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Doing Leadership Right: How To Avoid The Traps That Lead To Being A Bad Boss The majority of bosses have not yet learned the skills to give meaningful, genuine, and timely appreciation to their people.

By Debra Corey

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This article was co-written with Ken Corey, a specialist in innovative solutions to engineering management, and the co-author with Debra Corey of Bad Bosses Ruin Lives: The Building Blocks for Being a Great Boss.

One of the first questions we ask leaders in the workshops that we run is: "Are you perfect?" And except for the jokester standing in the back of the room, everyone shakes their heads and replies, "No." Here, we start to make the point that as humans (and as leaders), we don't always get it right, especially when it comes to being a boss. Partly because of "us," but also because each situation and employee is different, meaning that the behavior or approach that worked for the last situation might not be right for this one. Sometimes we do get it right, with our people helping us thrive and succeed, and sometimes we don't, with our people preventing or slowing us down from achieving what we set out to do.

To illustrate this point, just look at the results of a global survey we conducted, where 99.6% of people said that they've had a bad boss. You don't have to be a mathematician to see that it's almost everyone, validating that at some point in time, we're all a bad boss. But don't worry, for the more you understand the traps you may fall into that lead to being a bad boss, the more you can avoid them.

Here are just three of them from our book, Bad Bosses Ruin Lives: The Building Blocks for Being a Great Boss:

1. Time As we all know, time is precious. We only have so much of it, which puts pressure on how we decide to use it. For this reason, one of the most common traps bosses fall into that causes them to adopt bad boss traits is time- more specifically, the feeling that there isn't enough time to act in any other way. We see this happen time and time again when it comes to a variety of the 10 bad boss types that we explore in the book. An example is the "Avoider" boss, someone who doesn't show up for their people, ghosting them, and not giving them the time, attention, and feedback they need to do their job, and feel valued. They often fall into this trap, because they believe they don't have the time to devote to their people, and that time spent with them will distract or take them away from the work they really need to do.

If you start falling into this trap, we suggest that you think for a moment about what happens when you meet and talk with your people. Do you suggest things that they may not have considered? Do you point out problems they may encounter, and then suggest ways to get around them? Do you give them words of encouragement to help them get through a rough patch? Now, think what would happen if these conversations didn't take place. Wouldn't your people be more likely to make mistakes, take more time to get things done, or get frustrated with the task at hand, and completely abandon it?

Related: What You Need To Know About The Glass Cliff, The Workplace Phenomenon That Prevents Us from Seeing More Successful Female Business Leaders

Source: Debra and Ken Corey

2. Misunderstandings The next trap has to do with misunderstanding the needs and wishes of your people, and by doing this, adopting bad boss traits. An example is the "Micromanager," someone who is overly involved in their people's work, constantly controlling, and prescribing what and how work is done. You'd think that having a boss who wants to be deeply involved in what you do would be great- how wonderful it is to have someone who takes the time to give you direction and instructions, review and give critique to all of your work. That's exactly what many bosses, especially new ones, think, believing that they're doing it for their people.

However, this is far from the truth, as nothing can be more demotivating and exhausting than having a boss who is a micromanager. In fact, micromanagement is one of the most often cited characteristics of a bad boss, with 80% of our survey respondents saying they've had a micromanager boss. And yes, a micromanager is there for their people, but at what cost? For instead of giving them the time, space, and autonomy to perform, their excessive control and involvement often squashes the joy and meaning out of their people's work, leaving them resentful, resistant, and frustrated.

3. Skills The final trap has to do with a lack of the skills to meet the changing needs of your people. We see this happen time and time again when a boss either uses skills that may have worked in the past, or not doing something because they don't feel they have the right skills to handle the situation. An example of this is with the "Unappreciater" boss, someone who doesn't show their people recognition or gratitude, making them feel unvalued, invisible, and unappreciated for their actions and contributions.

It was actually the highest ranked bad boss in our survey, with 81% of people saying that they've had this kind of bad boss. This means that the majority of bosses have not yet learned the skills to give meaningful, genuine, and timely appreciation to their people. Or, as we say in another one of my books, they don't know how to "see it, say it, appreciate it!"

Related: How To Protect Your Time (And Well-Being) As A Leader

Debra Corey

Consultant, keynote speaker, and six-time bestselling author

Debra Corey is an expert in human resources (HR) and people development, and the co-author of Bad Bosses Ruin Lives: The Building Blocks for Being a Great Boss, which is out now. 

With over 20 years of experience as an award-winning HR expert, Corey is a consultant, keynote speaker, and six-time bestselling author, who has been named one of the top 101 global employee engagement influencers multiple times.

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