Some Simple Ways to Be a Better Boss

Being the boss means that, to achieve goals, you not only have to be personally inspired by your job, but you also have to inspire those around you. But what if you’re terrible at it?

Though there are countless good bosses out there, there are an equal number of ineffective leaders. According to the Great Boss Assessment survey by S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group, only 45 percent of survey respondents say their boss inspires their best efforts each day. Fifty-eight percent say that their boss treats them with trust and respect daily — which means that 42 percent of bosses treat team members with distrust and disrespect.

“Bosses can be bad by micromanaging and not giving employees the autonomy to do great things,” said Bruce Cardenas, chief communications officer at Quest Nutrition. “These can really derail a boss’s standing in the workplace, because it could hinder someone’s drive to do a good job.”

Furthermore, bosses can be bad if they don’t appreciate their employees, Cardenas added. [See Related Story: Are You a True Leader, or Just a Boss?]

Amy Casciotti, vice president of human resources at TechSmith, a software company that provides practical business and academic software products, said that these traits contribute to poor leadership:

Poor communication. It’s very frustrating for employees to have a boss who doesn’t communicate well to provide his workers with clear direction or expectations.
A micromanager. When bosses micromanage, it shows a complete lack of trust in their employees to do their jobs correctly.
Playing favorites. Bosses who play favorites with employees and give preferential treatment make poor leaders.
Not unlike any other team member, bad behavior from the boss can cost the team potential success.

“Having a bad attitude and treating people in an unkind way has a negative effect on success. I think this is one of the most fundamental, basic things in business,” Cardenas said. “It has a toxic effect on the group when bosses should be positive and inspire people daily.”

If you’re realizing that your leadership skills need improvement, worry not: Your career can still be salvaged. Here’s what you can do to become a better boss.

Communication is key
Whether it’s a personal or professional bond, communication is the root of a healthy relationship. Being proactive about and open to communication will improve not only how you lead, but also how you’re received by your team.

“Listen and observe more, talk and multitask less,” said Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton Public Speaking. “We all give clues as to what is going on internally on a regular basis. Those clues give great insight into how to communicate with your employees more effectively.”

To identify potential issues before they arise, Eventoff suggests that you focus on employees’ nonverbal communication, tonal and pitch changes, and changes in regular communication patterns.

Recognize your employees’ strengths
No man (or woman) should be an island. That said, no one leader has even been successful without help. Good leaders celebrate the strengths and successes of those around them.

“Get good at spotting the strengths of others, including your direct reports, peers and your boss,” Dr. Karissa Thacker, a management psychologist, said. “Research indicates that paying attention to the strengths of others is a critical element in developing others to be more successful, as well as building effective partnering relationships.”

Understand the demographics in your office
Gaining perspective on your multigenerational office can make you a better boss as well. The way your baby boomer employee communicates may not be the same as that of a Gen Xer or millennial. Having a firm grasp on motivations and communication skills can help you as a leader in the long run.

“If you don’t make the time to get to know your staff, you’ll never understand them and be effective with that cohort of your staff. This helps break down those gaps,” Cardenas said.

“Understanding what people value and what motivates them makes it much easier to communicate job expectations, offer the right type of support, or even make changes that will better suit certain teams’ performance,” Casciotti added. “Regardless who you are speaking with, you need to learn how they prefer to communicate, and implement those preferences into the workflow of the organization.”

Remaining self-aware and learning from others will help you in the long run when it comes to your career.

“You need to lean on your subordinates and people that are in a trusted leadership position to learn from them. Not everyone is a natural-born leader, so there is an opportunity to absorb what other leaders at the company are doing successfully in their roles,” Cardenas said.

Should You Know If Micromanagement Could Be Killing Your Employees

If you micromanage your employees, you could, quite literally, be working them to death.

Working in a highly demanding job that offers employees little control is associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death, compared with employees in jobs with low demands, according a study that was recently published in the journal Personnel Psychology.

Working in stressful jobs can, however, be beneficial to employees who have a lot of freedom to make their own decisions. The research revealed that working in high- demand jobs that also give employees a large amount of control over what they do and when is associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death, compared with low-job demands.

“These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making,” Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, the study’s lead authors and an assistant professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, said in a statement.

Having higher control gives employees in stressful jobs more resources to problem-solve and work through ways to get their work done.

“A stressful job, then, instead of being something debilitating, can be something that’s energizing,” Gonzalez-Mulé said. “You’re able to set your own goals, you’re able to prioritize work. You can go about deciding how you’re going to get it done. That stress then becomes something you enjoy.”

Data in the study was obtained from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed more than 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. They were interviewed at various time intervals over their lives, through 2011, to provide data on educational, occupational and emotional experiences. All participants in the study were employed but near the end of their careers. The researchers used controls for factors such as demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status and affect.

The data also revealed a similar link between micromanaging in stressful jobs and employee weight. The study’s authors found that employees in high-demand jobs with low control were heavier than those in high-demand jobs with high control.

“When you don’t have the necessary resources to deal with a demanding job, you do this other stuff,” Gonzalez-Mulé said. “You might eat more, you might smoke, you might engage in some of these things to cope with it.”

Overall, the researchers believe the study shows employers shouldn’t worry so much about finding ways to make jobs less stressful. Instead, they think it shows that organizations should focus more on providing employees with more say in how their work gets done.

“You can avoid the negative health consequences if you allow them to set their own goals, set their own schedules, prioritize their decision-making and the like,” Gonzalez-Mulé said.

Since the research examined employees only at the end of their careers, the study’s authors believe it would be beneficial to examine workers earlier in their careers in the future to see if the job demands-control model accurately predicts strain over time.

The study was co-authored by Bethany Cockburn, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business.

Information About 5 Traits Employees Want In a Boss

There is a big gap in what employees want out of a boss and what they actually get, new research finds.

A study from leadership training provider Dale Carnegie Training revealed that many of the qualities workers deem most important in a manager are the traits supervisors exhibit least often.

Specifically, 84 percent of employees said it is important that managers admit to their mistakes. However, just 51 percent of their supervisors actually do so, the employees said. In addition, while 88 percent of employees said they value bosses who listen to them, just 60 percent of workers said their managers do so.

The research also found that 87 percent of workers said it is important for bosses to show sincere appreciation to their staff. Unfortunately, only 61 percent of employees said they get that from their manager.

Employees also appreciate when their bosses value their work. Although 86 percent of the workers surveyed said this is important to them, however, just 60 percent said their managers exhibit the trait. [See Related Story: Want Better Employee-Boss Relationships? Communication and Recognition Help]

“Employees want leaders who develop themselves and others, making it safe to share their ideas, try new things, make mistakes, learn from them and improve,” the study’s authors wrote.

Overall, the top five qualities that employees said motivate and inspire them the most are:

Encourages improvement: Nearly 80 percent of the employees surveyed said inspiring leaders encourage and help employees improve.
Gives praise and appreciation: Nearly three-quarters of the workers surveyed said great bosses praise and express appreciation for employees’ work.
Recognizes improvement: More than 70 percent of employees said one of the most important traits of a boss is acknowledging when workers’ performance has improved.
Acknowledges own shortfalls before criticizing: The study found that 68 percent of employees are motivated by bosses who, rather than criticizing others, recognize their own shortcomings.
Allow employees to save face: 60 percent of workers said they appreciate a boss who gives them a chance to make up for their errors, instead of embarrassing employees when they have made mistakes.
Making sure bosses give employees the support they need is critical for employers who want to hold on to their top workers. The study found that supportive behavior from a direct supervisor increases employees’ intentions of staying with an employer by 67 percent.

“Employees are more satisfied with their job and more likely to stay when their leaders are honest, trustworthy and true to their beliefs,” Joe Hart, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, said in a statement. “As the war for talent only gets more competitive, it is critical for leaders to develop positive behaviors that will inspire employees to stay and do their best work.”

Better boss behavior also improves employee job happiness. In all, just 24 percent of the workers surveyed said they are very satisfied in their jobs. However, when supervisors frequently exhibited developmental, interpersonal leadership behaviors, satisfaction increased to 33 percent.

Tips to Keep Employees Engaged During the Holidays

The holiday season is joyful, stressful and exciting for most everyone, especially as employees countdown to Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.

“I love the holiday spirit and the positivity it brings both to life and work. It brings energy, and energy brings creativity and motivation,” said Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, a project management service.

As a manager, it can be fun to join in the excitement, but it can also be challenging to keep everyone on task. Filey noted that ending the year with the completion of a big project or milestone can be especially motivating. He advised planning your final quarter with a big project the team can rally around. Furthermore, it helps if it’s a project that’s going to make your company be more competitive in the following year.

“If the whole team is aligned and excited about ending the year with a celebration and starting the next year strong, it’s going to help them convert the fun holiday spirit into having a great time at work, too,” Filev said.

Filev acknowledges the holiday season comes with more than gift exchanges and large feasts; it can also include families grieving their departed loved ones, and a lot of nostalgia for the past. This is something managers should also keep in mind when engaging office staff.

“It’s important for managers to have compassion and empathy and to acknowledge that the holidays are an emotional season, both with positive energy and also people missing their families, he said. “It may not be ideal that those feelings happen to occur during one of the most important times for businesses, but that’s the reality.”

Keeping engagement high during the holidays
Here are a few ways to keep your team’s momentum going throughout the season and finish out the year strong.

Celebrate successes. This can be as simple as using positive reinforcement, such as thank-you cards, phone calls or a congratulatory email when you see an employee performing well, said Brian Sutter, director of marketing at Wasp Barcode Technologies. If the accomplishment is much larger, you can treat the individual or entire team to an impromptu get-together for lunch or even drinks at a local pub. You can also celebrate the holidays by taking the team to a seasonal, festive movie, he said.

Set challenging goals. Goals are a great way to keep your employees and team members on track, said Sutter.

“By setting the bar high but still within reach, everyone will be striving to achieve his or her set of goals,” he said. “Make sure goals are clearly communicated and in writing, so employees can refer back to the list as necessary.”

Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings, notes his team has “very clear goals, and what I see is that people are even more productive during the holidays to complete the major projects we’ve been working on throughout the year.”

Filev advised acting as a coach, rather than a manager: “Your job isn’t to tell people what to do, it’s to put people in a position to be successful. That means offering support and carrying some of the load yourself.”

Encourage time off. The holidays incorporate travel, family obligations, parties and a need to decompress after a year of working hard.

“I absolutely encourage [employees] to take time off to be with their families during the holiday season. It’s critical to put work aside for some time and recharge the batteries,” Birkenes said. “I always encourage employees to plan holidays well in advance so there is always something to look forward to.”

“In general, make sure people have the flexibility to work around families and holiday needs. If someone needs to leave work to see their kids’ Christmas play at school, be flexible. Families support your business all year. You can be flexible around the holidays,” Filev added.

Keep them in the loop. When employees feel that they are playing an active role in the development and progress of their company, they are less likely to resist authority. Plus, you never know what insightful information they may have to offer that could make a significant impact on your small business. Schedule a short-but-sweet weekly or monthly companywide meeting to keep everyone on the same page, Sutter suggested.

Create an enjoyable atmosphere. By creating an atmosphere of acceptance, camaraderie and unity, your employees will feel more motivated to complete their work, Sutter said; “You’d be surprised at how hardworking one can be when they walk into an office every day and feel welcome.”

Positivity is key, he said — remember, your staff takes cues from you, so be sure the right attitude starts at the top.

“To get the right mood, we do simple things like offering gingerbread cookies by the coffee machine and arranging a Christmas dinner for all employees and their significant others,” Birkenes added. “I [also] always encourage employees to plan holidays well in advance so there is always something to look forward to.”

Should You Know About The Two Types of Bad Bosses

Although bad bosses can create a great deal of stress in their employees, they’re not all bad in the same way.

A study recently published in the Research in Occupational Stress and Well-Being book series revealed that bad managers typically fall into one of two categories: dysfunctional or dark.

Seth Spain, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at Binghamton University in New York, said a dysfunctional boss, such as Steve Carell’s Michael Scott from “The Office,” is someone who isn’t out to hurt you.

“Through lack of skill, or other personality defects, they’re just not very good at their job,” Spain said in a statement. “Largely, that’s what we would call ‘dysfunctional.'”

On the other side, dark bosses, like Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from the movie “Wall Street,” are much more destructive and hurt others in order to elevate themselves, according to Spain.

“[These are] people who enjoy the pain and suffering of others – they’re going to be mean, abusive and harassing in daily life,” he said.

While these are the two distinct types of bad bosses, that doesn’t mean that every bad boss is 100 percent on either side of the equation. In the studies, authors note that managers can display varying degrees of these characteristics.

Regardless of their style, both types of bad bosses can inflict a great deal of stress on those who report to them.

“A person’s direct supervisor is a lens through which they view their work experience,” Spain said. “We think, in particular, that a boss can be an incredibly substantial source of stress for people who work for them.”

The study’s authors believe that having a better understanding of the different types of bad bosses can the first step in helping to change their behavior, which in the end could result in reduced stress among employees.

“We believe that these characteristics are extremely important for understanding employee development and career advancement,” Spain said. “Understanding the role that these characteristics play in stress experiences at work is extremely important, especially since bad leaders can cause so much suffering for their subordinates.”

The study was co-authored by Peter Harms, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, and Dustin Wood, a research fellow at the University of Alabama.

Tips to Keeping Employees Happy Without a Raise

When budgets are tight, it can be hard to justify raises as rewards for high-performing employees. But if someone loves their work, takes pride in doing it well and feels valued, there are many other ways besides a bigger paycheck to show your appreciation for a job well done.

Studies have shown that employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged and loyal to their companies. Hiring managers, HR experts and business leaders weighed in on the best ways to keep employees satisfied when salary isn’t the driving factor.

1. Be transparent
“Feedback and the ability to understand employee concerns is important, but it’s what you do after that’s critical to retention. You should always be transparent by sharing what you’ve learned and a course of action for addressing the issue. For example, after a recent company-wide engagement survey, we chose to share our results with all employees. We not only communicated our top areas of success but also our areas for improvement and how we planned to address them moving forward. Transparent communication and a simple acknowledgement that we heard you can go a long way.” – Laura Grieco, HR and administration director at Parkmobile

2. Offer more vacation time
“Reward your highest performers with incremental vacation days. These employees are your superstars so you can be confident they will get their work done as well as enjoy a few extra days of well-deserved time off with family and friends.” – Stacia Pache, founder and CEO of itBandz [See Related Story: Want to Boost Employee Productivity? Offer an Incentive]

3. Make work-life balance a priority
“To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life. – David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association

4. Encourage communication in common areas
“Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible.” – Tom Heisroth, senior vice president at Staples Advantage

5. Create a career pathway
“[Our research] found that providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organization. It’s critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company.” – Maria Kraimer, business professor at the University of Iowa

6. Build employees up
“If you’re looking to keep an employee by giving him/her a raise, it’s already too late. Find people who share the operational values of your organization from the outset, test for fit early, and allow growth opportunities to express that value. We’re fanatics about initiative and constructive impact. Our team members are consistently rewarded with higher value projects following a constructive initiative.” – Zachary Watson, CEO at HoneyCo

7. Promote a positive work environment
“Happy employees make for a happy company. Within the office, we’ll publicly acknowledge accomplishments, provide a group lunch, reserve a prime parking space, or change a title. We’ll also help employees to grow and develop, whether by taking on new desired responsibilities or challenges, taking courses to learn new skills, or furthering knowledge of the company by traveling on company business trips.” – Jakki Liberman, president of Bumkins

8. Set the example
“One can’t underestimate the importance of walking into the office as the boss with a smile on my face and making sure I give the same feeling of importance to everyone.” – Jon Sumroy, CEO and inventor of mifold

9. Recognize and reward employees
“Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up.” – Charley Polachi, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search

10. Always say ‘thank you’
“In my experience, employees rarely become unhappy or leave solely over money. When they do become disenchanted it is usually because they don’t like their boss, aren’t engaged or feel like they have stopped learning. Having a positive culture and workplace environment helps a lot, as it encourages teamwork and communication which increases engagement and opportunities for teammates to learn from each other. We also do periodic “shout outs” to people at all levels of the organization for great work or superior effort. These kudos cost nothing but provide important public recognition for a job well done, effectively compensating people in the form of social currency which is highly valued.” – Gary Beasley, co-founder and CEO of Roofstock

11. Offer benefits beyond the basics
“There are many ways to supplement salary by assisting employees in other areas of their lives. You can offer an extra level of life insurance or disability insurance for employees to protect their incomes. Other ancillary benefits, such as dental, optical [and] wellness, are all well received by employees. And gym memberships and transit benefits are great perks to keep employees happy and healthy. It is important to [provide] higher benefits so your employees know that you truly care about them and their families.” – Bobby Hotaling, president and CEO of The Hotaling Group

12. Make employees part of the big picture
“The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness.” – Anthony Smith, CEO and founder of Insightly

Tips To Make Employees Happier With a Little Bit of Kindness

Want to make your employees happier? A little kindness and compassion go a long way, new research suggests.

According to a study presented at the recent British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference, 80 percent of the managers surveyed think leaders and managers should be taught how to be more compassionate and considerate, and genuinely care for subordinates.

Fiona Beddoes-Jones, the study’s author and a senior lecturer at the University of Worcester in the United Kingdom, said employees want clarity from a logical and pragmatic manager, but they also what to feel that their boss and employer genuinely care about them. She said that is often what is missing in today’s workplace.

“In the drive for performance management the human touch gets overlooked,” Beddoes-Jones said in statement. “And as they say, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

The research, however, revealed somewhat of a disconnect in the type of environment employees want to work in and the management style of their boss. Specifically, 70 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a “collaborative and supportive” working environment; however, only 26 percent said that they wanted a manager who was “nurturing and kind” or “unconditionally supportive.”

Beddoes-Jones believes this is an area that needs further exploration. She said this conceptualization of modern love in the workplace and the potential organizational implications for engagement, motivation, productivity and well-being have not yet been fully embraced or explored by psychologists.

The study was based on surveys of more than 300 managers and leaders recruited via a number of business social media groups, 90 percent of whom worked within the U.K.