Bosses, sadly are frequently not good managers. Bosses are also seldom leaders. All too frequently bosses are simply a notch on the organization chart that shows the number of people subordinate to them in the company. This inability to step up to the role of manager creates enormous problems for the companies that employ these bosses. A recent study by the American Psychological Association reported that 75% of American workers identify their boss as the worst and most stressful part of their job. Over the years I have met a number of people who consider themselves a boss who would be pleased with that finding.
The worst advice someone can give a new manager is “the first thing you have to do is show them who’s boss”. Employees understand structure and who reports to who. It’s not a mystery. Thus, it is unnecessary to show them who’s boss – they know. What employees also know is the difference between a manager or leader and a boss. There are a lot of ways to demonstrate this difference and in my book “Theory You” I make the distinction that a boss lowers the bar and a manager raises the bar. What I mean by this is a manager works to help people become better and perform better which ultimately means the company performs better. Bosses do not work to make people better and thus the company suffers.
The company suffers most from the bosses in the loss of good people. The same American Psychological Association study indicated that 60% of American workers would take a new boss over a pay raise. This position occurs at a time when we are seeing the gap between top income earners and average income earners increase. Put another way most workers do not feel they are either fairly compensated or over compensated and thus their reaction to prefer a new boss over more compensation is a very strong indicator of the effect the bosses have on workers and their commitment to the company. The bosses interfere and damage that commitment.
The study also stated that 27% of workers in these stressful positions quit as soon as they find a new job. There is no indication that the new job is an improvement or career enhancement. It appears to be an escape from the dreaded bosses.
The real impact of the bosses is revealed by the finding that 11% quit without securing a new job! Our economy is not at the best position in terms of job availability and 11% are still willing to leave a job to escape the stress of bosses.
Workers lose because they leave jobs or take less fulfilling or career promoting jobs. The company loses because good people leave the organization. In many cases the people who leave have received valuable training that cost the company a great deal of money. And there is no way of quantifying the emotional impact on the rest of the organization when they see 38% of people leave for either a lateral job or no job.
Good companies need to do three things that can help eliminate the bosses in their organization. First, try to promote people who will lead and manage by example. The bosses “lead” by instilling fear; good managers lead by setting the right example. Second, companies need to train their managers better. They should have a company point of view on management and train all managers with that point of view. Third, companies need to monitor the managers they promote to assess their management ability. Making quota or making objective is not enough of a criteria. Companies should look to see retention rates under all managers and also the growth of employees under managers.
Good managers are trusted by those reporting to them; good managers are good coaches and help develop people to achieve their potential; good managers lead by example – “do as I do”; and good managers treat others with respect. Good companies should look for these traits when they promote managers, and assess these traits when evaluating the performance of managers.