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Are You the "Boss from Hell?"

Do you know what your people really think of you? Since 1993 Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., has been studying how employees view their workplace and what organizations can do to improve the situation. Clients hire his firm, Discovery Surveys, when they want to get an objective picture of what their employees are thinking. Now he’s put all those insights into a new book, 30 Reasons Employers Hate Their Managers: What Your People May be Thinking and What You Can Do about It (AMACOM, 2007).

What Dr. Katcher found, based on surveys of more than 50,000 employees, is that worker unhappiness can seriously and adversely affect an organization’s bottom line. His book is divided into five major categories of employee complaints, along with subheadings of related complaints under each category. He presents strategies to address each employee complaint.

Why Employees Hate their Boss:

1
. Employees are treated like children
  • We feel like slaves.
  • I know how to do my job. Why can’t they just let me do it?
  • I am afraid to speak up.
  • Nobody appreciates my hard work.
  • There are different rules for different people.

2.  Employees aren’t respected

  • Management doesn’t listen to us.
  • Management doesn’t respect us.
  • So who’s in charge anyway?
  • I don’t trust the information I receive from management.
  • My boss is a terrible manager.

3. Employees aren’t receiving what they really need

  • I’ve lost confidence in management.
  • We’re understaffed.
  • They don’t tell me what I need to know to do my work.
  • We need more training.
  • The quality of our products and services is terrible.
  • I receive poor service from other departments.
  • There’s too much red tape here.
  • Why don’t they get rid of all of the deadwood around here?
  • There are too many damn meetings.

4.  Employees feel unappreciated

  • I’m not paid fairly.
  • It’s just not right that we all receive the same pay.
  • My performance reviews are useless.
  • There’s no link between my pay and job performance.
  • The cost of my benefits is eating up my paycheck.
  • It’s impossible to get promoted here.

5.  W-O-R-K should be more than a four-letter word

  • I hate coming in to work. It’s become just a job for me now.
  • There’s no job security here.
  • I’ve got no time for myself or my family.
  • I feel trapped. I wish I could go out on my own.
  • My company isn’t committed to me, so why should I be commit to it?

What Can Employers Do?

The good news is that there is a lot that employers can do to resolve or even avoid the above litany of employee complaints.

Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell:

1. Treat employees with respect and dignity

  • Discuss personal and sensitive issues in private rather than publicly.
  • Get to know your employees as people rather than mere workers.

2. Involve employees in decisions

  • Let employees know that their ideas are welcome.
  • Thank employees for their suggestions and use them.

3. Empower employees

  • Delegate whenever possible.
  • Allow employees to have more of a say in how they do their work.

4. Clearly communicate assignments

  • Communicate goals and expectations both individually and in writing.
  • Ask employees to restate the goals and assignments in their own words.

5. Listen, listen, listen

  • Practice active listening techniques such as asking open-ended questions.
  • Learn how to probe for information, ideas, and feelings when speaking with employees.

6. Recognize that your job includes solving "people problems"

  • Be prepared to address employee issues such as ineffective performance, health problems, family crises, substance abuse, and harassment from coworkers.
  • When necessary, seek counsel and involvement from professionals in the human resource department.

7. Provide personal recognition

  • Catch employees in the act of performing well and provide them with recognition immediately, rather than waiting for the next performance review discussion.
  • Just like the best gifts to receive are those when there is no occasion, periodically thank employees individually for their hard work.

“Being a good boss is difficult,” says Katcher. “It takes thoughtful action and commitment. If you supervise others, become a student of the craft. Continually try new approaches to learn what is most effective for you and your employees. Don’t become known as ‘that terrible boss I had at my last job.’"

Adapted from 30 Reasons Employers Hate Their Managers: What Your People May be Thinking and What You Can Do about It by Bruce L. Katcher with Adam Snyder (AMACOM Books, 2007).