Putting Bad Bosses on Blast (And How To Avoid Becoming One)

Tom Tate

Employees don’t leave a job. They leave a boss. Heard that one before, right?
 

In today’s labor market, managers need to know how to be empathetic leaders – it’s a key factor in creating a magnetic employee experience. But can a so-called bad boss turn good?
 

Talent Experience Live brought on Jonathan Harrison, Director of Learning and Organizational Development at Nova Southeastern University, to share research-based tactics that can transform bad bosses into leaders who care – and retain employees!
 

Get his practical advice in the recap below, or watch the full episode right here for all the details.
 


Bosses: What separates the good from the bad?


As an educator, author, and leadership training expert, Harrison has observed managerial styles across the spectrum. 
 

He’s gathered feedback from hundreds of workers on what makes a bad boss. The most common trait? “When we look at our ‘worst boss,’ it’s not necessarily that they’re trying to make us miserable – but oftentimes, they’re in it for themselves. They’re trying to get ahead in their career.” 
 


As for the most beloved bosses, the ones everybody wants to work for, they embody the opposite: “It’s about looking out for others – about taking care of the people they’re entrusted with; about really putting their team first,” Harrison said.


Resource: Empowering Employees to Realize Their Potential


Another key factor is training. Only 15% of supervisors receive any type of leadership training before being promoted to a managerial level, Harrison said, citing research by the Ken Blanchard Companies.
 

Managers can change


Is it possible for a bad boss to leave the dark side? Yes, Harrison says – but it takes a desire for change on the part of the individual and a commitment to lead with intention.
 


Leading with intention


First up in the bad boss-good boss transformation is a mindset pivot. Good bosses lead with intention, as Harrison said. So how can managers start adopting an intentional leadership style? 
 

It begins with awareness, according to Harrison. “It could be as simple as when you get up in the morning, reminding yourself what are your values, what are your goals, what is your role, what are you here to do? And you have to work at it. It has to become a habit.”
 

Other traits of intentional leadership include:
 

  • Being open to humility and vulnerability
     
  • Keeping the goals of the team front and center 
     
  • Taking more blame and less credit


3 tools and tactics used by great leaders 


Harrison shared some of his favorite, tried-and-true tactics that can help managers put intentional leadership into practice.


1. The one-on-one


When used correctly, supervisor and employee one-on-ones are almost a “silver bullet,” Harrison said.
 


“People feel rewarded simply by having quality time with their leader,” Harrison said, which is especially key today when a large part of the workforce is working remotely, which threatens communication and can cause disconnection.
 

One-on-ones can be short – even 10 minutes is fine – but they need to be consistent, whether that means weekly monthly, or however else the schedule allows. “Don’t let it get bumped,” he emphasized.
 

Here are his tips for ensuring successful one-on-one meetings:
 

  • Have the direct report list the 5 most important things they’re working on in order of priority.
     
  • Check for alignment – do the employees’ priorities match the manager’s? If not, have some good dialogue about re-aligning. 
     
  • Ask what’s important to employees. Not only in the short-term regarding current projects, but uncover the employee’s career aspirations and how they want to develop. If the comfort level is there, ask about personal goals that are important to them.
     
  • Keep a record of these one-on-ones, either printed or digitally. This will create a valuable tool for annual performance reviews.

Downloadable Resource: The Definitive Guide to Employee Experience


2. The SBI Method


Employees need feedback from managers so they can grow and develop. A lot of bosses struggle to find a balance between being overly critical and being too hands-off, fearing confrontation.
 


But using the SBI approach, which stands for Situation-Behavior-Impact, bosses can give straightforward feedback that produces positive resolution.
 

Here’s an example:
 

Situation: During the board meeting last week.

Behavior: You were using your phone the entire time.

Impact: My own supervisor commented to me that you didn’t seem engaged.


Resource: How to Use Data-Driven Tools to Improve Leadership Hiring


This method helps managers get down to business and resolve negative behavior, Harrison said. 
 

Pro tip: SBI can also be used to communicate positive reinforcement, which can be just as impactful.
 

3. The start-stop-continue


Another framework is Start-Stop-Continue. Ask “What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What should I continue doing?” 
 


The caveat: Leaders need to be prepared to take action on the feedback they receive. This tactic creates a “safe space” for employees. It opens the door to asking for change, bringing up concerns, or requesting feedback.
 

“At the end of the day as a leader, our role is all about others – it’s not about ourselves,” Harrison said. “As much as we can keep that in mind, that will be an incredible resource to use going forward.”


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