Running A Business

How To Make A Bad Boss Good

Jan 21, 2013 • 3 min read
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      Michelle McQuaid is an expert on bringing out the best in people at work.  With her playful approach Michelle fuses the emerging sciences of positive psychology and neurobiology into simple, practical actions  at that anyone can take to create life-changing habits that last.

      Ever worked for a bad boss?  Chances are you’re nodding your head because three out of every four employees report their boss is the most stressful part of their job.

      Left unchecked the constant stream of negativity created by bad bosses has been found to undermine your performance, damage your health, destroy your relationships and leave you feeling depressed and anxious.  Yet it takes most of us nearly two years to free ourselves of a bad boss problem.  No wonder more employees say they’d prefer a new boss over a pay rise.

      But it’s not just employees who pay the price.

      Studies show that even model employees turn “negative and unproductive if their bosses are rude or mean spirited,” gossiping rather than working, stealing, backstabbing and taking longer breaks and more sick days.  In fact, it’s estimated poor relationships with supervisors costs American organizations $360 billion each year in lost productivity.

      So what’s being done to reduce the number of bad bosses?

      Not nearly enough.

      For more than 50 years regardless of the location or industry the number of employees with a boss stressing them has remained unchanged.  Perhaps this is because most of us – employees, bosses and our organizations – are too busy pointing the finger of responsibility at others to step up and take accountability for creating the workplaces we long for.

      Let me explain.

      I’ve had my share of bad bosses and like most employees sought refuge in my colleagues and friends as I moaned about what a victim I was of my villainous boss.  While I dreamed of higher leadership seeing the light, of apologies from my boss and other unlikely miracles, I spiraled down and down into a pit of helplessness.  After all what could I do, they were the boss?

      I’ve also been the boss – and between you and me – wasn’t always the greatest.  Leading a team for the first time at just 24 years of age, I was brilliant at getting a job done but knew nothing about managing people making me a challenging taskmaster.  When employees complained I just assumed it was up to them to toughen up or for the organization to train me better.

      Finally, I’ve had the privilege to sit at the organizational leadership table of some of the world’s leading companies as they struggled to understand why the supervisors they’d appointed weren’t treating their employees as expected and why their employees weren’t able to tell their bosses what they needed.

      No wonder nothing changes.

      Personally, I believe there are very few genuinely bad bosses, but rather an abundance of bosses who are bad at their jobs. Most bosses don’t want to leave people feeling demeaned, disrespected and de-energized.  It reflects poorly on them personally and professionally.

      Luckily the science of positive psychology is now providing organizations, supervisors and employees with a range of proven, practical approaches to improving relationships in workplaces no matter what you’re role is.

      For example organizations like Google, Zappos, Starbucks and even the US Military are using:

      • Improved assessments, training and measures allow organizations to recruit, nurture and reward bosses who have healthy, productive relationships with employees.
      • Professional development and coaching tools are giving supervisors the knowledge and skills to bring out the best in their employees no matter how stressful their role is.
      • Supported opportunities to use their strengths, enhance their resilience and find purpose in their work are giving employees the confidence to positively manage their way through difficult relationships.


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