Lately, I’ve been reading stories of how former staff members for Senator Amy Klobuchar called her a horrible boss, sharing details of their most over the top negative experiences with the Minnesota senator. Since I happen to like Klobuchar, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt because many more co-workers came forward to share how supportive she has been to them both personally and professionally. She likes to surround herself with people who work hard and have high standards. Some people consider people like Senator Klobuchar to be mean. Others think she’s a great boss. The question is, the kind of employee you are now will determine the kind of leader you will eventually become.
Throughout my own career, I have had my share of toxic bosses, crazy bosses, supportive bosses, throw you under the bus bosses and kind bosses. Eventually, I became a boss too.
What I have discovered is that being a boss is a two way street. There will be times that you snap at an employee for something that doesn’t go your way and that’s when you need to catch yourself in the moment. Think about how you can approach that employee if they did something wrong or if they shirked their responsibility? Do you fly off the handle right away or do you try to be lenient at first until you’ve eventually had enough?
I’m your typical nice boss who has tried over the years to give people working for me the benefit of the doubt. I enjoy being a mentor and am energized when I learn from co-workers. I’m not the kind of boss who gets intimidated by someone who is smarter than me. In fact, I think that’s fantastic. If someone on my team offers fresh, new ideas that moves the needle on a project, I will go out of my way to help elevate them to places in their career where they can soar.
As a nice boss, I have been thrilled to see former co-workers who I’ve managed now occupying roles as Senior Vice Presidents of companies. My first assistant now runs her own successful fashion PR firm and has even hired me for writing projects. Another publicist who used to report to me now has her own business in NYC and Miami and is totally killing it. I feel fortunate enough to have worked with these ambitious women and have always been happy to see them advance in their careers and succeed.
On the flip side are the employees who take advantage of their nice bosses. They submit work that’s sub par, they disappear often and they surf their social media feed rather than focus on completing a project that’s on deadline. They know they are phoning it in and they’re just biding their time until the next opportunity comes along and for some reason, it always does. They think they know better than you and since you’re their boss, they are convinced you’re completely out of touch. They will continually add a laundry list of names and titles to their resume and may even land some really great jobs along the way. But when you see them reach the top, you’re not as excited for their achievements. Those toxic bosses who fail up only look out for #1. And that never changes throughout their career.
For me, the choice of what kind of boss I wanted to be has always been pretty simple. Though my experience has made me edgier over the years, at the heart of it, I’m still a nice boss and here’s why. Nice bosses play an important role in mentoring others while working collaboratively with their team. Nice bosses are cheerleaders for their staffers and continue to sing your praises even when you move on. Nice bosses look out for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong – nice bosses get mad too. They may get annoyed when they’re forced to use a comb to eat their salad instead of utensils because you forgot to grab the plastic cutlery. But nice bosses will apologize when they’ve overreacted or lost their cool. They’ll drop everything and be there for you when you are struggling and they will lift you up when you need support. It may be simpler to be mean and dismissive, but I choose to be a nice boss every day of the week. How about you?