Let’s face it, not all bosses are great. Few are great. Many are adequate. Others are just a “train smash” (aka terrible)! Much of it comes down to leadership. If leaders stop leading, a problem won’t fix itself. From a great boss, I was taught there is a lot to be learned from a “train smash” type of boss…a lot about what not to do. In that, alone, are great lessons!
Nevertheless, here are 8 actions you want to avoid if you want to become a great boss:
Surprise a direct report in a performance review with criticism. It is called a performance “review” as the intent is to review performance that has already been discussed throughout the review period. If you are only meeting with your direct report regarding performance, when it’s time to write the review, this is inadequate. Give feedback as it unfolds allowing the employee to address concerns right away and when the feedback is fresh in both of your minds. This will not leave a good impression with your direct employee.
Gaslighting. Merriam Webster defines it “to attempt to make someone believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation)”. Wikipedia describes it in the workplace as “it is when people do things that cause colleagues to question themselves and their actions in a way that is detrimental to their careers. The employee may be excluded, made the subject of gossip, persistently discredited or questioned to destroy their confidence”. Gaslighting can be committed by anyone and can be especially detrimental when the perpetrator has a position of power.” Examples are: (1) Leaving the employee out of important emails or meetings “accidentally”, (2) Telling an employee the deadline for a project was changed and then when questioned about it later insist you never said it, (3) Strategizing to move someone else into a role by making the person in the role feel inadequate in their job performance, when that isn’t truly the case. If this has happened to you as direct report, you are not delusional. Consider consulting your employee assistance program to address such inappropriate, unwarranted behaviors.
Making Decisions Based What is “Heard” or “Thought” versus the Facts. Aldous Huxley, an English writer and philosopher, quoted “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored”. Facts will be evident. You are an inadequate leader when you do not do your homework. Those around you can see through it. Do everything necessary to be credible.
Ignoring The Perspective of a Direct Report I had an instance where a boss decided to revert back to an old strategy. When I inquired how that was going to be different than when we tried it before, his comment was “Oh, I didn’t realize we had done this before”. I showed him the minutes of the board meeting where the decision was reversed because it didn’t work and illustrated he was in attendance. He continued to say “Oh I didn’t realize …” but never answered my question. When you do the same thing in the same exact way, expecting a different result, that’s referred to as insanity. Active listening, coupled with a thoughtful response, is a key skill of a workplace leader.
Withholding Information that is Critical to the Success of the Organization. A lack of transparency can be deadly when it harms the organization or those who work within it. Clearly there are certain secrets that cannot be shared, for a period of time, due to the strategic nature of the information. However, giving leeway for the action to be addressed by offering employees a voice enables a healthy work environment. Ensure good, timely communication.
Pointing Out Criticism, with no Praiseworthy Recognition. “A broken clock is right at least twice a day”, is a phrase coined by Rev. Lance Watson, Sr. Pastor St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. A healthy balance of both sides of the coin are good for the employee and your relationship with him/her. Find something positive to share to supplement the area(s) of improvement.
Over-promising. To commit to an action without surety of the potential for action by those who need to do the work is a strategy for disaster. Adding to the plate of your team without their buy-in may leave your promise unfulfilled and your reputation damaged. Before making a commitment engage your team members.
Favoritism. Have you witnessed the boss giving the plum assignments to Becky all the time. Have you noticed she gets more visibility and airtime than the rest of the team. This behavior is evidencing the boss’s lack of leadership. The boss needs to spread the goodness around, particularly those that are visible. Where employees need development to be a front runner, help them get there. A good boss is able to lead all types of people and get more than one person on the team promoted.
Avoid these pitfalls so that your reputation isn’t easily tarnished and your future trajectory questionable. It takes just as much energy to be a great boss as it takes to be a “train smash” boss. Be the great one…there are not enough of them to go around!