A survey was recently conducted in the US and the UK to find out what constituted a so-called ‘boss from hell’. The findings, interestingly, revealed that we Brits disliked a manager who, through insecurity and lack of talent, strove toward desperate popularity – encapsulated perfectly in Ricky Gervais’s portrayal of David Brent from ‘The Office’.
Conversely, our colleagues across the pond detested a boss that wanted everyone to fear them, as demonstrated so well by Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley in ‘The Devil Loves Prada’. The survey essentially identified two extremes: the desire to be loved and the desire to be loathed, both of which create unbearable working environments.
The question remains, therefore: what makes a good boss? Ultimately, we want a boss who is ‘human’.
By ‘human’, we mean someone that acknowledges their flaws as much as their strengths, someone who can delegate tasks to those more appropriately qualified and admit when they are wrong. We want someone who allows the team to have fun, but is intuitive not to stay out all night on staff social events.
Here are a few of the benefits of being a ‘human’ boss:
Gaining respect and turning it into competitive advantage
Businesses can make a big show of their mission statement, their goals and their values. Often, staff have to be able to recite them verbatim. However, there are times when they are not adhered to, when the boss has been seen behaving in a conflicting manner. A human boss is someone that ‘walks the walk’ in addition to ‘talking to talk’; they are someone who practices what they preach, pardon the plethora of clichés.
Someone that exhibits these characteristics is a manager that gains respect and credibility, both internally and externally. In turn, their reputation for being a good boss can actually translate into competitive advantage – who wouldn’t want to work for, or do business with, a highly-regarded and inspiring manager?
Engagement: getting the best from staff
A boss who is personable is able to more able to effectively engage with their staff and as a result, will be able to get the best from them. A member of staff will be far more likely to want to impress an engaging boss than one that intimidates them or takes credit for their work. A human boss, therefore, has the ability to create a positive working environment and a good organisational culture, within which people will want to stay. Which leads to….
… increased retention and reduced absence
Two issues that permanently reside at the top of the Board’s agenda, costing millions of pounds every year, are retention and absence. Or more accurately, how to reduce them. A big part of wanting to physically get up in the morning and go to work is pointed in the boss’s direction.
A boss who incorporates ‘humanity’ into their management style – rather than the David Brents and Miranda Priestleys – may be able to retain their staff more effectively; perhaps by talking through issues and taking the time to ask employees how they are feeling. That way, issues can be dealt with before they escalate and employees will feel as though they are actually cared about.
Preside over a motivated team
As most managers will know, motivational drivers extend beyond the basics of financial reward. Each of us have needs that require fulfilment, including job satisfaction, personal development and recognition. By devolving responsibilities to others and thanking staff, their needs will be more readily met. As a consequence, they should be more motivated in their day jobs.
All together now: ‘motivated staff are more productive’. It’s a mantra that the business world widely acknowledges, but rarely takes the time to achieve. Some evidently still fail to realise the impact of their leader on their staff in terms of output. A study undertaken in the US discovered that companies with a human boss, one that had managed their working culture, by far outperformed those that did not. Kotter and Haskett’s 11-year research found revenue, net income, jobs and stock prices all grew significantly more in such ‘human’ businesses.
Being a manager can be hard work; sometimes it can feel like a thankless task. Being more human, however, increases credibility and respect, which in turn leads to happier staff and a healthier bottom line. It really doesn’t hurt to show your human side.