It's no surprise that "The Devil Wears Prada" has been a hit - both in book and film format - Anyone who has ever held a job has a story to tell about a boss who could probably rival Prada's Miranda Priestly, aptly described as "the boss from hell." In fact, bad bosses are so prevalent in the business world today, that several Web site—including workingamerica.org--invite workers to share their bad boss tales.
The toll those bosses take on the people they manage and the organizations they represent is impossible to measure, both in terms of dollars and morale. "I would guess that bad bosses are the major cause of employee turnover," says John Tschohl, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and author of several books on customer service. "The number one reason employees leave their jobs is not because of money, it's because they work for bad bosses and don't feel valued and appreciated."
Troy Johnson, a workplace contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America," recently wrote an article about bad bosses for the network's news Web site. She immediately began to receive e-mails from readers relating their own bad boss stories and cites this as the one she liked the best:
An employee went to her organization's Human Resources Department and presented a lengthy list of complaints about her manager. She was told to pay very close attention to everything her boss said and did, Johnson wrote. When the woman asked why, she was told, "If you watch her closely, you'll learn exactly what not to ever do, and you'll wind up going very far in management as the boss that everyone wants to work for."
The woman took that advice and, she wrote, "It has indeed made me very successful everywhere I've worked."
Often, people are promoted to leadership positions, not because of their skill in managing people but because they are technically proficient at their current jobs. "In many cases, they were never trained on how to be a boss, how to coach employees, and how to encourage superior performance," Tschohl says. "They don't understand the importance of morale in improving performance and increasing productivity."
Too often, Tschohl adds, people are promoted for all the wrong reasons. They are technically skilled, they have been with the organization for many years, or they are friends with the boss. "None of those is a valid reason for promoting someone," Tschohl says. "Why? Because none of them has anything to do with leadership skills."
Instead, organizations should promote those people who are skilled, self-motivated, and are willing too learn, then train them. "Good people skills are a critical trait for a good boss," Tschohl says. "No one is born with the skills necessary to lead people. They must be trained in how to motivate, recognize—and, yes, even reprimand—employees, all in an effort to form a cohesive and effective team. These are skills that must be taught and reinforced."
Tschohl offers the following six suggestions for being the best boss possible:Train yourself—and your employees
. "Read books on management, buy training programs, enroll in workshops and seminars that will help you become the type of leader you would like to work for," Tschohl says. "And train your employees. When you invest the time and money to do so, you are letting them know that you value them."Communicate clearly—and regularly
. "Employees perform best when they know exactly what is expected of them are given feedback that is specific, sincere, and timely," Tschohl says. "Two-way communication is important. When you let employees know that you are willing to listen to what they have to say, they will open up to you—and who knows what
wonderful ideas they might have to share."Treat them with respect
. "Employees, no matter how menial the job or low the pay, deserve to be treated with respect," Tschohl says.Recognize their contributions
. "People need to be caught doing great things," Tschohl says. "Too often, the only time employees are recognized are when they make a mistake. But, if you make it a point to praise them—and do so in public—they will continue to work hard for you. People are hungry for recognition and will accomplish significantly more if they receive it on a regular basis."Motivate them
. "Too many managers think money is the ultimate motivator; it isn't," Tschohl says. "Nothing is more effective in motivating an employee than a pat on the back, a simple ‘thank you,' or a public word of praise."Coach them
. "If you want to have a winning team, you must coach each member," Tschohl says. "You must nurture them. Recognize their strengths and help them to improve on their weaknesses."
When you treat employees with respect, communicate openly and honestly, and coach them to do the best job possible, you not only will be a good boss, Tschohl says, you will increase your chances of being promoted to even higher positions within the organization. "It's a win/win situation," he says.John Tschohl is an international service strategist and speaker. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service, including Loyal for Life; e-Service; Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service; the Customer is Boss; and Ca$hing In: Make More Money, Get a Promotion,
Love Your Job. He also has developed and conducts Customer Service Certification seminars that focus on leadership and customer service skills. www.johntschohl.com