Learn from every boss… good or bad.
I’ve been writing and reading many articles regarding the importance of the relationship between managers and their teams. That relationship is vitally important in terms of job satisfaction, retention of talent and organizational effectiveness.
In this post, I’m going to focus on a subject we’ve all seen, or done: criticizing the boss.
Let me clarify one point early on; this is not about bad-behaving, unethical or bullying bosses. My point on that is move on to another gig or organization.
This is the “normal” chatter in many organizations about the boss’ shortcomings. Unfortunately, it’s a complete waste of time. It’s a lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my professional career.
Everyone has experienced working for someone that they don’t admire or want to emulate as a leader. Sadly, instead of looking for the positives, or seeking to help their leaders improve, people tend to focus on the negatives and jump to judgement.
If you’re doing it, just stop now.
Here are a few reasons why.
It’s not your job
If you’re criticizing your boss, that means you’re spending time thinking about what they’re doing and not focusing on your own work duties. Judging our bosses says more about us than it does about the person we are criticizing. Importantly, it is not our job to “review” our boss. Leave that to others in the organization. Also, keep in mind if you’re trying to advance your own career, one of the best things to avoid is openly criticizing your boss; it never works out in your favor and reflects poorly on you.
Your company’s success depends on it
Complaining about or deriding your boss is a detriment to your company’s success. Not only will your coworkers be influenced by what you say and do, your boss will be negatively impacted in discharging their responsibilities. Your company depends on you and your boss performing at peak level in order to be successful, and by impeding their efforts and diminishing their stature, you impede the business of the company, and your own career.
You don’t know what you don’t know
Just because you don’t value their approach or attributes doesn’t mean you’re right. It’s natural for us to assume we know best, and it’s useful for us to be reminded that we don’t walk in the boss’ shoes. Everyone has a valuable tool set, and has been given goals by the organization. The key to your professional development is to extract the “nuggets” from everyone you work with (and for), in order to build a relevant, deep leadership capability set. This, while also supporting your boss in order to make them successful.
It promotes more negativity
Negative energy and behavior will put you at risk. Your boss will inevitably learn of the conversations and feel the negative energy. Your goal should be to create positive energy and contributions. Staying positive and focusing on your job will lead to a healthy and productive relationship between the two of you. Everyone likes to work with positive people in a constructive work environment, and complaining about your boss is incongruent with those goals.
The bottom line: learn what you can from every boss you have. Take the positive skills and capabilities and understand the implications of certain behaviors and approaches.
Instead of falling into the trap of criticizing, do your best to find value. I’ve learned so much from leaders I would never emulate from a leadership perspective. There were critical skills and knowledge that I gained including strategic planning, project management, negotiation, and the use of metrics. By focusing on the positives, I learned valuable lessons and obtained capabilities that led to my career success.
After a long career, I am most grateful that I didn’t criticize often… I just wish someone had told me sooner!
This article was originally published on medium.com on 3/9/2019.