Are you a Bad Boss? Find Out … ;)

If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? 

Stanford University Professor Dr. Robert Sutton’s book Good Boss, Bad Boss with the help of different cases reveals the mindsets of the best and the worst bosses. The writer states that this psychological and management research was inspired by the emails, phone calls, and conversations after his previous bestseller The No Asshole Rule. The heartbreaking, inspiring and funny stories swirled around a central figure in every workplace: The Boss. A boss really determines the type of life someone has at work. It can either be a blessing or a curse.  The book moves around the nitty-gritty of what the best and worst bosses do.

Good Boss, Bad Boss teaches the art and the science of practical leadership for the 21st century.

Here are some best lines from the book…

“If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you’ve treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself? Or will they believe that you ought to be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed by how you have trampled on others’ dignity day after day?”

“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and the worst.”

“Fight as if you are right, listen as if you are wrong.”

“Listen to those under your supervision. Really listen. Don’t act as if you’re listening and let it go in one ear and out the other. Faking it is worse than not doing it at all.”

“Psychological safety is the key to creating a workplace where people can be confident enough to act without undue fear of being ridiculed, punished, or fired – and be humble enough to openly doubt what is believed and done. As Amy Edmondson’s research shows, psychological safety emerges when those in power persistently praise, reward, and promote people who have the courage to act, talk about their doubts, successes, and failures, and work doggedly to do things better the next time.”

“As the research shows, the more time you spend around rotten apples – those lousy, lazy, grumpy, and nasty people – the more damage you will suffer. When people are emotionally depleted, they stop focusing on their jobs and instead work on improving their moods. If you find that there are a few subordinates who are so unpleasant that, day after day, they sap the energy you need to inspire others and feel good about your own job, my advice – if you can’t get rid of them – is to spend as little time around them as possible.”

“Talented employees who put their needs ahead of their colleagues and the company are dangerous.”

“The best management is sometimes less management or no management at all. William Coyne, who led 3M’s Research and Development efforts for over a decade, believed a big part of his job was to leave his people alone and protect them from other curious executives. As he put it: ‘After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.”

“Negative interactions (and the bad apples who provoke them) pack such a wallop in close relationships because they are so distracting, emotionally draining, and deflating. When a group does interdependent work, rotten apples drag down and infect everyone else. Unfortunately, grumpiness, nastiness, laziness, and stupidity are remarkably contagious.”

“Have strong opinions and weakly held beliefs. Do not treat others as if they are idiots. Listen attentively to your people; don’t just pretend to hear what they say. Ask a lot of good questions. Ask others for help and gratefully accept their assistance. Do not hesitate to say, ‘I don’t know’. Forgive people when they fail, remember the lessons, and teach them to everyone. Fight as if you are right, and listen as if you are wrong. Do not hold grudges after losing an argument. Instead, help the victors implement their ideas with all your might. Know your foibles and flaws, and work with people who correct and compensate for your weaknesses. Express gratitude to your people.”

“The best bosses find the sweet spot between acting like spineless wimps who always do just as they are told (no matter how absurd) versus insubordinate rabble-rousers who challenge and ignore every order and standard operating procedure. Good bosses try to cooperate with superiors and do what is best for their organizations, but they realize that defiance can be required to protect their people and themselves – and sometimes is even ultimately appreciated by superiors.”

“The first job of a leader is to define reality.”

“Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

“The worst bosses condemn their people to live in constant fear as they wait for the next wave of bad news, which always seems to hit without warning and at random intervals. The best bosses do everything possible to communicate when and how distressing events will unfold. When the timing of a stressful event can be predicted, so can its absence: Psychologist Martin Seligman called this the safety signal hypothesis. Predictability helps people know when to relax versus when dread and vigilance are warranted – which protects them from the emotional and physical exhaustion that results when people never feel safe from harm for even a moment. Seligman illustrated his hypothesis with air-raid sirens used during the German bombing of London during World War II. The sirens were so reliable that people went about their lives most of the time without fear; they didn’t need to worry about dashing to the shelters unless the sirens sounded.”

“Connective talents are useless, of course, if people can’t perform the work. And the most talented people in every occupation have huge advantages over their ordinary peers.”

“All bosses can be more effective when they work with, rather than against, the peer culture. Bosses who are known as fair and consistent will get more support from the peer culture when they do their dirty work. Research on punishment shows that coworkers often believe that offenders are let off too easily by bosses – especially when they have violated the rules consistently, shown little remorse, and a fair process was used to convict and punish the wrongdoer. In the best workplaces, bosses and their charges agree on what is right and wrong, and peers – not the boss – dish out punishment. Research on employee theft shows that ridicule, ostracism, and nasty gossip by peers is 250 percent more effective for deterring stealing than formal punishment by supervisors.”

“Interruptions are especially destructive to people who need to concentrate – knowledge workers like hardware engineers, graphic designers, lawyers, writers, architects, accountants, and so on. It takes people an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from an interruption and return to the task they had been working on – which happens because interruptions destroy their train of thought and divert attention to other tasks. A related study shows that although employees who experience interruptions compensate by working faster when they return to what they were doing, this speed comes at a cost, including feeling frustrated, stressed, and harried. Some interruptions are unavoidable and are part of the work – but as a boss, the more trivial and unnecessary intrusions you can absorb, the more work your people will do and the less their mental health will suffer.”

“In short, if you are a boss, ask yourself: ‘Who have I anointed as stars?’ Think of your workplace more broadly and ask, ‘Do we anoint people who bolster or bring down others’ performance and humanity?”

“Confirmation bias can cause bosses to make excessively glowing judgments about people they have invested a lot of time and money in or who they simply find to be likable or admirable. Even if your judgment is generally sound, confirmation bias can blind you to mediocre or even downright rotten performance displayed by your favorites.”

“If you are determined to be an effective shield, start by working on yourself. Great bosses avoid burdening their people. They invent, borrow, and implement ways to reduce the mental and emotional load they heap on followers. In particular, meetings are notorious time and energy suckers. Yes, some are necessary, but too many bosses run them in ways that disrespect people’s time and dignity – especially self-absorbed bosses bent on self-glorification. If you want to grab power and don’t care much about your people, make sure you arrive a little late to most meetings. Plus, every now and then, show up very late, or – better yet – send word after everyone has gathered that, alas, you must cancel the meeting because something more pressing has come up. After all, if you are a very important person, the little people need to accept their inferior social standing. Sound familiar? Using arrival times to display and grab power is an ancient trick. This move was used by elders, or ‘Big Men’, in primitive tribes to gain and reinforce status. An ethnography of the Merina tribe in Madagascar found that jostling for status among elders meant that gatherings routinely started three or four hours late. Elders used young boys to spy on each other and played a waiting game that dragged on for hours. Each elder worked to maximize the impression that the moment he arrived, the meeting started. If he arrived early and the meeting didn’t start right away, it signaled that he wasn’t the alpha male. If he arrived late and the meeting had started without him, it also signaled that he wasn’t the most prestigious elder. I’ve seen similar power plays in academia. I was once on a committee led by a prestigious faculty member who always arrived at least ten minutes late, often twenty minutes. He also canceled two meetings after the rest of the five-person committee had gathered. I tracked the time I wasted waiting for this jerk, which totaled over a half day during a six-month stretch.”

“The best bosses do more than charge up people and recruit and breed energizers. They eliminate the negative because even a few bad apples and destructive acts can undermine many good people and constructive acts.”

“When your boss listens to you carefully, reaches out to help you, and learns from you, it enhances your dignity and pride. Doing so also helps your boss gain empathy for you, to better understand how it feels to be you and what you need to succeed in your job and life.”

“Performance and humanity are the goals that great bosses aim to achieve. Yet the best bosses devote little energy to thinking about how great it would be to reach these goals, worrying if they can, or even celebrating when they do.”

“The best bosses let the workers do their work. They protect their people from red tape, meddlesome executives, nosy visitors, unnecessary meetings, and a host of other insults, intrusions and time wasters. The notion that management ‘buffers’ the core work of the organization from uncertainty and external perturbations is an old theme in organization theory. A good boss takes pride in serving as a human shield, absorbing and deflecting heat from superiors and customers, doing all manner of boring and silly tasks, and battling back against every idiot and slight that makes life unfair or harder than necessary on his or her charges.”

“Good bosses focus their attention, and their people’s efforts, on the small number of things that matter most. The best bosses learn when they can and should ignore the least important demands from others. But some demands can’t be avoided even though they have little, if any, impact on people or performance. In such cases, it might be wise to do a quick and crummy job so you can ‘check the box’ and quickly move on to more crucial chores.”

“Refusal to accept blame, pointing fingers at others, and wimpy language can help bosses keep their jobs for a while, but it usually backfires in the long run. No matter what is said, bosses are seen as responsible for what their people do.”

“When people (regardless of personality) wield power, their ability to lord it over others causes them to (1) become more focused on their own needs and wants; (2) become less focused on others’ needs, wants, and actions; and (3) act as if written and unwritten rules others are expected to follow don’t apply to them.”