Peggy Drexler Ph.D.

Our Gender, Ourselves

3 Simple Ways To Shed The Title Of Bad Boss

Practical tips on how to be a good boss

Posted May 19, 2014

Recognizing that you’ve become a bad boss of any kind, is the first step to making a change. How can you tell: You think you know everything. You feel more secure when others fail. You micromanage. Your employees always disappoint you. You purposefully make things difficult for those you don’t like.

And change you should. In a 2012 Gallup survey, 60 percent of U.S. government employees reported being miserable at work not because of low pay or poor benefits, but because of their bosses. Studies show that bad bosses aren’t just a hit for morale; they’re a hit for business and profitability. A 2012 Harvard Business Review report noted that even expensive company perks like great health insurance and rewards systems mean nothing for productivity and loyalty if the boss is a bad leader. Good bosses lead employees to increase revenue, as proven by various studies conducted at big box stores like Sears, J.C. Penney, and Best Buy. In the case of Sears, when employee satisfaction improved by 5 percent, customer satisfaction improved enough to lead to a significant increase in revenue. This is why, more and more, underlings aren’t just subject to review but are asked for their feedback on their supervisors as well.

3 simple ways to shed the title of a bad boss and begin to be a better boss:

Learn To Teach. Holding others back does not  secure your own position. Studies show that those who mentor are more professionally successful than those who don’t. A 2012 study at the University of Texas, Austin, found that those who mentored gained a better understanding of their own strengths and limitations, solidified their understanding of certain career-related concepts, and were happier besides.

Pipe Down—And Then Up. It’s easy to spot a rude, belittling Boss, whether that is your boss or yourself. But bad bosses are also defined by what they don’t do—that is, ask good questions, reach out to others, and praise and reinforce good behavior. Aim to recognize the good work or efforts of at least one employee a day. If you can’t find anything to compliment, sit staffers down and find out why they’re struggling, and how you can help.

Treat Staffers As Individuals, Not A Group. Instead of directing a group, aim to have individual relationships with each team member—know their strengths, weaknesses, and the specific priorities you hold for them. Your job—your responsibility to your own boss—is to improve the company, rather than hold it back. Others’ failings don’t reflect well on you. The bottom line is that as a boss, you are, truly, only as good as your worst employee.

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. is a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. Follow Peggy on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about Peggy at

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