After having about 30 jobs, not including 15 years farming, I’ve been lucky to have only five horrible bosses. The longest I worked for any of them was four months, and the shortest was my record of one-hour, 45 minutes.
It’s fair to ask why I’ve changed jobs so often, and the answer to that is complicated. One reason for many of those changes had to do with my ex-husband getting better jobs or being transferred to new locations. Other reasons include finding better-paying or more interesting jobs, moving to different states and a sense of adventure that would take an entire column to explain. And five of those changes were due to the really bad bosses I mentioned.
All those bad bosses had certain things in common. None of them respected their employees or their customers. They all degraded employees in front of others, were micro-managers, didn’t trust their employees, and didn’t give their employees the support, tools and information they needed. It may be Karma that, except for one, all of their businesses have closed.
To avoid having a bad boss, pay close attention during an interview. If the person doing the interview cuts down former employees, you can bet they do the same with their current employees. Sometimes, though, you don’t get that warning until you’ve accepted the job.
After I was hired to work in human resources at a Wisconsin Dells business, I took part in an orientation for all new employees, some of whom were immigrants. The way my new boss treated them made me realize I couldn’t work for him. He disparaged them because some were having trouble understanding what he said and, even though one was available, he refused to call in the interpreter. I left the premises as soon as orientation was over — an hour and 45 minutes into the job.
My other really awful bosses not only cut down their employees, but they cheated their customers and expected me to do the same. When I refused, one of them fired me at my request. As for the others, I quit the same day. No job is more important than doing what’s right.
That leaves the more than 25 good bosses I’ve had. And some weren’t just good, they were excellent. They, too, shared many of the same qualities.
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From day one, great bosses tell their employees what’s expected, and are available to answer questions. They offer praise when deserved, are good listeners and provide all the information and tools necessary for the employee to excel. Then they get out of the way and trust people to do their jobs.
Great bosses lead by example, mentor new employees and those who need assistance. They also have the courage to hold them accountable. If, after assistance and some mentoring, the employee is still unwilling or unable to perform their duties, a good boss must terminate them for the good of the organization and everyone who works there.
Employees do their best work for organizations that include them in decisions that affect them, are fairly compensated and promoted. An excellent organization regularly solicits employee suggestions for ideas that would make the organization more productive, profitable and pleasant for all.
When an organization is managed by smart, organized and compassionate people who practice the ethic of fairness, everyone wins. Workers do their best work, goals are met or exceeded, customers and vendors are happy, absenteeism and turnover are almost non-existent, progress is ongoing and the owners and managers have less stress.
One of the great jobs I’ve had was at Teel Plastics, a plastics extrusion company in Baraboo, back in the early and mid-1980s when Teelin family members were the owners. I was the only customer service representative and my boss, the late Bill Shogren, who was the marketing manager, had all the qualities of an excellent boss.
The owners were there most of the time, and they and the president of the company were always available. They showed up on the production floor every day, knew everyone’s name, and provided all the tools and information employees needed. They cared as much for the employees as they did their customers.
Out of curiosity, I sent a survey to 100 of the customers and more than 95% of them responded. All but one ranked the service and products as “excellent.” That’s because all of the departments, from quality assurance, manufacturing, purchasing, engineering and customer service worked as a team. Every morning we’d meet in the production office and decide which jobs should have priority. Sometimes we disagreed, but nobody was ever disrespectful. Plus, the company was very profitable.
When employees are happy, customers are happy. It’s as simple as that.
Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.