Face it, we all know or have had bad bosses. It seems to be a given in the business world. It’s been true for decades.
With all the intelligence, studies, coaching, schools, and programs, why do some bosses still suck? I’m going to offer 5 reasons.
1. Promotion – Sadly, getting promoted can be the worst reason to make someone a boss. They might be the brightest bulb and the sharpest employee, but they likely will make a lousy boss. Why? No proven skill or capacity to manage. Without any preparation, businesses of all kinds throw good employees into the gap of management and disaster happens. The company doesn’t train or prepare the new guy/gal. The person is just tossed over the fence into the role.
Without knowing, they try to emulate some leadership practices they saw somewhere or heard on a podcast. Execution fails. The team suffers. This over-achiever dies on the vine in the management role.
2. Money – Entrepreneurs are the worst at this. Get a little funding and your idea can be born, right? But can you build and manage a team? Perhaps not. The arrogance that comes with pride of ownership clouds any skill at leading a team. Your commitment to your dream product, app, or service stands in the way of learning how to lead your team. And yes, you need a team to prosper. Very few solo-entrepreneurs go very far totally alone; there just aren’t enough hours in the day to scale and grow a business.
Absolute control of the purse strings/bank accounts sets this person up for bad decision making. While budget responsibility is important, if every thought this boss has is about the next dime, then the company and its people suffer. “Penny wise, pound foolish” is the old saying.
3. Fear – It’s amazing to me how many managers operate from a position of fear. It might be tied to #1 above, or being promoted beyond their known capacity to lead. BTW there is a leadership lid concept as eloquently explained by John Maxwell in his “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.
If you are elevated in your job beyond your natural, God-given capacity to lead, you will revert to a fight or flight mode. Every moment of decision gets rooted in fear. You lash out at those around you, even the loyal ones trying to support and defend your role.
4. Ego – Pompous idiots get placed into significant roles all the time. I still can’t explain exactly how that works; there are so many reasons. These guys get consumed by the power of the position. Knowing there is a predefined set of rules and authority bestowed in each position on the org chart, these guys use it first and foremost with no other effort to lead from other principles.
“My way or the highway” is their mantra. No amount of training seems to help. “You can lead a horse to water, but some really are jackasses.”
5. Morally Corrupt – Bosses with no moral compass may be the worst kind. The news is littered with reports of sexual abuse, sexist hiring and promotion practices, anger management, bribes, and other bad acts by business managers and owners. Sadly, the boss with a dark heart may be like dancing with the devil. Every day you work for this clown is a living hell.
When you find yourself working for any of these guys, you have two basic and simple choices. First, you can choose to endure, take the money you’re being paid, build whatever reserve you want (assuming the money IS good). Then wait it out a while before leaving.
Or, you can get started on making a move now, no, run fast!
Unfortunately, my experience and history tell me that bosses operating from one of these five angles will never really change. Companies spend millions of dollars on coaching to turn this around. Sometimes it works, often for only a little while. As soon as the goose of a boss decides the company spotlight on them has been turned off, they likely revert back to their bad practices (leopards and spots if you please).
In the end, I believe that effective management requires the application of leadership principles. YES, the two are different, but so few understand that. A leader will have the heart to inspire and influence their people (in a good way). The five sources of a bad boss won’t be a factor for the person who genuinely wants to be a better leader.
The young manager who gets promoted into the role will seek coaching and mentoring to fix their weaknesses and highlight their strengths.
The entrepreneur will be objective while looking in the mirror and know they need others to fill in their gaps. They will seek counsel for key decisions, surrounding themselves with people of stronger skill sets for the areas needed to make the company grow.
The person prone to ego attacks will figure out ways to keep that in check, whether through the use of accountability partners, friends, and a personal board of directors (different from the corporate board).
One Last Thought
If you’ve stayed with me to the end here, you likely are NOT one of the bad bosses. The bad guys left this piece in the delete file a long time ago. That’s another attribute of bad bosses; they cannot hear the truth.
In the unlikely possibility that you are a bad boss and read this through, thank you. You might have just taken the first step to making a difference. I didn’t write this to be mean to you guys. I did it for your team who has suffered long enough. Wake up, fix it. You can do that if you want to.
About the Author: Doug Thorpe is a long-time banker and executive coach. Visit his blog at dougthorpe.com or see his book “The Uncommon Commodity: The Common Sense Guide for New Managers”