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THE BAD BOSS: Causes and Solutions

What should you do when you realize your boss is standing in the way of your professional happiness? While the summer blockbuster “Horrible Bosses” subtly (or not so subtly) suggests that offing their bosses (described as a psycho, a man-eater, and a tool, respectively) might be an appropriate resolution, the truth is that “bad” bosses might simply have never learned how to be effective supervisors. Having weak, ineffective managers in the workplace will have damaging effects on employees and the company as a whole. Indeed, poor and ineffective management leads to low morale, reduced productivity, high turnover, and generally unhappy professional experiences, among other things. So, how can you tell if your boss is an ineffective manager who may simply have missed the boat when it came to learning basic supervisory and management skills? Or, how do you know if you are personally lacking in some essential management skills? And what could be done to fix this problem?

Here are several types of management style that might suggest ineffectiveness and lack of basic supervisory skills training:

  1. The Goal-Shifter. Goals and priorities constantly shift, thereby causing much confusion amongst direct reports and subordinates. When goals and priorities change faster than a supermodel at Fashion Week, this may suggest that a manager does not have the ability to plan properly or forecast in an effective manner.
  2. The Micromanager. A “micromanager” has trouble delegating tasks and frequently looks over a direct report’s shoulder to ensure that a project is completed in a precise way or insists on being looped into every single little task. This often suggests that the manager has not taken the time to mentor his or her direct reports, thereby creating trust that the task or project will be done in a proper manner.
  3. The In-The-Clouds Manager. Opposite of the “micromanager” is the “bird’s eye view thinker” or “in the clouds manager” who is, in easiest terms, a very poor communicator. He or she frequently steers clear of details and operates on the periphery. This, in turn, keeps goals imprecise and ambiguous and does not lend to success for any team member.
  4. The Mood Swing Manager. Moods are unpredictable and employees walk on eggshells wondering if today is a “good” day or “bad” day. One day, the supervisor may act like a close friend and confidante, while giving the cold shoulder the next day.
  5. The Saboteur. This type of manager typically undermines the efforts of others and rarely recognizes others for a job well done. He or she often takes credit for others’ ideas and refuses to accept responsibility in the event something on his or her watch goes awry, often blaming someone else entirely.
  6. The Michael Scott Manager. This manager is usually oblivious to all that is appropriate in the workplace. He usually makes stupid comments, is woefully tactless, wants desperately to be accepted, thinks he is everyone’s buddy, and self-proclaims himself as “the world’s best boss.”

Clearly, not all managers are born with the skills necessary to be effective in the business world. However, there are ways to help the above-type managers make adjustments that will improve their overall supervisory style and chances for success, while also boosting their team’s morale. While there are endless ways to help a manager improve his or her supervisory skills, we’ve narrowed it down to eight key points below:

  1. Know and Understand Yourself. Knowing your personality will allow you to recognize what you are and are not willing to do to improve your effectiveness as a manager. If you are keenly self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses, then you are already on the way to recognizing and understanding the areas on which you need to work.
  2. Know and Understand Your Team. Getting to know your team is crucial. We are not suggesting “friending” each team member on Facebook, but instead focus on building strong professional relationships that are directly reflective of your own interpersonal communication skills. The ability to recognize what your team members like or dislike about their jobs may help you improve their overall job experience and bring out the best in each employee.
  3. One Common Goal. One technique that a truly effective manager will employ is commitment to building a team that functions in unison to reach their goal(s). Recognizing that each individual team member brings different strengths to the table and understanding how to best leverage those strengths is key. Effective managers listen carefully and respectfully to team members, contribute ideas, take pride in the organization and support their team members’ efforts in every way possible.
  4. Understanding What Motivates Team Members. If you know what pushes your team members to be the best, then you can leverage those desires to achieve the best possible results. For example, if a team member is motivated by money, set specific and objective goals as part of his or her bonus structure.
  5. Treat All Team Members Fairly and Equally. In other words, do not play favorites. Playing favorites is immature and you will lose credibility and respect in the workplace.
  6. Delegate Effectively. This is not easy for most managers (I’ll be the first to admit, this includes myself!), who want to do what they can do well. Many managers tend to be more comfortable doing the dirty work rather than delegate because they were competent at their jobs before they became management and know they can accomplish a given task or project. An effective manager sees that he or she has qualified team members, delegates with clarity to ensure understanding, and follows up with regular progress reports, to make sure the intended results are achieved. Effective delegation drives efficiency and is an invaluable tool for upgrading the skills of employees.
  7. Move On. The truth is that occasionally, we will fail. Effective managers admit defeat when necessary and move on. They look to the future and waste no time regretting or rationalizing certain decisions or actions. While it is important to remember that mistakes create learning opportunities, there is no sense agonizing over them.
  8. Re-Evaluate Your Management Style Periodically. An effective manager is aware of their own personal development. Keep in mind that your team and the company’s vision may change and develop over time and you should be able to adapt to those changes – recognize that what worked last year may not work this year. In order to successfully develop and lead others, managers must seek improvement in themselves. Any manager who is open to improvement and using their natural talents to the best of their ability will be able to encourage the same behavior in employees and ensure the success of your team and company