Think Inc.
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real boss

Here's what they're really like

Nobody out there has a
feedback-giving, employee-nurturing,
free-praise-bestowing supervisor

Boss battles

Do you have horror stories about things your boss has done? Praise for an exceptionally astute manager? If you've got examples of superior supervisors or exasperating executives, we'd love to hear about them for a future THINC. column.
Just send them to And you don't even have to ask for permission from your boss.

Do you know what your employees say about you? Are you sure? Do you want to know?

I recently surveyed 200 working people, and asked them what they say about you when you aren't listening.

Do you really want to know?

Now, you are probably a terrific boss, so none of these examples apply to you, but all the same, you might find it interesting to know what other bosses do that maybe does not engender optimum performance in the workplace.

The general complaints fit into three general categories:

1. Disregard for others.
2. Bad behavior.
3. Poor communication.

And all of these are easily remedied.

Since you are still reading, you are at least a concerned boss Some of the bosses' behavior actually seemed comical until you realize that people work for them.

This is taken from the conversations in the break rooms, smoking areas and around the water cooler:

My boss openly takes credit for his employee accomplishments. But when things go wrong, he blames the employees. Okay, boss, you can't have it both ways. And of course, it should be just the opposite.

The boss should accept responsibility for the failures, and give credit to the people who actually did the work. Credit should always be passed down.

Employees like to know that what they do well is appreciated.

As a manager, giving employees the credit they deserve, publicly if possible, is not only good business practice but it is also the right thing to do.

My boss plays favorites. As a manager, especially if you were recently promoted to supervise your former peers, it is all too easy to revert to favoring your friends. But as a supervisor, not only do you have to be impartial, but you also have to make sure that you are perceived as being fair. To be otherwise decreases morale, and discourages maximum performance. Favoritism can lead to formal grievances and legal problems.

As a manger, fair and equitable treatment is a basic employee expectation.

The boss talks down to us. As a manager, it is incumbent on you to ensure the workplace is a congenial place for people to spend their working hours. If employees are hearing how you say something instead of what you say, your message is not being heard.

My boss doesn't truly understand what I do. Sadly, this is more prevalent than most supervisors realize. One question a manager can ask employees is, "What did you do today that you think was a waste of yours and the company's time?" And then be prepared to take notes.

My boss throws things at people to get their attention. In addition to being a safety issue, it is just wrong.

My boss brings his children to work and expects us to care for them. Again, bad idea.

My boss complains about everything.One specific example that was raised was a boss who complained about how the coffee tasted every morning.

The employees wearied of the daily tirades and to solve the problem, got rid of the coffeepot. Now the office empties two to three times day while the employees take a walk a few blocks away to go to Starbucks.

Clearly this boss didn't realize the adverse effect his comments have on others, and the result was decreased productivity.

My boss plays Houdini and disappears. She doesn't tell us where she is, or where she is going. When the big boss calls, we don't know how to answer the question "Where is she?" This leaves employees in a tough situation. If the employees make excuses for the absences for a while, but eventually, someone might figure out that you, the boss, are not needed.

My boss says, "Can you do this for me?" This surfaced several times with employees.

Some bosses just don't realize how much time that request is going to take, and how these ad hoc requests delay the project the employees are working on now.

My boss gives unclear assignments outside of work. One woman said, "My boss had a conversation with me about the storeroom at the company party, and then a month later, berated me for not cleaning it up, reminding me that she told me about a messy storeroom at 11 o'clock at night at the holiday party. And it isn't even my storeroom!"

Assignments should be clear, appropriate, during working hours, and to the person responsible for that job.

My boss thinks she can be my pal sometimes and my boss the next. This boss needs to understand that she is always the boss, and to act otherwise can cause confusion for her employees. This puts the employees in an untenable situation. The employee does not have the option of choosing to be an employee one minute and a pal the next. The boss shouldn't either.

My boss calls me on weekends on my personal cell phone. If it isn't an emergency, leave people alone, especially if you aren't paying for their time and their cell phone.

I am sure that none of us ever do these things. Ever.

But isn't is interesting to know what is being said around the water coolers in the business across the street?

Mary Kelly is an instructor of economics at Hawaii Pacific University. She can be reached at

To participate in the Think Inc. discussion, e-mail your comments to; fax them to 529-4750; or mail them to Think Inc., Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813. Anonymous submissions will be discarded.


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