Are You a Good Boss?

American employees are unimpressed with their bosses. Earlier this month, Randstad USA, a staffing company, released a survey of 2337 people in which half of the employees reported that they do not respect their bosses. Only half believe their bosses are competent. Less than 30 percent see their bosses as coaches, motivators or mentors.

All of this means that employees don’t feel motivated to work harder. Less than half of those surveyed said they would volunteer to work extra time to impress their bosses. Only 43 percent believe that their supervisors would listen to new ideas. So do you think these employees ever work late or suggest improvements in the workplace?

This survey got me to thinking about what makes a good boss. Why does that matter to an employment attorney? In my experience, those of my clients who understand about being great leaders get sued much less often. Every manager makes mistakes, but those who take the attitude that “my employees are just damn lucky to have a job” seem to invite expensive and unproductive litigation into their lives.

I have an old (1984) article from Nation’s Business that still provides the best explanation of what it takes to be a great boss:

  • Provide clear direction by establishing clear goals and standards.
  • Encourage open communication by being candid and trustworthy.
  • Be willing to coach and support employees, which includes constructive correction of performance problems.
  • Provide objective recognition by rewarding employees based on excellent performance, not seniority, prejudice or personal relationships.
  • Establish on-going controls by following up on important issues and providing prompt feedback to employees.
  • Select the right people to staff the organization (and retain them!).
  • Understand the financial implications of decisions to protect your employees’ jobs.
  • Encourage innovation and new ideas.
  • Give subordinates clear-cut decisions when they are needed, even if the answer is “no”.
  • Demonstrate a high level of integrity.

The leadership quality I would add, which really is embodied in all of the above, is a boss who knows the intrinsic value of all human beings and doesn’t let anger, disappointment, impatience or greed ever make the employment decisions for that leader. If you truly care about the people who work for you and embody all the qualities above, I think you will tend to make great legal decisions, and even more important, great business decisions.

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