x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The five kinds of bad bosses

The Life: A better boss would make more employees happier at work than a pay raise, according to data from the workplace expert Michelle McQuaid.

Kevin Spacey lays it on the line for Jason Bateman, left, in the film Horrible Bosses. Warner Brothers / Everett / Rex Features
Kevin Spacey lays it on the line for Jason Bateman, left, in the film Horrible Bosses. Warner Brothers / Everett / Rex Features

A better boss would make more employees happier at work than a pay raise, according to data from the workplace expert Michelle McQuaid. More than six in 10 workers say they would be happier with a better boss, compared with only four in 10 who would prefer an increase in wages.

This surprising piece of research raises an issue that is of critical concern - the bad boss syndrome.

Few managers have ever had a great one to learn the tricks of - causing role model leadership to take a downwards turn. It is no surprise that less than half of organisations invest anything at all in management development, according to the management consultancy Bersin & Associates.

Coupling these pieces of research made me wonder: "What can a boss do to get better?"

Perhaps the quickest and simplest approach is to reverse the "bad boss" archetypes and create your own role model to copy.

While there is no shortage of ways for a bad boss to be bad, here are a few common approaches.

The lino (leader in name only) boss is a person who occupies a position of leadership and thinks because he has the position that he is a good leader. They are the de-facto leader since they hold the respected position. Having a title or position does not equate with being a real leader.

Employees who have a lino boss typically perform at the bare minimum to sustain their role until they cannot take it anymore. In my opinion this is the worst type of bad boss as they simply rely on their position as a means of authority.

Closely related to the lino is the bully boss. This is a leader who has no problem using force, coercion and intimidation. Rarely does the bully boss use physical abuse, but the emotional and verbal abuse is equally damaging. Subordinates follow this boss archetype because they have to until they have an opportunity not to.

Not all bully bosses rely on simple one-on-one bullying. Some choose the more complex bullying in which they bully through one or more "lieutenants" who assist the bully boss in his activities.

The limiting boss is a career killer as they don't help employees to develop their skills. The argument is, "If I develop them, they will leave the company". But even worse is not developing your employees and them staying. People truly engage with leaders who help them to get better. The focus here is on helping employees be the best they can so that they can succeed individually and you can collectively.

The no responsibility boss passes the blame, waits to see and avoids (personal) risk. Many times the boss who demonstrates this archetype is actually a nice guy, but still terribly frustrating by his lack of making decisions and accountability. Nothing gets done around the no responsibility boss because he won't decide what to do and his behaviour stymies employees by fear of blame.

The keep it to myself bosses are poor communicators. Whether this is a deliberate tactic, blind spot or capability deficiency the effect is the same - employee dissatisfaction. This archetype is often unclear on expectations (from the employees perspective) and can appear to be arbitrary. Email actually makes the poor communicating boss even worse.

Rather than emulating, intentionally or accidentally, David Harken from the 2011 movie Horrible Bosses, make your employees' wishes come true and be a better boss for leadership's sake.

Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging-market leadership, an adviser and the author of The CEO Shift. He is the founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center