Hey Leaders, Can You Handle the Truth?

Monday - 7/26/2010, 4:00am EDT

If you've got a genuinely bad boss, whose fault is that and how and why did it happen? Will the next one be better or worse?

Is your leader highly-effective, and a motivator who makes you glad to come to work? Or is he/she indifferent, a tyrant or a tunnel-visioned micro-manager?

First this...

A Friday in mid-summer is not the best time to produce a column, if you want readers. Unless of course it is really bad, chock full of obvious errors are written while the writer is off his meds. As many are. Then you don't want readers.

But whether your target audience is busy, bored, distracted or away, Fridays in July and August are generally fuggedaboutit dead zones. Unless, apparently, the subject is an official good boss/bad boss report.

The subject of the Merit Systems Protection Board report was the quality (or lack of same) of first-line managers. It generated lots of worth reading reader feedback. Like so:

  • "There is also the situation where the individual (i.e., he/she) promoted to supervisor is an adequate but not great employee who tends to focus on minutia (e.g., noting coworkers who arrived one minute late or left one minute early, which coworker keeps a neat desk or makes a nice appearance, etc.). This adequate but not great employee is the type of individual who in too many situations is likely to be promoted to supervisor, especially in a production-type operation (e.g., paying benefits claims, processing licenses, sometimes even including high skill levels such as legal, etc.).

    "With the high rate of unemployment many public and private organizations will frequently tell their employees one way or another that 'you are lucky to have a job' and 'if you don't like the work situation, leave and we will find someone else to put on the payroll while you figure out how to pay your bills because you will be unemployed forever.' This is known as a 'management by fear' work environment which is almost as popular now as back when survivors of the Great Depression comprised a large chunk of the workforce.

    "Returning to the quandary of our adequate but not great former employee who is now a micromanaging supervisor, if the truly outstanding employee had been promoted to supervisor then the problem for the organization would be finding someone else to perform at that high level as a worker bee in processing the organization's daily workload. In short, in too many situations it is not in the organization's interest to promote the truly outstanding employee to supervisor because that action would negatively affect the organization's performance of its mission without the outstanding employee as a worker bee." OPM Vet

  • "You've got it wrong. First of all nobody even wants to be a manager because it's a lousy job. For that reason it tends to draw people who can't do the regular job or people who simply want a promotion so badly they'll do anything to get it including management. This results in management being filled with either incompetent or unhappy people who then spend their time trying to find other positions at the same grade level. Every time we have an analyst position open up at the same grade it's filled with applicants who are Group Managers. At the same time, of course, the people in the group are unhappy because they're either stuck with some idiot who could never do the job, some goof-off who figures everybody else must be goofing off like they did or simply some really unhappy person. There are exceptions of course (my manager-thank God!) but finding them takes a real effort and getting into their group is even tougher. This, of course, affects morale and the quality of work. " Harry @ IRS

  • "Mike, In many agencies, promotion for technical people may be halted at some level and anything higher demands a supervisory or management position. Hence you punish your technical 'stars' by keeping their grade rates down or pushing them into supervisory or management positions to get ahead. The answer to that problem is simply provide a path for technical people upwards further than the normal peon status." Bob Waters, retired (former Navy & DOE worker)

  • "A friend was listening to a former Harvard psychotherapist at a seminar. The guy said he quit doing it because people kept coming to him to be empowered. He would say to them 'why do you want to be empowered; almost all people with power are jerks. Look around you and you will see it is true.'