I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the fundamentals of business leadership and the ways that executives can connect and engage with their employees, and I suspect that this won’t change anytime soon. However, I think it behooves any executive to think about the way their employees perceive them. After all, modern leadership is different in that it is a collaborative effort, one in which every employee has some modicum of power. Employees will no longer tolerate problematic bosses in the workplace, especially ones that attempt to micromanage or offer no guidance.
So, I’d like to take the time speak to employees and junior members of management, because for the good of any company, it’s important that bosses are evaluated fairly with the knowledge that they are by no means infallible. Turning a critical eye to a boss is also important when it comes to an employee deciding whether a company is worth staying at in the long term, and whether leaving would further one’s career.
Imagine your typical business meeting. How does your boss handle brainstorming and the generation of ideas? Is discussion open and free, or does your boss dominate any discussion that takes place?
Beyond this, pay attention to the dynamic of these meetings as well as the ultimate outcome. While a boss taking over any conversation to espouse their ideas is an obvious red flag, there’s more to it than that. A boss might appear to be listening to their team but end up ignoring all of their ideas in execution. Consider both the demeanor of your boss in meetings and whether or not they integrate team suggestions into plans. If a well-thought out collaboration between employees ultimately yields no results, it may be a sign that something is wrong.
The catch-22 of being a senior boss is that, in spite of any experience they might have, they can still develop blind spots when it comes to their company and employees. In fact, many high-ranking project managers often perform worse that their entry level counterparts due to the lack of feedback of any kind from their team members. If the boss’s opinion reigns supreme, then employees may be afraid to provide feedback and projects can suffer as a result. As it turns out, for all of the constructed criticism that bosses are expected to provide, they can often benefit from a healthy dose themselves.
If you’ve observed this type of behavior, expand your scope beyond meetings. While a micromanaging boss will often show their true colors in large group situations where they outrank all in attendance, other details of work life can make or break a leader’s performance. Take careful documentation when you do this; if you’re searching for patterns or are asked for proof of mismanagement further down the line, more evidence is best.
And, of course, ignoring team feedback is only one of the qualities that can make a bad boss. The opposite scenario can also be caused by a bad boss; if a manager fails to give any direction at all to their employees, then this too is cause for concern. This sort of behavior can vary from boss to boss, so it’s best to identify the ways that management concerns you before taking any sort of action.
The ideal business is run by individuals that respect the expertise of their bosses, but are unafraid to challenge their ideas. In a worst case scenario, this creates a workplace where the only individuals to be promoted are yes-men that don’t propagate original ideas and eventually work to actively suppress their subordinates. I’m a firm believer that one of the major tenets of leadership is to inspire others to lead as well, something that cannot be done if employees are molded to become extensions of a boss’s will instead of independent thinkers.
If, after reading this, you realize that you are an individual under the thumb of a domineering boss, there are multiple options available to you if you feel that they are actively hurting the progress of your company. We’ll be discussing ways for employees to make their voices heard in the workplace in our next blog.