There is a boundary line separating bosses from the rank-and-file. Newly minted managers are saddled with responsibilities no one prepared them for.
Unlike musical or athletic abilities, which often have a genetic root, leadership abilities are an acquired or learned skill.
Most managers learn on the job. Predictably, they often make mistakes. In the career-building process, it’s important to understand your managers, their jobs, and the skills needed to manage others.
While many large and midsize companies provide training seminars and lectures for new managers, most organizations provide little or meager training for bosses. And most training programs are half-hearted attempts to teach specific managerial skills, such as how to delegate authority, get feedback and work with difficult employees.
Some large companies aggressively promote the fact that they hire professional managers with MBAs. They’re promoted as the new breed of managers.
However, the MBA ranks are small, and 99 per cent of the bosses will never enroll in an MBA program. What’s more, most bosses don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Consider the following givens about bosses:
- Bosses have incompetent role models. Bosses are not trained to be managers, and most had inadequate or poor role models. How can anyone be a good boss if his role model was a high-strung megalomaniac who managed his department as if it were a military battalion?
- Bosses misuse or abuse authority. It’s not hard to understand how bosses can abuse authority. One day, you’re just another worker taking orders and griping about the power chain; the next you’re a boss with people reporting to you. Not only must employees now take orders from you, but you’re also the one they must please. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in charge of one or 100 people – as soon as a worker has to report to and answer to someone else, you have a boss-employee relationship. Any first-time boss will tell you that the first surge of power is a heady feeling. The erudite former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger described power as “the great aphrodisiac.”
It’s easy to let power go to your head. Many bosses use it as a weapon to compensate for their inadequacies, frustrations and failures; others use it to cast a spell of fear and anxiety in the ranks. It happens in all companies, but especially in small ones. This is where you find the prototypical big fish in a little pond who couldn’t cut it in larger organizations with complex and strict reporting relationships. In small companies, however, these petty bureaucrats, many of whom have been victimized by tyrannical bosses, can be king of the mountain, wreaking fear, panic and emotional suffering on everyone in their charge. They take great pleasure knowing that they’re dreaded and that their employees’ jobs depend on pleasing them.
Here are more facts about bosses:
- Bosses often operate with complete autonomy. Many bosses get away with tyrannical behaviour because they’re allowed to rule with complete autonomy. They’re like feudal lords, free to run their fiefdoms as they please. They can be enlightened despots, vicious dictators or democratic leaders considerate of their troops. It’s the luck of the draw.
- Most bosses don’t know about or care about progressive management techniques. Yet many untrained bad bosses would probably change if they were able to see themselves through their employees’ eyes.
The moral of this workplace saga: Cut your boss some slack. He or she is not perfect. Like all of us, they’re just people trying to do their jobs.
Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.