Bosses are right up there with mother-in-laws, children, and neighbors in their ability to affect your life, both your happiness and your health. According to researcher Brad Gilbreath of Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, in his study on employees in diverse work sectors, an employee-boss relationship was nearly equal in impact on employee health and well-being as the employee’s relationship with his or her spouse. The number one reason given by U.S. workers for quitting their jobs is a bad boss or bad supervisor, according to a Gallup poll of 1 million citizens and 70 percent of workers in India cite a bad boss as the primary reason for quitting, according to an Assocham survey.
If I were the CEO of a large company that experienced a high level of turnover in a particular department or at a particular location, I would examine the managers and supervisors, because employee turnover is costly and ineffective. Unnecessary turnover can be prevented with a good boss. According to William Bliss of Bliss & Associates Consulting, it can easily cost a business $75,000 to replace a $50,000 employee. Thirty case studies from 11 research papers on employee turnover found that it costs approximately one-fifth (1/5 or 20 percent) of an employee’s salary to replace him or her, according to Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn of The Center for American Progress. Life is too short and precious to stay under a bad boss.
Good Boss Quality #1: Clear Communication of Employee Tasks, Quotas, and Expectations Being raised in a large family and working as a math teacher taught me the value of clearly communicating directions, tasks, jobs, quotas, and expectations. My deaf brother and the thousands of students I served taught me firsthand about different learning styles and various methods of communication needed to address each effectively. As a boss and supervisor, when I give directions, I use both verbal and written delivery methods to make sure that the directions, tasks, and expectations are clearly communicated to visual and auditory learners. A phone call followed by an email with the main points or a phone call followed by a text message when working in an office environment and a phone call followed by a hand written or printed list for my crew of men hired to remodel homes. If possible, I will provide an example of a finished product or a facsimile done well to address my expectations. For kinesthetic learners, if I have time, I will illustrate an example of the process to get a job completed. I often ask potential employees and new hirees to do a task in front of me so that I can make sure they understand how to do it and what is expected before they are left alone to complete their jobs.
Visual reminders of schedules, tasks, quotas, and deadlines eliminate confusion and ambiguity and they allow employees to act more independently and take responsibility for their tasks and scheduling rather than needing a helicopter boss every step of the way. According to Steve Tobak of Moneywatch, bad bosses “make everyone’s job harder by acting like a self-important, egotistical, micromanaging control freak” and micromanaging is not my style because it is much too time consuming – I hire, manage, and supervise adults not toddlers and treat them as such.
Good Boss Quality #2: Respect the Employee and Their Family, Values, and Beliefs
If you want your employees to do their best, treat them and what they love with respect. This pays big dividends in high productivity and loyalty. And it should be common sense for bosses and managers. A wise old proverb says “a brother offended is harder to win than a fortified city,” so always err on the side of caution because a formerly productive employee who is offended will negatively effect employee morale and your company’s bottom-line. When I hire an employee, I hire the employee to complete a job not to be my friend or confidant nor to mentor and guide them. It is not my business what my employee believes or doesn’t believe, my employee’s work productivity and results is my business.
If you want to inspire your employees, remember actions speak louder than words. If you want to inspire generosity and kindness, be a living example of generosity and kindness. Inspire by living actions not wind-filled lectures. I have a heart for employees who have a child or spouse sick with cancer. I know how hard it can be to make doctor and hospital appointments amidst traffic, so I have offered employees flexible schedules and work days if they find themselves needing to make appointments for a sick spouse or child. If you treat your employees well when they are going through a rough time in their life, you will build authentic trust and loyalty within your company culture because employees appreciate companies that value their loved ones.
Good Boss Quality #3: Maintain a Good Attitude To Inspire Positive Morale
Attitudes are contagious, and I believe that negative attitudes decrease productivity and creativity. Since a boss or supervisor is the head and leader of an organization, a bad attitude can have a trickle down effect. If I am undergoing something unusually stressful or traumatic, I will take a long walk, partake in an exercise class, or talk to a friend before working with employees because I do not want to contaminate them with a sad or negative attitude or put them in the position to try to cheer me up because it is not their job or role. Annie McKee, a workplace coach and co-chair of the Teleos Leadership Institute in Philadelphia, explained in Psychology Today’s article “Good Boss, Bad Boss” that “Emotions are literally contagious. In the case of an unhappy boss, it’s easy to pick up the negativity, the insecurity, the stress that he is spreading around.”
First, my grandmother, Dorothy Adams, refused to tolerate a bad attitude in me or my siblings upon waking up in the morning. If we arrived to the breakfast table with a less than good attitude, we were promptly sent back to our rooms to literally get back in bed and get up on the other side. We were expected to emerge with at the very least a good attitude, a respectful attitude, and a mannerly attitude. Second, my grandfather, Howard Dyckman, who was a successful entrepreneur and businessman in both New York and Florida taught me the importance of a good attitude. He made me memorize the Attitude poem by Charles Swindoll before 4th grade. A boss, leader, supervisor, or employee with a constant negative attitude drags the entire workforce environment down so lead by example.
Good Boss Quality #4: Practice Appreciation of Outstanding Employees
Lack of appreciation — or neglect of expression of appreciation in both verbal and tangible ways — is a relationship killer whether that relationship be between marriage partners or employer-employee. Very few of us fail to need, not just merely want or desire, appreciation. “Recognition for good work (either public or private)” was the number one motivating factor for employees according to a survey of more than 600 managers explain Harvard Business Review writers Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer. I believe that for appreciation to be effective it cannot just be verbal praise even though that is a key component.
When I run a crew for home remodeling, during inspections of progress and final walk-throughs, I make sure to verbally compliment my employees on exemplary work and jobs well done. The compliments need to be specific as in “you did an excellent job matching the seams during your installation of the wainscoting in the guest bath, it is flawless, and that is why I love working with you” not a generic “well done” or “atta boy.” Appreciation in some organizations needs to include public recognition, this can include awards, not just a piece of paper but add gift certificates and prizes, at meetings, award banquets, and conferences as well as write ups in newspapers or trade journals for exemplary employees. Appreciation also includes recommendations for conferences, bonuses, promotions, and–this one is very important–how you treat, speak about, and speak to an employee on a regularly basis.
Good Boss Quality #5: Implemented System to Retain Valuable Employees
It is so important to appreciate, reward, and retain valuable employees that I recommended creating and implementing a system so these important profit-adding employees do not get overlooked or overworked leading to eventual burnt out. It takes forethought–a mix of both planning and effort–to notice and identify valuable employees and to recognize and reward them accordingly. In small business ventures, identifying valuable employees is critical to overall profit margin and customer satisfaction.
During the hiring process I often screen potential employees by observing their completion of real tasks they will do if hired by me or evaluating portfolios of their actual work to ensure that I am hiring employees that have legitimate experience because potential candidates sometimes exaggerate their abilities and experiences in resumes and recommendations. After I hire employees, I continue to observe and evaluate their work progress and completed products. If an employee is not able to deliver what was promised, then I let him go and if an employee delivers equal to or better than what I need, then I take note. At the end of a week where a bathroom remodel was completed before schedule and flawlessly, I gave the tradesman an unexpected bonus and I told him why. He often completed future jobs early and I gave him a variety of incentives including bonuses, flexible time, and once I even gave his wife a gift that she really wanted because he worked late several times that week to meet our deadline resulting in him being late arriving home. In a small business environment bosses and managers are able to customize the incentives for their employees.
I brainstorm incentive ideas, write them down, determine the progress or job completion that corresponds with the incentive, and make sure not to forget the great employees. I also try to only have great employees. If a person is not a good fit for the position, job, or task, then he belongs somewhere else so I allow him to find the best fit and not waste his time or my time. I have seen it illustrated time and time again that a few great employees treated well and rewarded commensurate to their talents will be far more effective and efficient than a dozen mediocre or subpar employees.
Good Bosses Motivate Their Employees – Not the Other Way Around
Steve Tobak of CBS News Moneywatch perfectly sums up the main purpose of intelligent managers, wise supervisors, and good bosses, he states “Employees should be motivated to perform by their managers, not in spite of their managers.” Employees are hired by me to get a job done, to get that job done right, and to get that job done right in a timely manner to the best of their abilities. I would never want to impede that process, nor negatively affect my employees’ health or their family relationships, so I am considerate and respectful of my employees. My role as a boss and supervisor is to be a facilitator to their work, not an impediment. An employee’s high productively boasts a businesses bottom line, it positions the company to make the best profit it can. A boss that realizes the relationship between employee morale, employee health, high productivity, and a company’s bottom-line will be a great boss. Good bosses instinctively know that it is all interrelated.
“Good Boss, Bad Boss” — Willow Lawson, Psychology Today
“How to Cope with a Problem Boss” — Careerbuilder, CNN.com
“Bad Boss Chief Reason for Employees Quitting: Survey” — TNN, The Times of India
“Cost of Employee Turnover” — William G. Bliss, Small Business Advisor Website
“There are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees” — Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn, The American Center for Progress
“7 Ways Your Boss Makes Your Job Harder” — Steve Tobak, CBS News Moneywatch
“The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2010” — Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, Harvard Business Review
“Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk?” — Gwen Moran, Entrepreneur
“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss? Plenty of Us, New FSU Study Shows” — Barry Ray, Florida State University News
“Who’s the Boss?” — Matthew Yglesias, Slate Small Business