It’s Not Them, It’s You
You’ve had your share of lousy bosses, and you swore that if you were ever in charge, you’d do things differently. Now that day has come — you’re the boss.
And your good intentions? They’re buried under a pile of meetings, emails, phone calls, griping clients, and decisions that need to be made yesterday.
You don’t have the time or the energy to worry about being a good boss — not when the fate of your small business and the jobs of all your employees are hanging in the balance. You’ve got more important things to do. And so do those lazy, bellyaching employees you’re always threatening to fire.
If that’s really what you’re thinking right now, congratulations: You just might be a horrible boss. You just might have turned into that person you always vowed you would never become.
If you want to be sure, though, read on for 10 more warning signs that you’ve landed a starring role in your employees’ worst nightmares.
— Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Warning Sign #1: You’re Scaring People (Even the UPS Guy!)
Have you noticed that no one ever comes to you with a problem anymore? Or for that matter, no one ever comes to with creative ideas or initiatives, either? Does it seem like everyone stops talking when you enter the room? Come on, you see this in movies all the time: employees who agree with everything you say and laugh really hard (a little too hard) at all your jokes.
Yep, you’ve become that kind of boss!
People in positions of authority sometimes forget that there’s a difference between commanding respect and scaring people spitless. And if being a scary boss sounds like fun, you might want to consider a career in organized crime.
Warning Sign #2: Your Employees Work Around You
Does everyone who works for you seem to panic over even the tiniest problem? Do you get the feeling that huge decisions are being made without your having a clue what’s going on?
Perhaps it’s not that your employees hate you. They just think you’re incompetent.
Once upon a time, you might have been great at your job. If you started a business around it, you must have had something going for you. But as your company grew and your responsibilities multiplied, it got harder and harder to learn how to play a very different role: boss (to use the technical term). There’s a surprisingly steep learning curve here, and you’re sliding right along it — in the wrong direction.
Here’s the good news: It’s not too late for a little management training. Or at least you’d better hope it isn’t.
Warning Sign #3: You Think You’re Surrounded by Dummies
Why is everyone who works for you so ignorant and powerless? Why do you have to do everything yourself? Sure, you might like your inner circle — the ones you talk to all day, every day — but you can’t trust them to get anything done unless you keep a close eye on every last thing they do. And everybody else in the company falls into two categories: worthless and worse than worthless.
Here’s the thing: The problem isn’t with them. It’s with you. This kind of attitude officially marks you as a control freak, and your employees see you as an insecure basket case.
If you’re not careful, you really will end up dealing with people who truly can’t be trusted to sharpen your pencils — because there’s no way a sane, competent employee would stick around to put up with your antics.
Warning Sign #4: You’re an Elitist Pig
Sigh. If only everyone who worked for you were as competent and productive as Bob and Sue. If only you could clone Bob and Sue, graduates of your alma mater, people who worked their way up in the same manner you did — you know, people just like you! Then you could get rid of all those other losers. The constant infighting, the mistrust, the gossip, the desperate sucking up that characterize your company — that’s what comes from having people who just don’t fit in. No wonder you can’t build a good team around here.
Elitists come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to come from the best schools. They just have to think their way is the only way. Are you that kind of boss?
Warning Sign #5: Your Glass Is Always Half Empty
It’s no surprise, really, the way things are going. On top of all your other problems, your employees are taking sick days like the Black Death just rolled into town. They’re coming in late, leaving early, looking miserable, and blowing deadlines left and right. You just caught your most trusted associate surfing the jobs section on Craigslist, and it seems that every time you get a good crew together, someone bails for a new job.
And eventually, your competitors end up with all the great people you’ve trained. But hey, that’s just the way it is. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and you’re wearing Milk-Bone underpants. Poor, poor, pitiful you!
The thing is, if you expect the worst, you’ll probably end up getting it. You’re the boss, and if you can’t set a more confident, optimistic tone for your team, nobody else is going to do it for you.
Warning Sign #6: You’re Always Clowning Around
You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and if there’s one thing you’ve learned, it’s that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”
So you take every opportunity to lighten up the office environment with relaxing activities and harmless practical jokes. Things were going fine until that afternoon when there was no one around to answer the phones because you declared “Pajama Day” and took the whole staff, dressed in robes and slippers, to a karaoke bar. You ended up losing a key account as a result, and one of your managers — who had a long-nurtured relationship with this client — was royally pissed and blamed you! This didn’t really seem fair, given his heartfelt, martini-fueled rendition of “My Way.”
The killjoys who just want to come in and get their work done are becoming a little hard to take, aren’t they? Why doesn’t anyone else around here know how to have fun?
Maybe it’s because they need to do their jobs, and you, the boss, are not letting them make adult decisions about their responsibilities. That’s no fun at all.
Warning Sign #7: Your Mood Swings Are Terrifying
Why are all your employees so confused, jumpy, and insecure? Most of them are doing a pretty good job, and your door is always open. Yet everyone walks on tiptoes around you, and they all seem to be whispering behind your back.
Have you considered the possibility that you might be the cause of the confusion? Are you Mr. Sunshine on Monday, a volcanic eruption on Tuesday, Ms. Empathy on Wednesday, Mr. What’s the Point? on Thursday, and Sir Meatloaf Surprise on Friday? Or maybe you’re all of the above at various times on any given day.
If the boss’s mood is so unpredictable that the office feels dangerous, then the company can’t help but suffer. Having a seemingly bipolar boss is like having an alcoholic parent — your employees will find a way to cope, but it won’t be healthy.
Warning Sign #8: You Can’t Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Do the cute young assistants roll their eyes when you share one of you hilarious off-color jokes? Have you noticed that they tend to enter your office in twos and threes, never alone, and — even though they must resort to public transportation and you have a comfy late-model Porsche — always decline when you offer a ride home?
You are powerful, attractive, affluent, and charismatic, yet whenever you try to get some action with the support staff, you are rebuffed. Maybe that’s because everyone thinks you’re a lech. In fact, maybe you are a lech.
What may seem like harmless flirtation to you might be considered sexual harassment by others — including the criminal justice system. That’s especially true when you’re in a position of power.
Perhaps country music legend Hank Williams said it best: “I don’t fool around at work, even if I’d rather / I don’t get my meat where I get my bread and butter.” And neither should you.
Warning Sign #9: You Can’t Make Up Your Mind
Your employees are always coming up with suggestions, then bugging you for answers. They yammer on about looming deadlines and lost opportunities. Why can’t they understand that you need time to weigh the pros and cons, do some research, find out more? It’s all too much pressure.
Unfortunately for your company, once you finally do make your decision, the opportunity has evaporated and everyone has had to move on.
It’s fine to take a little time to think things over, but if you waffle too long and too often, it’s just as bad as not making a decision at all. People will stop coming to you with great ideas, and they might just take them to more responsive competitors.
Don’t be a waffler. Sometimes any decision — even the wrong decision — is better than no decision at all.
Warning Sign #10: You’re Goofing Off Instead of Doing Your Job
Your assistant tries her best to keep you insulated from petty concerns and interruptions so you can focus on killing people, blowing up cars, stealing cars, selling cars, and making tons of money. Of course, we are talking here about your primary daily focus: playing Grand Theft Auto.
But every so often, a colleague bursts through your layers of protections with a really tough question about products or staffing or P&Ls. It’s so frustrating. How are you ever going to finish the mission with all these interruptions?
Perhaps you are focused on the wrong mission, dude. You are the boss, and that means — pay attention, now — you have a greater responsibility than the other people who work there. That’s why you have the fancy title, the luxe office, the dedicated assistant, and the big salary. People are depending on you. It’s time to do your job and act like a boss, at least when you’re on duty. Play games and goof off on your own time.
Are you well liked in the office?
You may be the smartest person at your company, but if you can’t get along with colleagues, you won’t get far.
There are several things you can do to strengthen your social skills and become a team player. These 10 actions will not only help you make better connections at work, they’ll improve how others perceive you.
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