Good Boss, Bad Boss

What makes a good boss?

Julian Birkinshaw wanted to know.

After pondering the question for a while, he came to the conclusion that the best way to find out was to ask some employees.  They are the people most capable of defining what a good or bad boss looks like — we have all worked for a nightmare or two.  The employees he asked were surprisingly close in their views.  There wasn’t too much to argue about.

The characteristics of a good boss

1. Direction

A good boss is very clear about where he is going and what he would like done.  That direction is perfectly reasonable and makes good business sense.  He provides a simple consistent message and rarely changes his mind.  If he does, he is always able to give a very good reason why.

2. Space

A good boss gives you more than enough rope to hang yourself.  He is happy to let his staff work out how they are going to address problems themselves.  He knows that people need to feel that they are in charge of their own destiny, with their own space to operate in.

3. Support

A good boss backs his staff.  He finds them the resources they need to get the job done and provides advice, guidance and, heaven forbid that they need it, air cover.

4. Praise

A little acknowledgement and praise go a long way.  So does the odd bit of constructive criticism.  Tell me it isn’t so.

The flip side

Professor Birkinshaw’s list is hard to disagree with.  But I thought I would cross check it.  If his list is correct then the reverse should also be true.  The list should define a bad boss as well.

1. Direction Confusion

A bad boss changes priorities rapidly and without warning.  There is no sense of consistency.  Nor does there seem to be any rhyme or reason to the direction, other than a lingering doubt that his priorities are only for personal gain.

2. Space Control

A bad boss loves a healthy dose of micromanagement.  He will repeatedly ask for plans and up to the minute reports.  He will even rewrite your PowerPoint for you.  He trusts you so little that he insists you are on a status call at 8am every morning.

3. Support Hindrance

A bad boss manages up, not down, and leaves you in no doubt that he would throw you under a bus at the slightest opportunity.  He rarely provides any help.  He moves resources away from the things he has asked you to do, though still demands delivery in half the time.  On the rare occasions he finds time to talk to you, it is never to find out what you think.

4. Praise Criticism

He ignores you in the corridor and has nothing to say that isn’t critical.  He will, however, tell you exactly what he thinks of your colleagues behind their backs.  (What on earth is he saying about you?)

Good boss or bad boss?

The characteristics cut both ways perfectly. I am struggling to find a pet hate that doesn’t fit.

How do you measure up?  Good boss or bad boss?  Which are you?

You can never do enough for a good guvnor ~ anon

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Image by Alvaro Tapia

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