When the Boss is the Problem…

Anyone can manage, but is your manager really emotionally or intellectually equipped to lead? Wish you could turn the tables and evaluate your manager — or your own management quotient? Let’s do it!

When the corporate giant General Electric did an internal audit of what motivated its staff, or conversely, what factors demotivated employees (measurement = higher turnover rates), GE found the strongest predictor of high job satisfaction was effective employee/manager communication. Five key “leadership skills” were then identified: (1) open discussion of work-related problems; (2) informal feedback regarding performance; (3) informal salary feedback; (4) career discussions; and (5) performance appraisals.

It’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of people whose product is people, right? Wrong. Imagine you are the CEO of the business you work for: Here’s a quick quiz useful in evaluating a managers’ performance. Simply answer each statement “yes” or “no”:

• Bases decisions on opinions rather than fact.
• Resists managerial reviews: Says how “hard it is” to measure his or her true performance.
• “Ivory Tower” syndrome; avoids interaction with subordinates.
• Blames others when things go wrong; takes credit when things go right. Downplays other’s accomplishments or contributions, or uses staff accomplishments to further their own career or compensation plan.
• Doesn’t feel bound by the same time constraints as staff; late for meetings or deadlines.
• Attention is skewed toward bottom performing 80% of staff at expense of top performing 20%. Not concerned with talented, promotable people.
• Publically criticizes or corrects people. Transfers or fires talented people who disagree with them.
• Delegates the most unpleasant tasks, but is not comfortable depending on staff for real solutions or for significant input.
• Relationship with CEO is infused with unearned compliments and conversation about shared company history instead of discussions or plans for today’s challenges. The manager frequently reminds their boss how much the company depends on him or her to run the department or business.
• Is unable or unwilling to clearly express desired process or outcomes regarding a complicated task or project – not because they can’t figure it out or don’t know it, but to cover their own culpability if it fails.
• Expects others to stay after office hours, though they rarely do, and resists personal improvement opportunities unless the company pays for them.
• Avoids professional risks. Even pushes back projects that might benefit the company if there is a feeling of personal risk involved.
• Allows company criticism to go unchallenged or unanswered.
• Avoids giving the CEO an update if the news isn’t as good as expected.

I liken management to herding cats. Those best at it are people who (1) like and respect cats (2) understand what motivates or distresses cats; (3) know where they need the cats to go once they round them up; and (4) can authentically communicate points (1), (2) and (3) to each and every cat in the herd.

Whether your boss is inherently a cat whisperer or (gasp) a dog, next week, we’ll turn our attention to how to maximize your own job satisfaction. Life is about choice, and we’ll discuss how your workplace experience might be shaped by the unconscious choices you can, and do, make.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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