Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Listen up, lousy bosses... turns out you're the problem

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Most of us have experienced reporting to a bad boss in our lifetime. If you haven't yet, I'm sure you will as there is no shortage of these people in the working world.

I'm usually much more of an optimist than this statement indicates.

However, having stumbled across a few terrible bosses in my work life so far -- and listening to the odd one here and there in the work I do -- I know they are still out there.

I really don't think these "bad bosses" intend to be horrible. In many cases, I would say it is probably a lack of management training. In other situations, it is well-intentioned organizations who either promote people into a supervisory role before they are ready, or -- maybe worse -- the individuals lack the ability to be effective supervisors.

There are also people who know what they need to do to be a great boss, but get caught up in meetings, emails, phone calls, daily problems and so on and forget about the people they're leading.

Finally, there are those smart entrepreneurs who start up businesses but really need to find someone else to manage the people side of the organization. Just because you are a brilliant business person doesn't mean you make a great boss.

If you are starting to cringe because this is sounding like you, here are some signs you should watch for to confirm whether or not you are your employees' worst nightmare -- the horrible boss.

1. You scare people. Does it feel like people won't come and talk to you? Have you noticed none of your employees comes to you with ideas or suggestions, plus they avoid telling you about any problems that have arisen? Do people stop talking when you show up in the room and quickly disperse? Just because you're the boss doesn't mean you can command respect; you need to earn it. And stop scaring your people -- that's nothing to be proud of!

2. You are not included. Does it seem all the work gets done without your input, even when you should have a say in it? Do you find important decisions are made and people forget to ask you? Does it feel like you are not trusted? It may very well be your team thinks you are incompetent. As a solution, talk to your team, find out what's going on, or ask a trusted colleague for his or her insight.

3. You think you are surrounded by idiots. Are you regularly making comments about how stupid the people around you are? Do you find yourself doing everyone else's work because you don't trust them to do it? Does it seem you have to micro-manage everyone to ensure the job gets done? Congratulations -- you are an official control freak and your people will leave as soon as they can. Some supervisory coaching can help you with this affliction.

4. You are the eternal pessimist. Does the worst thing always happen to you? Do you think your competitors are out to get you and your people? Do you feel you need lots of rules in place to control your people because they can't be trusted? If you are the type of person where you think life happens to you rather than you controlling your life, then you will drive your team and your business to destruction. People want to work for someone who is confident, optimistic and successful -- wouldn't you?

5. You can't control your mood. Do people look frightened when they come to see you? Do people avoid telling you bad news? Does your team seem jumpy and insecure? Chances are they are walking on eggshells because they don't know when you are going to explode. If your mood is unpredictable from one hour to the next, you could be creating a volatile work environment that's unproductive and unhealthy.

6. You have wandering hands. Have you noticed people don't come to your office alone or don't work late if you are the only one around? Does your team member avoid accepting a ride home on a cold, rainy night? Do people flinch when you get too close and take a step back when you approach them? Well, you may have very well earned the "lech" title in your organization. The cure -- take some much needed respectful workplace (a.k.a. harassment) training.

7. You are only concerned about yourself. Do you take credit for your employees' work? Do you care only about your own career path and forget to ask your team about what they want to do? Do you feel threatened by one of your team members and make sure their talents aren't seen by others? This officially makes you a horrible leader. To be a great boss, you need to set aside your insecurities and focus on helping your people to become successful. You won't be successful for long without the help of your team.

8. You blame others. Do you point the finger at others when you make a mistake? Do you preplan what and who your scapegoat will be just in case something goes wrong? It's time to own up to your wrongdoings and be a better person.

9. You can't make a decision. Do your employees seem confused a lot? Do you lack focus? Do you contradict yourself by your actions? Does your team tell you they don't understand what they are supposed to do? There's nothing more irritating than the boss who can't make up his or her mind. OK, there is: a boss who changes his or her mind regularly. Set your vision, focus on the goals you need to attain and share this with your team -- you'll be surprised at the results.

10. You lose your cool. Do you yell at your team? Do you hurl insults at people? Do you lose your temper? Are you impatient, short and growl at people when they ask you a question? If so, then you too have earned the Bad Boss award.

If you recognized one or more of these signs in yourself, there's good news. While some of these character traits and behaviours may be more difficult to modify if you've been behaving this way for a long time, a lot of it can be cured with some basic supervisory/management skills training. The key is to take action now; procrastination is not a good friend and could result in a demotion to a position where supervisory qualifications are not required. Or worse, you could find yourself out of a job.

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice keader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 H1

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