Bad Bosses Can Infect an Entire Business

Why is it that when bosses complain about poor performers, they're never talking about themselves?

Too often, managers attribute all their woes to their lackluster underlings or the mistreatment they receive from their own supervisors. Many are unwilling or unable to even consider the possibility that they themselves might just be the problems that plague morale and performance. Managers with this type of attitude contribute to an illness that undermines many businesses -- bad boss syndrome, or BBS.

BBS is a two-way street that can infect a business at every level: It can affect employees who are burdened by unappreciative managers who stifle their creativity and hamper their growth within the company. And it can also refer to the manager who's a terrible boss.

Unappreciative bosses are the pits. They often believe that if you do the job you were hired for, then you aren't entitled to praise or gratitude from them. It would never occur to them to say thanks or show their appreciation for your efforts. After all, you get a paycheck for that, so why should you deserve more?

I agree that employees shouldn't expect back-patting 24/7, but I strongly disagree with the philosophy of managers who don't offer frequent feedback and praise. Study after study confirms that workers are more committed to their jobs and are more productive when they know that management appreciates their efforts. In fact, the majority of people quit their bosses, not their jobs, when they opt to leave their positions.

Employees Should Communicate Their Needs

While the onus shouldn't be on the individual to beg for praise, as an employee you can try to retrain your boss to deliver the positive reinforcement you seek. For example, explain that such communication motivates you to deliver your very best work. Ask directly for constructive feedback, not just critical reaction, to your efforts. Ask directly for feedback on what you're doing right.

As a manager, ask yourself if you treat your direct reports the same way you expect your manager to treat you.

Recognize good work. When your people put in long hours or contribute great ideas, acknowledge them. This can come in many forms -- verbal credit in front of the group, an e-mail thanking an employee for a job well done, and even a spot bonus that says, "We really appreciate you."

The most basic form of appreciation is perhaps the easiest: Say "thank you." Those two words aren't spoken enough around the office. Managers are quick to complain when something goes wrong, but at the end of the day they're not willing to say thanks for putting in an honest day's work. Try it. Saying thank you -- and meaning it -- pays dividends in any workplace.

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