How NOT To Be An Asshole Boss

We all have (or had) them. At some point, during a miserable period of our lives, we were lucky to encounter people (maybe one, two, or more) with fancy titles who made us understand the concept of ‘hell’ and forced us to succumb to the imbecile versions of ourselves for reasons that we can no longer fathom. We call them our asshole bosses and they got away with a lot of things because, let’s face it, we let them.  We indulged their whims and stupidly hoped that things will change for the better or we were not brave enough to holler those pent-up objections.  Lesson learned, we then make it a point not to become one in the future.

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Here are some reminders to help us swerve from such a sordid path.

1. Honor the contract.

There’s a reason why documents like contracts were created in the first place. Contracts are set between two or more parties, in order to protect the parties against any breach or unlawful action. In simpler terms, it points to the protection of the employee or the employer from any form of abuse. Whether we are talking about a private money-generating company or a non-profit organization, a contract is a contract. It is still binding and will serve as the parties’ tangible proof of an agreement made prior to start of employment.

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No one can just change the contract’s provisions anytime. Bosses, most especially, cannot just make alterations to what was originally agreed on to please their whims. In special cases, there might be a necessity to make such changes in accordance with the needs of the organization or company, but such changes should still be aligned with the previous descriptions and the employee should have been well informed of the plans.  Better yet, in order to avoid complications, the scope of the employment should have been established clearly from the beginning so that proper expectations were set and the employee can say ‘no’ (if he or she was dissatisfied with the offer) and someone else could have been hired for the job. Therefore, time should be allotted for appropriate planning in the creation and revision of contracts before it is actually presented or offered.

Remember that a contract is a vital document as it regulates the terms and conditions of employment. It does not only stipulate what the employer will provide in terms of remuneration; but it also specifies what the employee is entitled to receive in terms of company or organization policy, benefits, and labor legislation.  Without a contract, a boss can act as a tyrant in a sheep’s clothing and get away with anything.

2. Listen and be open-minded.

Yes, when you are boss (one day) you will be allotted more talk time but you have the prerogative not to use it all the time. You also have the option to listen. Yes, listen and actually allow your employee to vent all that pent-up negative emotion. Don’t ever make the mistake of giving your employees the impression that you don’t want to empathize or listen to what they say as this will destroy their morale and loyalty.

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Let them talk and if they talk, try not to look bored or irritated as this will discourage them from talking. Look them in the eye, write notes if possible, and respond now and then but deviate from justifying and giving a long speech. Besides, shouldn’t bosses be actively seeking feedback? Feedbacks, whether positive or negative, should be welcomed with open arms as they can help you in improving the company or organization’s processes, as well as, in strengthening the good practices.

Also, let them finish talking. I don’t know what kind of upbringing you have but as far as proper etiquette is concerned from where I came from, it is considered rude to interrupt someone who is not done talking. Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to say your piece after the employee has said everything he or she needed to say; but meanwhile, try to control your impulse to ‘butt in’ and never use trigger words like ‘okay, okay, okay’ or ‘next’ while your employee is pouring his or her heart out to you.

Lastly, it wouldn’t hurt if you ask about their well-being. Go ahead, try it. Ask your employee how they are doing and ask a follow-up question thereafter. The results of this gesture might just surprise you.

3. Don’t slave-drive your employees.

Subtly pressuring your employees to work 24/7 is a good way of burning them out. Take a lesson from a mobile phone. You know what a mobile phone is, right? A mobile phone, when excessively used, the battery will run out and when that happens you will need to recharge it. The same concept can be applied to your employees. Like a mobile phone, they too need to take a step back, rest, and recharge. If you deprive them of this, you won’t get much productivity out of them. In worst case scenarios, you’ll receive something mediocre and not even worth being presented. (And don’t even give them the bullshit speech about submitting something mediocre as being “acceptable” as long as they go to work whenever you tell them to, because you know very well that this is not acceptable and ultimately, you’ll punish them for it.)

20902487_lowIf you choose to work seven days a week, that’s your call.  Never question their commitment and never use other employees for comparison as not all of them have to work the same way in accomplishing their tasks.  Stop being ridiculous in insisting that they need to be in the office when there really is no need for them to be there. Let them enjoy their rest days or holidays because (duh?!?) it’s their right and I’m sure most of them have earned them.

4. Share the limelight.

Let me use a common theater phrase, this is not a “one-man show.” You are in one major production and although you’re getting more speaking parts, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to horde all the attention. Share it and allow other employees to shine as well. Take note – there is no such thing as small parts. Each person has a role to play and every role plays an important part that will contribute to the success of the show. And if at some instance one person played a part so well and deserves credit for it, by all means, give him or her the credit he or she deserves. Don’t lay claim on this credit and own it like as if it was yours in the first place.

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Don’t make the mistake of crushing your employee’s morale by stealing his or her moment. There is no need to be insecure. You’re already the boss! Let that employee bask in that moment as this will encourage him or her to do more, to work even harder, to create something better than before. Give credit when credit is due and when you give it, give it with a willing heart.

5. Practice what you preach.

As per urban dictionary, this is a fairly new expression used in business which means that “we do what we say YOU should do.” When I read this, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and agree with it as this was obviously something that I have observed with some of the bosses that I have had. Some of my bosses in the past would say something but do the opposite, hence, I refer to them as “walking contradictions.”

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So my suggestion, stop saying things which you will not do anyway or else you will only be judged. For instance, if you self-righteously tell your employee that the NGOs attending the workshop need to feel how the grassroots or marginalized people are feeling by sleeping near the earth, then you too should sleep on a mat and not on bed. If you advice your employee to eat the food offered in the place where he or she was assigned in, then you should be a good role model by not being so picky and judgmental when you yourself were assigned in a foreign place.  If you say to your employee to do what the locals are doing, then you should leave your VIP badge at home and get to the field office by commuting in public transportation (not on a service taxi or the company car), expect not to be served with tea and cookies that even the locals do not have the advantage of having, and work around the schedule of the locals (never the other way around, your highness.) If you keep berating your employee about the essence of time, then you should try not being late, finish meetings on the dot, and not waiting for the last minute to accomplish a project. If you demand that everyone speaks in a language that everyone can understand, then you should start doing so and stop interacting using your vernacular. If you campaign about women being important members of the society, then you should start treating women with respect and stop treating them as sexual objects (or worst, harassing them).

I’m sure there are other examples but I’ll stop here. I’m sure you got my point.

6. Stop power tripping or power playing.

Yes, you’re the boss but you are not your employee’s lord and master. Haven’t you heard? Power trips and power plays just don’t cut it anymore and are in fact, terrible terrible ways to manage people. Good bosses, they say, are good leaders and good leaders lead by inspiring, teaching, sharing, encouraging, helping, and even serving their employees.

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If you can brew your own cup of coffee, do so. If you can carry your own bag or folder, do so. If you need to get something from another floor or office and you have free time, do so. If you can photocopy or fax the documents yourself, do so. If you can buy your own lunch, do so. If you can drop off a file on your way home, do so. If you can do all these and all other menial things without giving too much importance on your position, then you’re actually helping instead of adding to the workload in the office.

In addition, stop crushing your employee’s initiative by not acknowledging their ideas and insisting that your way is the best way.  Whether your intention was to retain what was working just fine in the office or to make a ham-handed statement of reminding workers who had the power, this only goes to prove that you were using your position to get what you want. This may even imply some of your not-so-well-hidden insecurities. You definitely don’t want the whole office to know about that.

7. Be clear, polite, and supportive.

Bosses need to be very clear when communicating with their employees. Expectations have to be set accordingly, employees should be given the right tools to accomplish their jobs, reasonable deadlines should be noted, and help should be offered when needed.

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When giving instructions, ask if the employee understood what you have relayed. Encourage your employee to ask questions as this will open doors to other bright innovations. Don’t assume and discover later when it’s all too late. And if your employee was not able to produce what you expected him or her to produce, talk to him or her in private. Never make the mistake of raising your voice or screaming at him or her where there are other people around who will be spectators to his or her humiliation. Criticize but criticize gently and constructively because you don’t want to destroy the person’s self-esteem. What you want is to motivate the employee. Make him or her feel valued and let them know what he or she has to gain when a good job was done or when something needed to be improved. After all, there are many reasons why a job is not successful. It’s important that you understand that there are actually several factors and not just one.

There they are. Some of your reminders just in case you get that much hoped for promotion. Remember, DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE BOSS, BOSS. (There’s a story behind why bosses are called assholes but I’ll write about it on my next article.)

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