Well I guess the conflict we have with our bosses in our work is the top conflict most people have. I have spent a lot of my career helping people with bad bosses and have previously posted suggestions on how to handle different types of boss, and so this time, I thought I would focus on providing suggestions for bosses being better bosses. So here is one of our Top Ten Conflict Tips.
1. Follow the Golden Rule and supervise like you would want to be supervised, which means among other things learn from your the worse bosses you have ever had and don’t supervise as they did.
2. See your role as one of growing the capability of the people who work for you, guide them in how to do their jobs and let them get on with it. You are a coach not a puppet master and let go of doing many things yourself and let them do them.
3. Provide them with regular supportive feedback to improve their skills and knowledge, so that if you have an annual performance review system in your organization, nothing you need to say in that process should come as a surprise to the people who work for you.
4. Listen to what the people who work for you have to say, what problems are arising and help them solve them, get obstacles out of their way, and seek regular feedback from them on how you are doing as a boss. This is often called being a Servant Leader.
5. Have your peoples’ backs. Organizations are deeply political and conflict ridden, and while you should make sure your people are doing what they should be doing, you need to look out for them too and not let them get abused by the powerful including your own boss.
6. Treat your people with the same respect you treat your own boss, or in my case even more respect, given how much I challenged most of my bosses not being big on hierarchy. 🙂
7. Help your team align its efforts, each team member with the others and deal with any conflict between them, by encouraging them to be constructive and find higher level solutions that move the team forward. Team atmosphere is your job too.
8. Recognize that whom you hire to work for you is the most important decision you make and avoid hiring your clones: the people who work for you should balance you not echo you. I also never hired toadies: people who kissed up to me, as they tend not to be able to get things done in tough situations, wanting to kiss up their way out of them. And of course they tend to kick down too.
9. Avoid micro-managing except in emergencies. If the people working for you are not performing, coach them rather than snatch the task from them. Only in storms do you grab the tiller.
10. Give praise for good work in public and deal with shortfalls one-to-one in private, unless the whole team is the problem, in which case you might start with questions as to what is going wrong.
I guess what this amounts to is consistent with the no asshole rule I have previously posted on. People should generally feel better rather than worse from the experience of being supervised by you, though there will be times when you need to confront issues, or even let someone go aka fire them, if they can’t learn and that won’t be so pleasant for them. Above all avoid kissing up to your boss and kicking down to those who work for you. And if your boss is an asshole, don’t pass on his/her assholery to your people. You should tell them the substance of the boss’s problem, but avoid adding abuse even if you got some.
Negative Examplar: John Bolton: the quintessential kiss up kick down asshole (and he abused his peers too) and, of all things, President George W Bush’s representative at the UN. Someone I would not have wanted to work for, though I no doubt would have learned a lot negatively from the process: