Good boss, bad boss: What's the difference?

What factors distinguish a 'Good Boss' from a 'Bad Boss', and how can managers create a positive environment to prevent losing talent?
Written by Kerry Larkan, Contributor
commentary What factors distinguish a 'Good Boss' from a 'Bad Boss'?

Finding and retaining good staff is becoming harder and harder. Organisations are increasingly looking to develop cultures that are decent to work in, so that they may edge forward in the talent war -- in attracting and retaining employees. Positively influencing staff is one way to develop an environment and culture where people want to do well and want to stay.

Australia, like a number of western democracies, has an ageing workforce and a declining birth rate. This is sometimes referred to as a 'high dependency ratio'.

The key factor for businesses will not be the overpopulation of the world, of which we have been warned for the last 40 years. Instead, it will be the increasing under-population of developed nations, such as Japan, Australia and those in Europe and in North America.

In Australia there are currently five working persons for each person age 65 or older. That is expected to change to 2.5 working persons for each person age 65 or older by 2050. A significant demographic shift is set to occur between 2011 and 2021, when the largest number of 'baby boomers' will be age 65 or older. The government proposes that one way to prepare for this predicted labour shortage and higher dependency ratio is to continue the employment of mature age workers past normal retirement age.

All this leads to a situation where employees will seek an employer of choice. There's clear evidence that this is already starting to occur. So what factors distinguish a 'Good Boss' from a 'Bad Boss'?

'Good Boss' companies have discovered the links between creating a positive working environment, reducing staff turnover and creating profits. They treat their employees with respect, develop ways to motivate and engage staff, employ people based on their values, as well as their skills and invest in people and the future of the business.

It is quality open communication that is the cornerstone of the success of many 'Good Boss' companies. The opposite is true of 'Bad Boss' companies.

'Bad Boss' companies usually say 'people are our most valuable asset', yet what they do and how they do it just doesn't reflect that. 'Bad Boss' organisations operate an environment of fear and distrust, see challenges as a threat to their survival and only want to hear from those that agree. In short, they need to be treating their people with more respect and developing better people management skills and programs.

'Bad Boss' companies are getting it wrong because their focus is too much on saving money, delivering shareholder returns and looking at just the short term.

The Leadership Employment and Direction Survey conducted by Leadership Management Australia highlighted the top five factors that will positively influence improvements in performance among employees, which are:

  • Being entrusted with responsibility/independence
  • Interesting and challenging work
  • A good relationship
  • Receiving feedback and good communication
  • Good relationships with other staff members

The simple fact is that the coming X and Y generation won't put up with coercion or fear tactics to keep a job. They will seek out work places that are positive, productive and enjoyable, as well as somewhere they can learn new skills. In short, employers of choice are those who create a 'Good Boss' environment.

© 2005 Kerry Larkan is a Consultant, Speaker and Author who devised the concept of 'Good Boss ~ Bad Boss®', for more information or to download the white paper Good Boss ~ Bad Boss®, visit his Web page.

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