Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D.

Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D.

High Octane Women

Are You a Good Boss or a Bad Boss?

10 questions all bosses should ask themselves.

Posted Apr 24, 2012

CIO.com's Polly Schneider agrees. She writes that although the qualities that make a "good" boss are highly subjective, managers should take a hard look at how they manage their employees to see if changing or at least tweaking their managerial skills may create a better work environment for all involved and improve retention. She suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you cringe at the mention of soft skills? Schneider says that while many managers pay only lip service to this mantra, others swear by it, and they should. Good managers don't only look at technical know-how and business problem-solving prowess, they look at people skills: how well employees write, speak, and relate to others. Good managers also genuinely care about helping their employees succeed; they don't just act like they do to get something out of their workers and go back to business as usual after getting what they want.
  2. Do you give your workers sufficient freedom to work? Good bosses don't micromanage. Instead, they point workers in the right direction and let them do the job. Schneider says, "Effective bosses give employees the information they need to do their jobs well," even if this means giving them a little more flexibility than may be your style. In today's world, this may be what it takes to find and keep strong workers.
  3. Have you learned to mentor? Being a mentor, says Schenider, is often perceived as taking employees under your wing, investing a significant amount of time into their development, helping them build relationships with key allies in the field or business, in effect "becoming an on-the-job parent." But she points out that this is not always what employees want or need. Some employees, especially those from Gen X and Gen Y, often want quick, regular feedback and support, and it may be as little and as simple as sending a thank you email to a worker who went above and beyond on a project. Another important aspect of mentoring is helping employees discover what they do best and guide them into assuming roles that capitalize on their personality and strengths. 
  4. Can you be tough? This doesn't mean being mean, degrading, or obnoxious; it means being decisive and providing direction when necessary. It means making tough calls when those calls need to be made, even if that choice is unpopular. 
  5. Do you shy away from conflict? Good managers don't avoid conflict; they resolve it as directly and as expediently as possible so that it doesn't fester and cause further problems. Yet, resolving conflict effectively requires finesse. A one-size-fits-all approach is not always effective or productive. In fact, it can sometimes make the situation worse. Some problems may require a sledgehammer to resolve while others may require a scapel. Schneider says, "Ultimately your behavior and management style sets the tone for how others will behave in management situations. It's your leadership that will determine the strength of your team and how long you can keep good people."

Carpenter-Arevalo agrees with many of these ideas and offers a few more questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are your employees are afraid of you? If your (bad) repuation precedes you, causing people who have never even met you to fear you, then chances are your managerial style needs a bit of revamping. Good managers don't lead by fear; they lead by example.
  2. Does stress control you or do you control stress? Carpenter-Arevalo says there is truth to the saying that there are no stressful situations, only stressful reactions to situations. He says that the difference between good and bad bosses is that bad ones send out signals that stressful situations are controlling them whereas good bosses maintain control and don't permit stress to dictate their behavior. 
  3. Do you manage from a distance physically and emotionally? When managers treat employees like they are at the bottom of the food chain, resentment emerges. Availability and accessibility are also important. Carpenter-Arevalo says, "The best managers sit with their teams in a symbolic gesture of solidarity and their behavior demonstrates genuine solidarity. The worst managers sit in solitary offices, usually with doors closed, and behave accordingly."  
  4. Do you throw your employees under the bus? As a manager, the buck should stop with you. If you blame others or circumstances, you'll lose respect, credibility, and trust. How you react to mistakes and fix them is what matters most; not who is to blame.
  5. Do you seek out and are open to feedback? Not only is being receptive to feedback a good model for employees, it can help you grow as a manager and as a person. 

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [or women] to do what he [or she] wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Retaining good employees is key to a business's success, but it doesn't happen by magic. It takes good people skills to keep good workers happy, positive, and productive. The best managers know this and work hard to stay the best they can be by asking themselves tough questions and giving themselves honest answers. 

© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

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