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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Are you a Bad Boss?

I was talking to a friend of mine, high up in an organization, about a new employee who was not performing.   The employee wasn’t a bad culture fit, but his qualifications on his resume didn’t seem to match his performance on the job.  True enough this happens.

To help this employee who was not delivering on time, my friend decided to put in place hard deadlines for her entire staff.   Her prior style was to give soft request and deadlines because she wanted her team to have autonomy and ownership.   My friend wrapped up our conversation with, “I don’t want to be that kind of boss,” inferring micromanaging.

Bad Boss - Not This Time
In this case, my exceptional leader friend wasn’t being a bad boss.

My response, “Giving employees deadlines is not being a bad boss.  Giving someone a deadline and then hovering over them until it is done because you don’t trust them is being a bad boss.  You are simply setting expectations, and that is helpful for everyone.”

Good Bosses and Happy Employees
As I teach leadership classes, what I see most often is managers do not know it’s a best practice, or are afraid, to set clear expectations.   The intention is good, to have individuals guide their work lives.   These good intention people want to treat their employees as the bright adults they are.   I get that.

But I would argue ambiguity is what is causes much unnecessary stress in the workplace. 

Happy employees, at any level, are ones given tasks with clear deadlines, which they check off when accomplished.  That is why so many people thrive on making lists and Franklin Covey makes a fortune!  

It also causes stress to the boss when they need to start disciplinary action.  They ask their HR professional, like me, “How did the employee not know what they were supposed to do?”  I can tell you why, most of the time is the employee was unclear about expectations.

The Gurus’ Solution
Employee autonomy is how an employee goes about doing the task.   Give them the tasks, the deadline, and then get the heck out of the way.

So help yourself and your employees, look at what you expect them to do and tell them in simple clear terms. 

  • “I expect you to meet with your partners every two weeks, and send a summary report afterwards to the project team within 24 hours.” 
  • “I expect you to have the timeline sketched out by Friday.  What obstacles do you see in making that happen?"
  • “I expect you to work effectively with Sam and I know you have had some bumps in your relationship.  Effectively to me means…”    

So there you have it.  If you find your employees are not performing to expectations, first look internally to see if you are setting clear expectations.   Put in writing those clear expectations, with deadlines, to make yours and your employees’ lives easier. 

If you need help developing your managers or supervisors, we invite you to learn more about our training class The Secret to Managing Excellence. Contact us at 407-495-0846 or  We'd love to hear from you!