According to a recent survey of 1,100 individuals by the Lasalle Network, 87% of respondents reported that they have had a bad boss. This means that bad supervisors do exist. Maybe you’ve heard the saying that people don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. This is also proven by the data from the survey above as just over 50% admitted to quitting because of one of these bad supervisors.
The bad news for you if you are a manager of people is that the people who report to you have more than likely experienced one of these bad supervisors during their career, and their tolerance for dealing with it again will probably be fairly low.
There is, however, good news in the data provided from this study. Roughly half of the respondents, when asked about the characteristics of bad bosses, cited one of two reasons for their determination.
- Taking credit for good work done
- Only noticing the negative and note recognizing the positive
When you think about those two items, it’s easy to see they are related. They are related to the way supervisors and managers interact with their employees and give feedback. It’s also fairly easy to see how you can take steps to avoid falling into the trap of becoming one of these managers.
How to avoid being a bad supervisor
If you are committed to not letting this label be attached to you, here’s an exercise I want you to practice for the next 3 weeks. Remember it takes about 21 days for something to become a habit. And good habits are what you are aiming for.
Tonight when you go home dig around in your loose change and find 5 pennies and set them aside to bring to work tomorrow. Tomorrow, I want you to start with the 5 pennies in one pocket (or one corner of your desk, or a paper cup). As you go through the day, be observant enough about the work your group is doing to find something specific to give feedback to an employee about. It can be as simple as noticing that someone showed up on time to a meeting. Believe me, in many organizations that is a feat worth mentioning. After you have given the feedback to that person, move a penny from one pocket to different pocket. Try to do this so that at the end of the day all the pennies have been moved from one pocket. You may not be able to do it the first day. That’s ok. It takes conscious effort. But after a couple of days, it gets much easier to notice five positive things and give the feedback to your people.
At the conclusion of the week, spend some time reflecting on all the good things you noticed during the week and talked to people about. Before you finish the week and go home for the weekend, write a short email to your boss and let her/him know about a couple of the things your group did that you think deserve some attention. What I’ve seen happen in this situation is the boss above you will send a note to the employee, or stop by their desk to let them know how much the behavior was appreciated. This tends to have a cumulative effect on the group as people start to talk about the good things being talked about rather than the bad.
Like most things in the work world, this activity is not hard. It just takes planning and action to follow it through. If you do this for a while you will almost guarantee you’ll not be labeled a bad supervisor by the people who report to you.