Bad Bosses – why do they still exist?
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Recently, there have been many headlines, and in-depth reports, as to how the pandemic will mean managers will need to step up. Really? Just because of the pandemic?
How about at all times?
I am always astounded whenever I hear of bad management, bad communication efforts, bad email form, or simply bad behaviour from business leaders. In this day and age, when at every turn we are privy to an array of material on how to be a great leader, what constitutes good management practice, how to better ourselves in upper management, or the thousands of courses on email writing, leadership, conflict management etc., and that is on LinkedIn alone, I simply cannot understand how anyone cannot know what bad management means, or how to rectify it. Yet, the horror stories of simply incredibly, mind-blowingly awful, and even downright destructive management continue to occur. And that is also on LinkedIn alone!
I am more than well-versed in bad management practices, having witnessed them firsthand, up close and personal. I was at the top of the magazine game in the early 2000s, and let’s just say, The Devil Wears Prada was not a movie script, but more of a daily reality for some. I have seen bad bosses at their zenith. In the often, cruel world of fashion magazines in the noughties, awful - actually appalling - management practices were frequently overlooked, and even allowed to continue with no retribution or comeuppance for the perpetrator. But that was early 2000 (and, there was no excuse for it then!). Surely, 20 years later, we are better educated, better informed, and simply better people?
But it seems if the stories I have read are to be believed, many of us are not.
I take great pride in being a fair, measured and just leader. You are only as good as your team is not a mantra, it is a fact and I have been brought up (thank you mum and dad, and some fabulous, former bosses) to treat everyone as equal, whether I am the boss or not. Actually, because I am the boss.
Post pandemic, we will experience an uprise in forms of post-traumatic stress, as isolation, unemployment and uncertainty take their toll. You don’t need to be a forecaster to understand that this will lead to burgeoning levels of distress and precarious mental health, and that the workplace will be extremely affected, given that we spend an exceedingly large portion - an estimated one third of our life - at our jobs. Leaders will need to become caregivers in an extended sense, and the focus on emotional intelligence will continue to rise. Kindness will be the number one KPI, and empathy the new rule of thumb. These skills will become must-haves. If you ask me, they always were - or should have been - pandemic or not!
And yet, still we fail.
Being a great leader is many things – but for brevity’s sake let’s start with two of the basics.
Feedback and Respect.
Feedback is mandatory in my books, not a dismissive “Do it again”. The extreme arrogance of this leaves me speechless. If you are a manager, your job is to offer input to further a skill base. Your job is to give feedback, to point out, preferably constructively, their failings and help your team improve. Your job is to take care of your team. That is the sum total of your job, by the way. You should know the brief, the deadline and what is needed to fulfil it. Your team should never have to guess. You, my friend, are getting paid the big bucks for a reason, and that reason better be because you care.
If you are the end decider, the final, if the buck stops with you, then you need to guide your team. That is what you are there for - that is actually your role. You need to be specific; you need to be informed, and you need to offer constructive feedback, and input as to what it is they should be aiming for. How can they guess what you want, if you don’t take the time to tell them?
I have heard tales of bosses sitting in meetings, scrolling through their phones only to look up and offer a dismissive, “I hate it”, when shown something from a team member. How can such petty behaviour, such small-mindedness, be allowed to exist in a professional sphere? Who do people like that think they are? And more importantly, what do they think that gains: for them, the team, or the company they are supposedly working for (and let me give you a tip, the clue is in the word working)?
“I hate it”, does not cut it. “This is not working for me, because…” is different. Yes, you can ask a team member to do something over, but remember if you have not briefed in properly from the beginning it is your fault. Not theirs. How can anyone understand what is needed, if you have not given a clear brief, or taken the time to understand what the brief was, and what has or has not been met? And, if you have given a clear and detailed brief, and it has not been followed or met, then you need to explain why. Constructively.
But, if you have changed your mind, or the company changed its direction - own that. Take the fault, and explain: “I am sorry, I need something different now, it is not your fault, and we can rework what we have, but….”
I remember a former boss telling me never to say sorry, as it is a form of weakness. And, I remember distinctly telling them in no uncertain terms: Where I come from it is a sign of strength.
The best way to earn respect, is by treating others with respect.