Lousy Bosses are Lousy Role Models

UnemploymentWhat did your worst boss do to deserve that not-so-coveted title?

I’ve experienced the same lousy boss behaviors that you probably have at some point in your career.

One of my lousy bosses made grand promises – to staff, to volunteers, to customers. However, he kept few of his commitments. I learned his word was not trustworthy.

Another lousy boss of mine was amazingly skilled at pointing out my mistakes and failures. However, he was quiet when I exceeded expectations and moved the organization forward. I learned to insulate myself from his presence because all I heard from him was disappointment.

My worst boss asked me to lie. My non-profit branch had raised $25,000 in our annual campaign my first year as executive director. That was double what the branch had raised before! At the campaign’s closing dinner, with 300 volunteers and staff in attendance, my boss told me to announce that we’d raised not $25,000, but $30,000. I refused and announced the real total. He was not happy; I didn’t care. Our values mis-match was deep and wide. I left that boss and job as quickly as I could.

What makes leaders behave the way they do? My research and experience leads me to believe that there are three primary drivers of leader behaviors:

  • Their personality, disposition, or social style (these are different terms for the same driver),
  • Their organizational culture, and
  • Role models – good ones and not-so-good ones.

Role models are immensely powerful to us humans. We observe how others behave, how they treat people, and how those behaviors are reinforced by the organization through recognition, bonuses, and the like. We notice how our role models are validated and we embrace their behaviors as our own.

The problem is that one may be embracing lousy boss behaviors and not even realize it.

Feedback from global respondents to my Performance-Values Assessment note that proven best boss behaviors are not universally embraced. For example, only 52% of over 375 respondents believe that their direct boss holds everyone accountable for their commitments. Only 30% believe that their direct boss gives them effective performance coaching. 43% believe their direct boss provides regular praise for effort as well as accomplishment. 61% believe their direct boss is honest in his/her dealings with them.

These results indicate that proven “best boss” behaviors are experienced, on average, less than 45% of the time in workplaces around the globe every day. That’s not a high mark. It means that there are more lousy bosses running teams and businesses today than there are best bosses.

My research shows that great bosses inspire employee engagement, WOW’ed customers, and higher profits than lousy bosses.

Seek out #GREATBoss behaviors and emulate those. Notice lousy boss behaviors, and eliminate them from your “influencing tool kit.”

What did your worst boss do to earn that title? Who are your “best boss” role models – and what do they do that inspires you to emulate their behaviors? Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

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