Let’s Banish Bad Bosses

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

I’d like to pose a challenge.

Let’s reconsider promoting an individual to the position of managing others, if we even remotely suspect that they are not up to the task. On another level — please think twice about accepting the responsibility of becoming a manager if you feel at all unprepared.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an ancient and unwritten workplace law operating — telling us that when we reach a certain level of tenure or performance, we are automatically bestowed the responsibility of managing others. This may be exactly where the original problem lies; a complete lack of awareness concerning what is involved to manage others effectively. We need to consider these junctures more carefully, as we have more than our share of problems with managers already.

Let me talk you out of your decision, delay it, at least until you or the employee are adequately prepared for the challenge. A solid technical expert does not “a manager make” — and truthfully, there are only a handful of people who should be given the privilege of becoming a “boss”. Most of us require appropriate training or the benefit of a mentor to build this skill set.

It’s difficult to move forward without addressing this critical issue. Providing great bosses for our employees, is a formative step in building healthier, happier organizations. It is likely the single most important factor impacting employee engagement. However, its impact upon organizational performance may not be universally recognized. The true power of “excellence in managing others” is not be fully embraced. There are certainly great bosses in the workplace and we need to collectively learn more from them. Who are they? What are they doing?

There is no time like the present to attack this problem. Developing better managers may actually be less complicated than we might expect — but we have to make that all important commitment to explore this fully. We should consider addressing the managerial basics first: Showing concern for employees, building resiliency, serving as a “motivator” (money only takes us so far), providing direction and developing others.

But, above all, do no harm.

I am alarmed to learn what employees are facing with their own managers. The collected expressions of frustration and bewilderment, cause me to pause and consider a number of the raised questions concerning managers:

  • What are best practices for recognizing, developing and encouraging effective managers? (I propose a Department of Managerial Excellence.)
  • Who is ultimately responsible for a poor manager?
  • What recourse do employees have if their manager is ineffective?
  • What is the organization’s role to monitor and intervene, in response to poor management?
  • Are poor managers offered feedback concerning their lack of skills, as managers, so they might improve?

Have we been missing the boat, in terms of weaving the shared value of “management excellence” into the workplace? Have the economic times caused us to become forgetful of its importance? If so, what can we do to reverse the trend?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at LinkedIn.

6 thoughts on “Let’s Banish Bad Bosses

  1. I recently wrote a blog entry titled When You Have Time, Lead Your Team (http://tinyurl.com/motq47s) where I talk about how organizations are creating these challenging situations for leaders in supporting their teams and employees. Too often these days, being a leader and manager is an afterthought, and instead individual contributors are given the title of manager and it becomes detrimental to the team. Another article I re-blogged speaks to the difficulty of being a manager and compliments your article very well (http://tinyurl.com/motq47s). As always Dr. Gottschalk, you are spot on! Thanks so much for the excellent post!


  2. Great article Carla! I have been working toward this ideal for years! – and agree with every one of your suggestions. My expertise and experience in corporate change has told me there is no logic in the typical ‘promotion’ of a person that is exceptional at what they do, to management, where they are likely not to progress further with their original skill (and probable interest, which benefits the organization and the individual), but left to monitor and track others- too often completely unrelated to their exceptional skill, and without mentorship or guidance.

    All this likely results in a detriment to the individual’s growth, as well as mediocre (or worse) management for the organization.


  3. Good managers are usually born to be like that. Good managing skills are in their blood. A good manager is the one who has the talent to be a manager and that is more important than any technical ability.


  4. Well said. What a difference it makes when a team leader is part of the team. Trust and respect is a two way street, that leads to the destination of productivity! I am happy to read this.


  5. Let me predicate my statements by first saying that I have a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and that I graduated with honors. Now on to the task at hand. I have to agree with your statement that people should not be promoted purely on the basis of technical ability. Some of the worst bosses I have ever had were the ones with the highest technical credentials. The trouble is, they never had any training to be a manager so didn’t know the first thing about how to lead other people. I used to think it was their fault but after completing my degree I realized that for the most part these people were thrust (or aspired) into jobs they were not prepared to do. The often know nothing or next to nothing about employment law, they fake it in the position but feel defensive about not knowing what they are supposed to be doing and how to do it so they come off as arrogant and egotistical as a defense mechanism. Most of the bad bosses I have had were never mentored into the position or even assisted with it once they got there. When people get stuck into positions where their expectations of themselves are to perform without any help, the resent the fact that they need help and it comes out against the employees. I have worked several places where the owner’s kids took over the operations when the parent died. On all occasions the outcome was disastrous. The kids didn’t know how to treat employees, they didn’t know how to lead, and they had no idea how to run the business without daddy there to tell them what to do. One company even had two presidents because the brothers couldn’t agree who would have the final say. Imagine one coming by and telling you to do something. If you didn’t your job was at risk, that is the way the place worked. Then a little later the other guy came by and told you NOT to do the thing. Who do you listen to? Your job is now threatened from both of them and you dare not question either of them for fear of losing your job. They were grossly inadequate manages and leaders and I sniffed them out on the first day. Day two on the job I was back to job searching but it took almost a year to get out of that horrible situation. I left feeling terrible for the rest I left behind who didn’t have the education and opportunities to move on that I did. My last boss was the same way. He was hired to be the operations manager but it was obvious from day one he didn’t have the experience that was listed on his resume. He carried on relationships with subordinates, manufactured resumes to get friends in the door, and made the most ridiculously inappropriate changes to policy while the rest of the employees watched the company sink deeper into despair. There was no oversight for his performance and all of his superiors worked outside the state so there was little chance they would ever figure out how bad things were. I finally threw in the towel last fall and quit. I moved to another company where I am happy to report the management staff is first class. The owner is a real cheerleader for his team and so are all of his leadership staff. As a result everyone likes working there and supports the leaders in whatever initiatives they present. I don’t hate going to work every day and there are no jerks in the office – they wouldn’t be tolerated. The owner’s son has been mentored along in the leadership development process so when he eventually takes over I have no reservations that he will be every bit as effective as his father is. It is refreshing to work for a place that develops managers and does the right things. I wish everyone had the opportunity to work for a place like the one I work for now.


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