Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Are you a bad boss?

It's no surprise that The Devil Wears Prada has been a hit — both in book and film format. Anyone who has ever held a job has a story to tell about a boss who could probably rival Prada’s Miranda Priestly, aptly described as “the boss from hell". In fact, bad bosses are so prevalent in the business world today, that several websites—including workers to share their bad boss tales.

The toll these bosses take on the people they manage and the organizations they represent is impossible to measure, both in terms of dollars and morale. “I would guess that bad bosses are the major cause of employee turnover,” says John Tschohl, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and author of several books on customer service. “The number one reason employees leave their jobs is not because of money, it’s because they work for bad bosses and don’t feel valued and appreciated.”

Troy Johnson, a workplace contributor for ABC’s “Good Morning America", recently wrote an article about bad bosses for the network’s news website. She immediately began to receive e-mails from readers relating their own bad boss stories and cites this as the one she liked the best:

An employee went to her organization’s Human Resources Department and presented a lengthy list of complaints about her manager. She was told to pay very close attention to everything her boss said and did, Johnson wrote. When the woman asked why, she was told, “If you watch her closely, you’ll learn exactly what not to ever do, and you’ll wind up going very far in management as the boss that everyone wants to work for.”

The woman took that advice and, she wrote, “It has indeed made me very successful everywhere I’ve worked.”

Often, people are promoted to leadership positions, not because of their skill in managing people but because they are technically proficient at their current jobs. “In many cases, they were never trained on how to be a boss, how to coach employees, and how to encourage superior performance,” Tschohl says. “They don’t understand the importance of morale in improving performance and increasing productivity.”

Too often, Tschohl adds, people are promoted for all the wrong reasons. They are technically skilled, they have been with the organization for many years, or they are friends with the boss. “None of those is a valid reason for promoting someone,” Tschohl says. “Why? Because none of them has anything to do with leadership skills.”

Instead, organizations should promote those people who are skilled, self-motivated, and are willing too learn, then train them. “Good people skills are a critical trait for a good boss,” Tschohl says. “No one is born with the skills necessary to lead people. They must be trained in how to motivate, recognize—and, yes, even reprimand—employees, all in an effort to form a cohesive and effective team. These are skills that must be taught and reinforced.”

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