appreciate working for me. (And ignore any replies to this blog from prior employees who beg to differ.)
 
That was the decent material. But I also mentioned the piece contained a good reminder. Unfortunately, we’re running out of time, space, pixels, or whatever limits exist to keep blog posts from going on forever. So you’ll need to come back in the next couple of days to see what that reminder is. 
 
And I’ll end this first part with a question…would a good boss actually read all those Harvard Business Review magazines? 

Posted on Dec 9, 2012 by Mike Jacka

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