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By: Dr. John T. Self

Is Your Boss Too Nice?

Not enough pressure? Who are you kidding?

  • "I'd love it."
  • "I only wish there was no pressure in my job!"
  • "What I'd give if there was no pressure in my job!"
  • "I'd really love my job if there was no pressure!"

    Actually, you would love it. But only for a short while, then you would hate it. Really hate it.

    People are funny. We say we hate pressure. It is true that if pressure is applied too much and too often that it can and probably will be harmful to health and morale. But when there is no pressure, well, it can be almost as bad.

    A great boss applies just enough pressure that it develops you as a manager. No pressure equals no development. Have you ever heard the sayings "no pain, no gain" or "if you aren't falling, you aren't learning" when learning to ski, skateboard, or snowboard? They are cliches because they have been proven true time and again. The same concept works for management. If you haven't been pushed enough to make mistakes, then you cannot be developing as a manager.

    I hope you never experience a boss who isn't demanding. While this boss might feel safe and relaxing at first, you will be guaranteed not to reach your potential as a manager. Inevitably, with no pressure, even the best managers lower their standards because it is human nature to choose the easiest path regardless of the best intentions.

    This type of manager has usually risen by being "nice". Nice by itself is fine, but too nice and especially too nice all the time is not fine. This type of boss is always ready to say something positive, never negative. In those (rare) cases when you have obviously made a mistake, this type boss will talk to you, but couch their talk in such weak terms that you go away confused. They had not gotten to the point because they didn't want to say anything negative to you.

    In this type situation, it would seem possible to place pressure on yourself to keep your standards high, but it rarely is possible because you will make waves. You will have to take stands, reprimand employees and basically do your job. But since this will be against the grain for your nice, no-pressure manager, you will be counseled to back off. This whole situation, which once seemed so perfect, can rapidly turn into a nightmare for good managers.

    Unfortunately, the best way to grow and develop is still the old way in which pressure must be present to get better. There's actually a mathematical equation for it called the Diamond equation that says that Heat + Pressure = A gem of a Result.

  • About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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