To mangle a 270-year-old sonnet written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning — How do we dislike our bosses? Let us count the ways.
Survey after survey, Americans (and everyone else) trash their bosses. Gallup reports only 12 percent of American workers are engaged. Research conducted and published by Inc. reveals 75 percent of employees say their boss is the worst part of their job. And two-thirds add a new (better) boss is even more desired than a pay raise.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) surveyed 300,000 workers and finds the issues workers have with leadership are almost equally divided between actions, and the failure to act.
You’re boring. This is the top complaint of the HBR sample. People look to leaders to create an environment that gets them fired up and inspired. Leaders who failed in their role were often described as being passive and unenthusiastic.
Lack of structure. While few people enjoy being micromanaged, most want structure and direction that support high performance. When goals and timelines are fuzzy or flexible, employees are thrown off balance. The result is stress, hesitation, confusion and frustration.
Image is everything. Leaders more concerned with how they look to their boss rather than their team are unpopular with their followers. These tend to be credit-hogging, under-the-bus throwing leaders whose greatest fear is being outshone by a subordinate (or peer).
Good enough is good enough. Easy to achieve goals do nothing to inspire or reward high performance and top performers. The message these leaders send is “do your job, only your job, and keep your head down.” Not a very inspiring message (see You’re boring).
Play favorites. Leaders seduced into giving plumb assignments to team members who kiss up are viewed as weak and lacking emotional intelligence by followers and peers. Playing favorites divides followers into “in” and “out” groups and hurts team performance.
Don’t walk the talk. It is pretty easy to understand a leader who preaches “work comes first” and is the last-in and first-out of the office are sowing seeds of resentment. Leaders who fail to keep their word are not considered trustworthy by their teams.
Never change. Leaders who reject every suggestion for improving processes and performance alienate their team. Without any input on what they do or how it is done, people often disengage, which damages their satisfaction, productivity, and enhances turnover.
Leadership is never easy. But, given all the attention improving leadership skills receives, is this list discouraging to you? If so, what can we do to help leaders succeed?
Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC in Naperville, IL., and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.