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'Bad bosses': A bigger problem in small towns

What kind of boss are you? Are you the kind of boss people want to work for? Or are you a "bad boss"? Your best efforts to be a good boss may be failing, but you'll never know it -- because no one is willing to tell you you're actually making the...

(Graphic courtesy of Gallup, Inc.)
(Graphic courtesy of Gallup, Inc.)

What kind of boss are you? Are you the kind of boss people want to work for? Or are you a "bad boss"? Your best efforts to be a good boss may be failing, but you'll never know it - because no one is willing to tell you you're actually making their job more difficult.

Research by the Gallup Organization ("The Damage Inflicted by Poor Managers") shows that "actively disengaged" employees outnumber engaged employees almost two to one. Disengagement corresponds with lower productivity, loyalty and profitability, and more absenteeism, safety incidents and employee turnover. And turnover "can cost businesses approximately 1.5 times the annual salary of every person who quits." Ouch!

But how can I be a bad boss when I try so hard? Sometimes we try too hard.

I had no idea I was a horrible boss. At least not until a 16-year-old - who had more pluck than the grown-ups she worked with - asked me if I "was always like that."

Um ... like what?

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It seemed I had a very bad habit of micro-managing every ... single ... little ... thing. You would think I would have known better, since my dad constantly reminded us kids to "inspire someone today." I'm claiming youth - I was in my twenties - as my defense, but that was really no excuse at all. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and became a better boss.

But why is "bad boss syndrome" a bigger deal in a small town than in a larger city? In a city, there are more available jobs to choose from. It may not be a dream job or pay as well as you'd like, but there are multiple jobs to be had.

In a small town, pickings can be slim. Most folks who work in small towns stay in their jobs no matter what because they know there's probably not another job to be had, in spite of how much they dislike their boss's behavior.

Which is why bad bosses - and bad owner/bosses - can cripple a business, especially in a small town. Besides employees who just "go through the motions and do their time," call in sick, or quit almost before they've started, small towns add their own set of challenges: the expectation of "small-town customer service" and the "who you are" factor.

Think about it. Maybe your business woes are personal. You know the grapevine - former and even current employees share all their "bad boss" stories with anyone who'll listen. Word gets around in a small town, and people tend to avoid someone - and the business associated with that someone - if they perceive it to be "bad."

On the other hand, happy employees can change the dynamics of a business. They reflect good leadership, and their satisfaction shows in how they interact with customers, suppliers and everyone else they come in contact with. And people are more likely return to places where they've had positive experiences.

But how do you make that happen? A good boss empowers employees to make good decisions and inspires them to be better. A good boss is also approachable - fair but firm. A good boss is willing to listen to - and try - new ideas. (Read that last part, "take calculated risks." Remember the turtle, who only makes progress when it sticks its neck out?)

I learned that last one from 16-year-old Jen, who taught me to relax about some things. She said, "What's the worst that can happen? Just chill and let me do my job."

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That was my eye-opener. Is it time to look for yours?

Related Topics: SMALL BUSINESS
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