Good boss, bad boss, so what?


Much research into the reasons why people leave their jobs tends to point either directly to the relationship with their boss or to some aspect of the relationship with the organisation for which the immediate manager has responsibility (See Gallup). People don’t leave when they are: valued for making a contribution; respected for knowledge and skills; recognised for achievements; encouraged and supported to reach the level of potential that can be realised within the organisation (or even outside it).

What I can add from my experience of working in organisations, both Irish-owned and American, is that the relationship I had with my immediate manager was crucial to my job satisfaction.  There is no way of getting around that, even if working remotely or for a number of different people with ‘dotted’ lines all over the map.  No amount of: ‘that’s just old hat now’; ‘nobody believes that anymore’, ‘the employer-employee relationship is more complex’ or ‘less complex’ or something like that, will change my mind.  Because, behind all that is the boss.

It’s the boss that makes it happen: recognises the achievements and the potential, is on the look-out for new assignments that will help stretch and growth towards potential; who recognises daily meeting of milestones; who fights to support in the face of adversity; who is loyal when there are mistakes; who takes the time to coach and train; who represents fairly and ethically during salary and benefits reviews; who understands when there’s a sick child and a deadline is missed; who gives time off to visit a sick parent in hospital; who is the listening ear for vulnerabilities, worries and concerns and does not form a fixed opinion or view – the list is endless really.  And, if you do not have trust and respect  between you and your boss then, it really does make it almost impossible to stay, no matter how magnificent the pay packet or the benefits or the food in the canteen or the amazing products on the production line.

So here’s my test for what makes for a good boss (for me):

  • Can I be fully myself (most of the time) – will the boss accept me, warts and all?
  • Does the boss respect my experience, knowledge and skills?
  • Will the boss support me no matter what happens?
  • Will the boss forgive mistakes and move genuinely on?
  • Can I call on the boss at any time and feel that I will get at least an open willing ear?
  • Is the boss open to new ideas and different approaches?
  • Will the boss make sound decisions (and I like fast ones)? 
  • Is the boss willing to take a risk for something new and different which has not been proven yet?
  • Is the boss true to their word?  When a promise is made, will they live up to it?
  • Can I trust this boss to represent me fairly?  Will the boss give my work the credit it deserves?
  • Will the boss be on the look-out for opportunities for my growth and development? Will they support and coach me to get there?
  • Does the boss realise and support the fact that I have a life outside of work, and while at work I am dedicated, but then I need to go home and live my life as well?

So to the ultimate question: did I ever find the ideal boss? The answer is no, not really in a complete sense, but I did meet a few truly wonderful people for whom I worked happily and with contentment.  One of them was a man whom everyone called ‘surly’ (he made people cry) but we got on famously.  He respected me and supported my ideas; we had dynamic, firey discussions and my output was both ground-breaking and prolific.  Unfortunately, he moved onto another role and was replaced with the ‘boss from hell’ who bullied me almost from the beginning, mostly on Friday afternoons before going home so I could dwell on it all over the weekend.  Yes, sadly, even though I loved my job, and I enjoyed working for the organisation, I had to quit, for my sanity and wellbeing. This only ever happened once to me in my 25+ years of working in organisations, so I was lucky! Working with other more gracious and caring bosses, has definitely more than made up for that.

Anne Marie

Anne Marie Crowley - Crowley Personal and Business Change

Anne Marie Crowley, based in Cork, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business. 

Anne Marie Crowley is the founder of Crowley Personal and Business Change.

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