Monday, June 11, 2012

Are you a dreadful boss or a great boss?

The debate about differences between leaders and managers will endure for eternity, but there is no debate about the importance of quality supervision. The fact is, many of us supervise others, whether or not the term “boss” appears in our official job title. Sometimes, we wish a cheat sheet existed to remind us how to be great bosses. Well, look no further.

If you want to make sure you avoid the moniker of being a horrible, terrible, dreadful, or jerk boss, here are my 10 Commandments to avoid:

[1] Do not yell at employees or slam your fist so hard on a desk that items roll onto the floor, the monitor falls over, and you lose all feeling in your hand – keep your anger and feelings under control at all times

[2] Do not be jealous of your employees’ accomplishments, degrees, or certificates – accept the fact that you are only as skilled as the combined capabilities of your team, and you will never be respected if you don’t respect your employees – it’s the people in your department or on your team that make you a success

[3] Do not belittle your employees, tell lies about your employees, or share gossip about your employees – this has the potential to result in a lawsuit and possibly even get you fired, not to mention how awful your employees will feel once they get wind of your comments

[4] Do not take ownership of your employees’ work as your own

[5] Do not blame your employees if a major mistake happens, instead, calmly explain to your employees why there is a problem and work together to resolve it – make sure that you are calm before speaking with employees because an overly belligerent conduct could be interpreted as toxic and could lead to a lawsuit

[6] Do not take projects away from your employees without any explanation

[7] Do not intentionally create conflict between teams/departments/people

[8] Do not arrive late and leave early on a routine basis – you should be setting an example for your employees to follow with punctual attendance

[9] Do not slam your office door shut every time you go into your office – this tells employees that you are unapproachable

[10] Do not tell your employees to “lower their expectations” – this is completely ridiculous because you want them to do their best work for the company and themselves, and if you actually say this to them, they will question your agenda

But if you want to be known as a great boss, someone who inspires excellent work, loyal employees, and innovative results, then here are my 10 Commandments:

[1] Be an advocate and champion for your employees – recognize them when they complete tasks and promote them when possible, and above all, speak on their behalf when in the presence of others

[2] Create mentorship opportunities between departments so that employees can learn about different aspects of the business – this will allow employees to better understand how their specialty area fits into the success of the entire business

[3] Give your employees the tools to do their jobs – if they need special software or equipment, provide these tools on day one, and above all, don’t tell them, “Figure it out, I don’t have time”

[4] Explain how you want your employees to communicate with you – let your employees know if you prefer emails or voice messages and let them know if you will respond and a reasonable timeframe – otherwise, your employees will be in a constant state of flux

[5] Create an environment where employees feel empowered to take on more responsibility

[6] Create an environment where employees feel comfortable to ask questions

[7] Invite employees at all levels to participate in brainstorming sessions

[8] Ignore your individual pride and focus on the total success of your employees or team or overall business – make sure to have written goals for each employee and routinely check-in with employees as to their status on projects

[9] In the words of management consultant Peter Bregman, “Failure is inevitable, useful, and educational. Just don’t give up” – give employees instructions and an open slate so that they know they are allowed to suggest new ideas – amazing things happen when employees are not boxed in to “doing things the same way we’ve always done them”

[10] Thank your employees when they finish a project and offer other compliments during projects – and whenever possible, give small tokens of appreciation for a job well done, perhaps, an unexpected afternoon off, two movie tickets, an opportunity to volunteer in the community, etc.

What would you add to either list?

Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out his work at


  1. Great list of suggestions Debbie! I think another important factor to really mean it when you praise employees for their success.

  2. Thanks for the great list Debbie. My addition for perhaps an 11th commandment would be to allow your employees to take risks, and help them learn from mistakes when things don't go as planned.

  3. As I commented on Google+, this list of advice is surprisingly free from abstract, vague or non-significant advice usually found in management discussions and hints.
    I second the comments from both Sherry and Eric, and would like to state that you need to be genuine in all aspects of the list, not only the praising of efforts. You need to be this way, not act this way.


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