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Bad Boss? Not Me!
by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan Evans

The statistics are alarming - a talent shortage looming, unhappy and disloyal employees, costly turnover, decreasing productivity - all of which have a huge impact on an organization's bottom line. What's worse is that nine out of ten managers still believe that the key to engaging and retaining talent is the money. The truth is that the manager holds the key … people leave bad bosses, not organizations. Today's workers will NOT stay and work for a jerk. Or if they stay, they'll withhold their discretionary effort, bringing only half of their heads and hearts to the job.

Who Me? We are all jerks sometimes. After all, we're overworked and overstressed along with everyone else. With competition for good people increasing, it's important to define and assess your own "bad boss" behaviors - isn't it time to change?

Read the statements below in the context of work and, in particular, your interactions with your people. Then for each statement, rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 5, with zero meaning you never act this way and five meaning you often act this way. Be honest - brutally honest … "if the truth be known, I ..."

Intimidate Condescend or demean Act arrogant
Behave rudely Belittle people Micromanage
Manage up, not down Always look out for #1 Give only negative feedback
Yell at people Lie Act above the rules
Withhold praise Swear Show disrespect
Act sexist Act racist Withhold critical information
Use inappropriate humor Blow up in meetings Begin every sentence with "I"
Steal the spotlight Block career moves Distrust everyone
Overuse sarcasm Enjoy making people sweat Undermine authority
Betray trust or confidences Gossip and spread rumors Act as if others are stupid
Take things out on others Use fear as a motivator Show revenge
Never accept blame, letting others take the hit Set impossible goals or deadlines Show lack of caring for people
Deliberately ignore or isolate certain people Slam doors and pound tables when angry Act superior to or smarter than everyone else
Show favoritism Embarrass or humiliate others Criticize constantly, often at a personal level
Add up your scores - where do you stand?

Kaye and Jordan-Evans have surveyed thousands of workers worldwide asking "What 'jerk-like' behaviors would make you walk right out the door?" The results are in - they would walk if their boss:
  • Belittles them in front of others -- 40.5%
  • Lies -- 34.2%
  • Condescends or demeans -- 31.5%
  • Humiliates and embarrasses others - 23.9%
  • Micromanages - 21.9%
Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk? Just as you can learn new leadership skills at any age, you can stop ineffective (bad boss) behaviors or replace them with more effective ones. It may not be easy, but it is possible. The difficulty of changing ineffective behaviors depends on several factors:
  • How ingrained is the behavior? Have you been acting this way for 50 years or three years? Long-term habits are certainly more difficult to break than those recently acquired.
  • Are you clear about what the desired behaviors look like? A clear picture of the goal certainly makes it easier to get there.
  • Do you have resources available to help you? It's easier to change if there are people supporting you.
  • How complex is the behavior? You may be able to stop telling off-color jokes, while negative reactions under stress are more complicated and interwoven. They require more focus, more resources, and more time. You may even need to develop a whole new repertoire of behaviors from which to choose.
  • Do you really want to change? (If you can't answer this question, you will not change.)
The Bottom Line -- It is critical that you keep your stars in today's competitive environment and recruit new talent when necessary. Bad bosses are unable to do either, particularly as their reputation spreads. Once you decide to change your jerk-like behaviors, create an action plan and stick with it. It may be the most important thing you can do to positively impact your organization's bottom line.

Beverly Kaye is CEO and Founder of Career Systems International, one of the nation's leading talent management solution providers. Her ground breaking career development, talent retention, workplace satisfaction and mentoring programs have been implemented by top organizations worldwide.

Sharon Jordan-Evans is president of the Jordan Evans Group, an executive coaching, leadership development firm. She was a senior vice president for the Change Management Practice at Drake Beam Morin, one of the country's largest transition firms.

Both authors are sought-after keynote presenters on the topics of workplace satisfaction, retention and engagement.

Copyright Beverly Kaye. All Rights Reserved.

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