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By: Tag and Catherine Goulet

Bad Management: Your Employee's Perspective

If you have ever quit a job because you didn't get along with your boss, you are not alone. A Gallup Poll of over a million employees found that how long workers stay at companies and how productive they are is determined by their relationshipwith their immediate supervisor. While "bad bosses" make for good Dilbert cartoons, the realityis no laughing matter for most employees. Problems with a supervisorcan hinder an employee's work and may even affect the employee'spersonal life. The result may be lost sleep, negative feelings,damage to personal relationships, and physical symptoms ofstress.

The # 1 Cause of Bad Bosses
If your organizationhas a problem with "bad bosses" thegood news is that most supervisors and managers really wantto do a good job. In most cases, if a boss isn't doing agood job it is because they don't know how. 

Many supervisors have been promoted to a leadership positionbecause of their technical skills rather than an abilityto manage people. Being promoted to supervisor is often seenas a reward for someone who has done well on the manufacturingfloor, in administrative support, or in the field. 

Senior management may think: "Sam Supervisor did a greatjob on the front line. Sam should be able to show a teamhow it's done." However, being a good worker doesn't necessarilymean someone will automatically know how to get good resultsfrom others. 

For some people, being promoted to supervisor can actuallybe a fearful experience. A new supervisor may fear losingcontrol, losing face, and ultimately losing their job. Thenew supervisor deals with these fears by using tactics theythink will work.

Not knowing any better, they may be overly controlling.Or they may try so hard to avoid being controlling they don'tclearly communicate what's expected. They may be demandingand critical, thinking they need to act that way to get thingsdone. Or they may be so afraid of conflict or the appearanceof favoritism they avoid giving employees any feedback whatsoever. 

Any of these behaviors can result in dissatisfied employees,higher turnover, and lost productivity. Fortunately, thereare steps you can take to deal with bad management no matterwhere you are in the organization:

If You Have a Bad Boss

Understand the problem.
Recognize thatunless your boss is a bully (see tips below), your boss'sbehavior is probably due to ignorance rather than malice.If you can see your supervisor as someone who is workingwith limited knowledge about how to manage, it may be easierto let their behavior roll off your back. 

See if you can support the boss.
For aslong as you choose to stay with your employer and work withyour boss, do what you can to support him or her. You willbe seen as a team player and may be able to advance in theorganization with or without your boss. As a bonus, manyemployees who start supporting a boss rather than rebellingfind the boss's behavior improves.

Stand up for yourself.
Supporting yourboss is not the same as being a doormat. Don't tolerate beingyelled at or otherwise treated badly. If your boss does somethingyou find unacceptable, say so as directly and unemotionallyas possible. Being assertive can often put a stop to unacceptablebehavior. Some bosses have no idea how they have been treatingsomeone until that person speaks up.

Document the problem.
If your boss is abully, start keeping a written record of incidents and whenthey occur. Where possible, try to have a witness. Many companieshave a zero tolerance policy for harassment or bullying,so you may be able to get support from your human resourcesdepartment or senior management by showing them evidenceof the problem. (Also show them the information in this articleabout how bad bosses hurt the company's bottom line.)

Look for a new job.
If the situation doesnot improve, you may need to look for a workplace that doesnot tolerate bad bosses. Remember, you deserve to have aboss who treats you with respect.

If You Think You Might Be a Bad Boss

Observe good bosses.
Spend time noticingwhat successful managers in your organization do differentlyfrom other managers. In particular, notice the way successfulmanagers communicate with the people who report to them. 

Communicate expectations but avoid micromanaging.
Youwill probably notice that good managers communicate expectationsclearly. They tell employees the results they expect, butgive them some freedom as to how they achieve those results. 

Give positive feedback.
Successful managersnotice what employees do right, and give them immediate recognitionfor doing a good job.

Find a mentor.
When you find managers inyour organization who are doing things right, consider askingone of those successful managers to mentor you. A mentormeets with you at scheduled times to discuss your challengesand offer advice. 

Continue to develop your management skills.
Takeadvantage of company sponsored management training programsor take classes on your own. You can also find some excellentadvice in books ranging from Dale Carnegie's classic Howto Win Friends and Influence People to MarcusBuckingham and Curt Coffman's First,Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers DoDifferently.

Why Senior Management Should Care
It's notonly employees with bad bosses who need to be concerned withthis issue. The consequences of poor management can seriouslydamage a company's bottom line. Replacing even one employeewho quits because of a bad boss can cost six months or moreof that employee's salary when all costs are taken into account. 

On top of recruitment expenses, such as newspaper advertising,losing an employee costs a company time spent by other staffinterviewing, training, and doing the work of the formeremployee until a replacement is found. It can also resultin lower morale and productivity as employees discuss thesituation around the water cooler. In some cases it can resultin lost business when customer service orproduct delivery is disrupted.

Employees who remain with a poor supervisor rarely go theextra mile for their employer. Gallup foundpoorly managed workgroups are an average of 50% less productiveand 44% less profitable than well managed groups.

Here are some things senior management can do to deal withthis issue:

Be a good boss yourself.
Senior managementcan serve as role models of the behavior expected of supervisors,including setting clear expectations and giving plenty ofpositive feedback. When it comes to giving feedback and rewards,senior management can recognize supervisors who reduce turnoverwhile maintaining productivity.

Ask employees what they think about their bosses.
Considerimplementing a system of 360 degree feedback to replace thetraditional system of performance reviews for supervisors.With 360 degree feedback, a supervisor's performance canbe evaluated, and areas for improvement identified, by employeeswho report to that supervisor as well as the supervisor'smanager and peers. 

Provide management training.
Companiescan also provide formal and informal opportunities for supervisorsto learn how to be better managers. Effective managementtechniques can be shared and learned through mentoring aswell as management training programs. 

With proper feedback, training and support, a company cango a long way to making poor management a thing of the past.

About the author:  Sisters Tag and Catherine Goulet are the Dream Career Experts. In 1999 they founded, a publisher of guides on how to break into a dream career, which has been visited by 50 million people. They have been featured giving career advice in media from ABC to and Woman's Day to the Wall Street Journal online, and their career advice appears frequently on the career pages at and They are authors of the book Dream Careers: How to Quickly Break into a Fab Job! Visit to discover how to break into a dream career.

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