Bad bosses. Almost everyone has had at least one in their working career. You do not want to be the bad boss in your work environment, the one who causes good employees to cringe when you enter the room. Or worse yet, you do not want to be the one who causes good people to leave the company. You want to be the type of manager that employees are willing to go the extra mile for. You want to be the Good Boss who nurtures and inspires your team, giving them the confidence to do their jobs well. You want to provide guidance and motivation, while showing integrity and modelling the behaviors you want to see in your team. You want to be more than a boss, you want to be a leader.

Good Boss versus Bad Boss

Bad Bosses

Most everyone can remember their favorite teacher. For some it was a smiling, gentle elementary school teacher who always had patience in abundance to help tie shoe laces or who has a constant supply of tissues on hand to wipe runny noses.

It may have been a high school teacher who helped nurture a latent love for classic literature like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, George Orwell’s Animal Farm or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Or a math teacher who made numbers and formulas fun and introduced you to the Pythagorean Theorem.

In university, it may have been the unconventional professor who challenged you to open your mind and demand more of yourself, to consider the philosophy behind, “I think, therefore I am.”  Or perhaps it was the young professor who would just as soon join you and your friends in hoisting a pint at the campus pub rather than spend a Saturday night grading papers.

Yes, we have that one – or perhaps more than one – teacher we will never forget. Just as we all have a teacher or professor who stands out for all wrong reasons – too strict, demanding, unfair, unavailable – we have all had, at some point in our working careers, that one boss who stands out as being a really bad boss.

He or she managed staff through intimidation, bullying tactics or by general fear and scare mongering. Maybe they were an unapologetic narcissist and thought of no one but themselves. Perhaps they were a poor communicator and an even worse listener.

There was even a Hollywood movie made about this subject. Released in 2011, Horrible Bosses tells the story of three friends who conspire to murder their awful bosses. You sure do not want to be the boss in that situation!

It has been said that employees do not leave good jobs, they leave bad managers. Or people do not leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.

Bad managers often make several common mistakes that cause loyal, dedicated staff to leave. A good boss will avoid these mistakes or risk sabotaging staff retention.

… Are unreachable Employees need input from managers from time to time. Staff who cannot count on a timely reply to emails and voicemails may be frustrated and seek greener pastures.
… Micromanage This shows staff that you do not believe they can make good decisions on their own. This is demeaning to employees who want to prove they can shine.
… Shirk responsibility Everyone wants a leader who leads, not someone who just occupies the corner office.
… Waste others’ time It causes frustration among employees.
… Are disrespectful People want to work for someone who makes them feel valued, appreciated and treats them like they are an integral part of the team.
… Does not give feedback How does a staff member know they are being effective if they are not told? Recognition for a job well done is also essential for staff retention.
… Picks favorites This is a sure-fire way to make other employees feel unsatisfied and like the playing field is stacked against them.
… Ignores toxicity When the boss ignores the difficult team members and the problems they cause, top performers may get frustrated.  That leads to unhappiness on the job and is a big reason why good employees leave.
… Breed negativity Negativity is contagious. Managers who complain can expect the same from their employees. The tone is set at the top.
… Keep employees from growing Bosses who do not foster growth will see good employees leave because they often feel stifled and like they have hit a plateau.
… Cultivate an intimidating reputation Temper and impatience are a bad combination in a manager. Employees should be able to come to their boss when they need support, see hurdles ahead or worry that something is about to go wrong.
… Take things personally Horrible bosses fail to move when things do not go as planned. They hold grudges and may let conflict fester. They refuse to take responsibility.

Good Bosses

Now you are the boss and you strive to be the best, most effective manager you can be. You do not want to be the bad boss. You want to treat your employees with fairness and respect and earn their respect in turn. You want to be the type of leader who motivates staff and inspires them to go the extra mile for you.

Good bosses should be helpful and promote a sense of purpose. They are concerned about staff retention and do everything in their power to keep star employees happy. In a survey of Canadian workers by Robert Half, workers cited unhappiness with management as the second most popular reason they would leave their job (poor compensation was the number one reason).

Half says good bosses are easy to identify because they possess certain characteristics and exhibit specific behaviors. Good bosses work to make sure that loyal, dedicated staff never want to leave.

… Are always available Even the best employees need direction from their boss from time to time. A good boss responds to staff through email, voice mail or in person in a timely manner.
… Trust staff to work on their own A good boss who does not micromanage demonstrates trust in employees; this tends to improve staff retention.
… Take charge Leaders lead; they do not wait for someone else to take charge. A good boss leads by example.
… Value others’ time A good manager recognizes that time is valuable and productive. They do not call a meeting to decide whether to have a meeting.
… Respect staff Employees are not necessarily looking for a best friend in their boss. But a good boss makes his/her staff feel valued. Simple things like remembering the names of an employee’s children and celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries go a long way to making an employee feel valued.
… Provide feedback Professionals need feedback on their performance and constructive advice they can use to improve. A good manager recognizes that a job well done is essential for staff retention. And he/she shows team members they appreciate their hard work.
… Treat employees fairly Every boss has a staff member(s) who they consider to be their go-to person, but they do not show favoritism to any one person because they recognize this can breed contempt.
… Deal quickly with issues An effective manager deals with difficult situations and toxic employees right away. Toxic employees can wreak havoc at work and this can cause top performers to harbour resentment – both for their bosses and their colleagues. Unhappiness on the job is a big reason why good employees leave and good bosses do their best to prevent this.
… Foster positivity A good boss leads by example. They know that if they have a poor attitude, so will staff.  Great managers give staff members a reason to care and display the level of enthusiasm they hope to see from staff.
… Help employees grow Managers who value staff retention help employees expand their knowledge and abilities – even if that means the employees leave the team to hone their skills elsewhere, working for another great boss. Good employees leave because they feel constricted. Good bosses help their team member be all that they can be.
… Cultivate a ‘team’ attitude Employees should be able to come to their boss when they need support or have an idea they feel could work as a solution to a situation that may arise. Good bosses recognize the value in remaining even-tempered and approachable to foster great relations with staffers.
… Do not hold a grudge Good managers take responsibility when they are wrong or are responsible for a failure; they do not hold grudges against employees who point out the boss’s misgivings. They recognize that everyone has their own opinion and it is the collective workings of a team that brings about the success of a project.

This is an excerpt from Velsoft’s latest softskills course release: From Boss to Leader