Small Business Solutions: Dealing with Bad Bosses

Almost every working professional has endured at least one career phase dominated by an awful boss. Whether inept, spineless, disloyal, closed-minded, tyrannical or any combination thereof, bad managers of all types are found patrolling cubical farms far and wide.

But how did they rise to become managers? Nepotism? Blackmail? Con-artistry?

Or maybe they came with a solid track record but just couldn’t hack it once they found themselves saddled with the responsibility of managing direct reports.

Regardless of how they got there and whatever the reasons for their dysfunction, anyone who works under a bad boss knows how harmful such a dynamic can be; not just for the immediate team, but for the entire company. And that’s especially true for small businesses, where an inadequate manager’s behavior can quickly become a cancer that spreads throughout the office and cause irreparable damage in terms of low morale, poor performance, staff turnover and, in some of the worst cases, legal action against the company.

I feel very fortunate that during my six-plus years at Xerox I’ve worked for three exceptionally gifted managers. Their common traits? In no order of importance I’d list: trust, directness, honesty, fairness, passion, humility, loyalty and the ability to delegate effectively.

A great manager is one who gives his or her team members clear directions; pushes them to succeed at challenging yet interesting and rewarding tasks; allows them to fail but helps position them for another shot at achievement; and publicizes their success when they execute the team’s goals as expected.

In my pre-Xerox life I worked as managing editor of a successful trade magazine. It could have—should have—been my ideal career choice. But what could’ve been was anything but, and an egotistical, authoritarian boss proved too much for me and many on my team to handle.

Directly related to this topic is a recent article, “10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss.” It’s a great read for anyone currently working for a bad manager—or who once endured a bad experience and wants to feel the satisfaction that comes from reflecting on what used to be and how far they’ve come since.

I’d love to hear some of your bad-boss stories (while sticking to non-specifics, please) as well as your thoughts about what makes a manager truly great.

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