Being a Better Boss

Traits of a Bad Boss

bossSurveys have indicated that most workers have had a bad boss. I have, haven’t you? They are slow to praise, but quick to point out errors. They spend most of their time in their office and leadership meeting. They are seldom seen wandering through the office and talking with the staff. A survey conducted by the Chicago based LaSalle network discovered that most people have had a bad boss.

The survey found that 84 percent of the respondents have worked for someone that they would characterize as a bad boss. It is interesting to note that we often hear that the reason some one decides to leave a company is for an increase in pay. The results of this survey reinforce the result of others, which indicates that 43 percent leave because of a bad boss. In fact, 59 percent of those leaving stated that they would stay if they could report to someone else.

The most common characteristic associated with bad bosses is they concentrate on finding the negative aspect of a staff member’s performance. They very rarely or never find reason to praise. Good management practice is the ratio between praise and criticism should be three to one. It takes three ”at a boys” to overcome one “oh shucks”. (Often oh shucks is replaced by a more colorful term)


Quint Studer

Quint Studer has developed a reputation for working with hospitals to improve patient satisfaction and organizational development. In his book, Hardwiring Excellence, he describes the elements that contribute to improving hospital performance.  Much of what he writes, not only applies to hospitals, but also to the motivation of people in any organization. As one example, he encourages supervisors, when making their rounds, to find something being done well and thank those involved. This lesson is contrary from what most of us do. We look too often for that which is wrong and let people know that it must be corrected. So on a daily basis, people are expecting their boss to find fault in what they do and after a while lose confidence and begin to become unmotivated.

Think of all the benefits from Studer’s approach:

  • Behaviors which are reinforced are more likely to continue. Behaviors which are ignored are more likely to diminish or stop.
  • Behaviors which need to be corrected are more likely to change in a positive environment with positive reinforcement.
  • Praise improves a person’s feeling of self-worth. That person is more likely to treat customers or clients well because they have been treated well.
  • People who are treated well are more likely to not go searching for another job or take unscheduled time from work.

Being a good boss provides an atmosphere which helps to maintain current talent and attract new talent.  Word gets around. In several of the alignment surveys we perform, one of the questions is; Would you recommend this as a place to work to a friend. Interesting question and interesting responses.

Most of us believe that we are good bosses. Many of us are, but we all can make improvements. Improvement can only come with identifying those behaviors which require change and pursuing a course of action that makes those changes a reality. Coaching can help identify those areas and help with those changes.


Adapted from a SHRM article written by Dana White Nov 2