Are you a good boss or a bad boss?
Saturday is National Boss Day and I was interviewed earlier this week about what makes a good boss….and how can employees “manage” their bad boss better. The staff writer, Cindy Stauffer, did an amazing job listening to what I said and writing what I hope is helpful advice for bosses and employees alike.
The article follows and can be viewed at LancasterOnline.com
Depending on your job, you might be smiling.
Dr. Ira Wolfe understands.
He knows what makes a good boss. In fact, the 59-year-old makes his living giving advice to bosses, trying to help them make their small businesses better.
Wolfe is the president of Success Performance Solutions, which operates out of Lancaster, as well as Maryland and Virginia.
Once a New Holland dentist, now a business guru, Wolfe has been both an employee and a boss.
The son of parents who owned a clothing store in Pennsylvania's coal regions, Wolfe grew up in a household where things such as sales and marketing were regular discussion topics.
Wolfe went into dentistry, moving to Lancaster County to take a position as a dentist with Welsh Mountain Medical & Dental Center and then opening up his own practice in New Holland.
As the years went on, he found himself drawn back to his family roots. He discovered that he most enjoyed the business side of dentistry: the marketing, the employee management, the building of his practice. He started speaking to professional dental groups and, in 1995, he left his practice to focus on business consulting.
In his experiences working with businesses, he said, most bad bosses don't want to be bad.
"Most people in management," he said, "don't wake up in the morning and say, 'What can I do today to make my employee's life miserable?'
"They want the day to go well. If employees are having a bad day, they have a bad day, too."
More often, he said, a bad boss is a person who intends to lead well but doesn't know how.
In this slim economy, they might have risen to their position because of the combination of departments, early retirements or being the cheapest person available for the job.
Now they are in the leader's seat, and they are struggling.
"A lot of their actions are covering up for what they feel they lack," he said.
What can employees do?
"Sometimes it's just sitting down and saying, 'What can I do to make your job better?' " Wolfe said.
If you are toiling under a struggling boss, that might be the last thing you want to hear, Wolfe acknowledged. After all, why is it your responsibility to help your boss be better?
Because there is something in it for you, he said.
By talking to your boss, you might make your life easier by improving his or her management style, which Wolfe said tends to reflect the way the boss personally would want to be managed.
Someone who doesn't like to be micromanaged will not provide a lot of feedback to others, for example. Someone who wants frequent performance updates himself will want to check in often with employees.
Employees need to work with their boss, setting up a schedule of regular check-ins for the hovering manager or regular feedback from the taciturn manager.
And though it might be difficult, employees also should speak up when they have problems with a boss who is unpredictable or moody, Wolfe said.
"Talk to them. Say, 'When I come into work, I don't know how to approach you. It doesn't help my performance. It doesn't help me. Sometimes I need to talk to you, but you are in a bad mood,' " he urged.
"If you can work on communication, 50 percent of the problems go away," he said. "Fifty percent of problems are superficial communication issues."
Of course, there are bosses who are simply toxic: dishonest, immoral, angry, impossible.
For those situations, Wolfe said, there are no easy solutions.
"Put up with them until you can find a better opportunity," he said. "You can't change everybody. In those situations, it's about making the best out of it. Fortunately, they are few and far between."
"Most employers," he said, "really want people to have a good day. Someone just has to step up and initiate a conversation and see if it will help."