How to avoid the traps that lead to being a bad boss

Richard Branson once said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” But what happens when the people taking care of your employees, your bosses, aren’t getting it right?

How to avoid the traps that lead to being a bad boss

When they take on what we call ‘bad boss’ traits? What impact will this have on your clients and on your business?

The simple answer is a massive impact, as having a bad boss has been proven to negatively affect productivity, profit, customer service, engagement and retention, to name a few. So what can you do about it? What can you and your bosses do to avoid the traps that lead to being a bad boss? 

Accept that we all have bad boss traits

The starting point is acceptance, not falling into the trap of denial. Bosses need to accept that there are bad boss traits in all of us, not just the few. Even people who are generally considered a good boss can have them. We need to understand and embrace them so that we can accept those that apply to us instead of denying that they exist. 

Start by thinking, “Is this me?” instead of putting up your defences and thinking, “Nah, it couldn’t possibly be me.” Think of it as an opportunity and not a punishment. Embrace and don’t ignore these bad boss traits, for that will take you one step closer to being a great boss. 

Understand the needs of each of your people

The next trap we fall into is thinking that our employees want the same things from their boss. If all our people were the same, life would be easy, and being a great boss would be simple. We’d have one set of instructions to learn and use them over and over again with our people. 

But that’s not how it is. Your people all want and need different things from you, and for this reason, you need to understand and adapt so that you can be a great boss to each and every one of them, whatever that looks like. Talk to your people and encourage them to open up to you about what makes you a great boss and where there are opportunities for you to improve.

Develop the ‘right’ skills to be a great boss

One of the reasons we all have bad boss traits is because the role keeps changing, making it harder and harder to be a great boss. Just look around you, the workplace, your workforce, and the business world in general is in a constant state of change. Add it all up, and the skills required to be a great boss now are drastically different to those that were required in the past.

This leads us to our next trap, which is thinking that your current skills are the right ones to help you overcome your bad boss traits. Too often, bosses are trying to be a great boss using bad boss techniques and approaches instead of equipping themselves with a new set of skills. 

In our book, we address this through the Great Boss Building Block Model™, which highlights the 14 skills or building blocks required to be a great boss. Whether you use this model or another, the key to overcoming this trap is to take a step back, assess your current skills and find new skills and tools to help you develop and improve.

Put in the time to be great

Let’s face it, a boss’s job is not easy. You’re pulled in multiple directions and often have competing demands. For this reason, one of the most common traps bosses fall into that causes them to adopt bad boss traits is time, more specifically, the feeling that there isn’t enough time to act in any other way.

An example is the Micromanager boss, one of the 10 types of bad bosses we highlight in our book. This kind of boss falls into the time trap as they believe that they don’t have the time to teach or explain things to their people, so manage them at every turn and step or “just do it myself.” In reality, this actually ends up increasing their time demands as their people rely so heavily on them, not being able to do things on their own and being a bottleneck to their people and the business. To avoid this trap, bosses such as Micromanagers need to challenge themselves to weigh the pros and cons of their actions. Remind themselves that in the short term it may take a bit more time to release the controls (or change other bad habits), but in the not-so-distant future it will help them reap the benefits of more time.

Debra & Ken Corey
Debra & Ken Corey

Share via
Copy link