“I love my job, but I hate my boss.” “If only my boss didn’t work here.” These are the types of comments I’ve heard about bosses ever since I first started writing about business etiquette. Statistics bear out these sentiments showing that people join companies and they leave bosses. Unfortunately, that take on bosses leads to lots of venting about “bad” bosses.
So what is it that “good” bosses do to foster a positive office environment and motivate the people who work for them?
- Good bosses understand the difference between a closed door and an open door, both literal and figurative. At the heart of the difference is a willingness to be available to the people who work for them and an open door is a clear signal of that. Figuratively, an approachable boss is a boss who shows genuine interest in the people who work for her.
- Good bosses communicate clearly. They don’t let jargon and obtuse phraseology cloud their message. It also means they are good listeners. They focus on the person they are with. They hear what the other person is saying and show that by commenting and asking questions.
- Good bosses offer praise, judiciously. People appreciate being told they are doing a good job. When that praise is deserved and it is offered sincerely, it boosts morale.
- Unfortunately, good bosses have to deliver bad news, too—poor company financial performance, the loss of a major contract. When these events happen, the good boss delivers the news right away rather than waiting and letting rumor and gossip take hold.
- Specifically, the good boss knows that firing or dismissing an employee is a traumatic event. Such events should be handled in person, not through email or a notice in inter-office mail. Even doing the deed on the phone should only happen when circumstances do not make an in-person meeting possible. Likewise, the good boss recognizes the importance of meeting with the person privately to deliver the bad news.
- Good bosses know it is important to accept responsibility for a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, even bosses. It’s not if it’ll happen, it’s when; and when it happens what is important is how the person deals with the mistake. The bigger mistake would be to blame others and try to shirk responsibility.
- Finally, good bosses remember the importance of “please“ and “thank you.” Even though the work or task may be an expectation, “please” turns a demand into a request. People much prefer being asked to do something than having it be demanded of them. “Thank you” shows appreciation, and people will respond more positively when their efforts are appreciated than when they are simply expected of them.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.