Bad Boss Dilemma

 In Culture, Leadership, Organizational Development

Ever have a bad boss?

If so, you’re in good company.   A May 2017 survey by Glassdoor, a job placement, and recruiting company, found that nearly two of every three respondents reported having had an “annoying boss” or bad boss at some point in their career.

While bad bosses can come from a variety of sources, in my experience the most likely culprit is a poor organizational selection process and reward structure. Organizations will often choose to promote from within, usually to keep its top performers from leaving for potentially greater opportunities elsewhere. Through this model, the best-performing welder becomes the leader of other welders, the best-performing accountant becomes the leader of other accountants and the best-performing nurse becomes the leader of other nurses. To most people, this business model is very familiar and even seems intuitive.

It also fails virtually every time.

The problem is that performance does not equal leadership potential, and leadership potential isn’t always reflected in performance. The top-performing professional has been focused on one thing — producing individual results — and the organization will acknowledge and reward that individual effort. But as a leader, you cannot focus on your own individual results — you have to think about the collective results of the team you lead. Many people find it difficult to make this shift in mindset, especially when the organization, rather than shift its reward and compensation strategy accordingly, chooses to continue rewarding individual effort instead.

This broken model can be fixed, though, if the individual makes the conscious decision to become a leader AND the organization is committed to facilitating the process. The best way it can do this is to explicitly communicate that these individuals are no longer welders, accountants or nurses — they are now leaders, and the company is now paying them to lead. I have personally witnessed (and encouraged) clients transform into this new model, and it has made a significant difference in how leaders perceive their role and responsibilities.  And, with this change in perspective often comes performance improvement, both individually and as a team.

How do you know if you have a bad boss?

While many, a trait most bad bosses have in common is a focus on self — they often play the organizational politics in a way that enriches themselves. Office politics are neither good nor bad but are simply an expression of how each organization operates. A leader can leverage organization politics for the good of their team, which will translate to individual reward, or to the detriment of the team, which will force skilled people to leave the culture.

The question is: Will the organization enable leaders to get away with poor leadership, or do they hold their leaders accountable for their behavior and purge the talent for the sake of the greater good?

In the end, just as good leaders are made, so are poor leaders. Ultimately, each organization will decide which kind of leaders it creates.

So, let me ask you:

Have you ever had a bad boss?  What was the experience like for you?  How did the organization handle the situation?  How does your organization select its leaders?

I welcome (and read) all comments, and would love to hear about your experience.  Please share below.

Also, if you’re a new leader, promoted to a role from an individual contributor role, we recommend you download our ebook here.

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