Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are You A Horrible Boss?

I've had my fair share of horrible bosses in my life, as everyone has I'm sure. The kind of boss that makes you dread going to work, hate going to meetings, and especially hate the days when it's his/her birthday and you have to stop your workday for their cake.
And you vow to never be that kind of boss.
I once had a boss when I was around 22 that didn't really like women very much and consistently told me that he really preferred to hire men but there wasn't anyone good available right now so that's why I was there. Thanks.
So I've worked pretty hard in my career on being good to anyone working below me. I try to thank them a lot, give credit where it's due, and if they need off to get a haircut or something then I don't give them a hard time for it (we all know that most people's business hours are the same as ours so getting a haircut might need to happen during the day, plus a haircut can change your whole life which is another post altogether). I do, however, have a really hard time teaching people things because I'm not patient.
There, I said it.
I like to teach someone to do something and have them execute it to perfection the next time. Unrealistic I know but I've been doing some thinking on why this happens in the workplace a lot and here's what I've come up with.
Generally, you teach someone to do a job that you used to do because you no longer have time to do it. You're so busy, in fact,that you don't really even have time to teach it. This means that the training is much shorter than it probably should be.
Since the new person is now doing the job, you move on to other pressing things thinking/hoping the new person is taking care of their new task. When they make a mistake, you are behind and must fix an error and stress builds. This is right about where I have to really stifle the urge to yell at: the person, traffic, the UPS guy, the bank line, or an innocent bystander.
Since all of that, I've made a sort of system on teaching people something new.
1) Take the time to explain. It will be annoying because you have other things to do but this is the single most important way to head off issues. If you think it will take 3 hours to teach a new designer something allocate a whole day for it.
2) Help them. Check in a lot in the beginning. This easy job you're teaching is new for them. I am now going so far as to make checklists or walking them through the first project in order to make the task feel more comfortable.
3) Mistakes are probably your fault. This was really hard for me to accept. This mistake is MY fault? What? It's true. Next time ask "what hindered you on this? Was it difficult to get something you needed? Where were you confused?" When I turned the question around I found that my new person was confused about who to ask for different elements on the project so things got really slowed down. I realized that the breakdown was not with the new person but with my short training. Since I knew everyone in the building, I didn't even think twice about who to harass for different deliverables.
Not having time is, in my opinion, the easiest opportunity to be seen as a horrible boss so making sure that you hire before the train comes off the track is essential. Oh, and not yelling helps a lot too.


Blogger Royce said...

I am completely on the same page as far as trying to be a good boss, Caitlin. I wasn't managing anybody until this year, and before then I had the same "I'm not be like [bad boss X] when I'm in their position" attitude. Well, now I've got to put my money where my mouth is.

I have the same patience struggles when explaining things... especially when it comes to technical problems. I tend to pick things up very quickly and have good retention, so when I have to repeat myself on a given problem I don't take it well. It's tough because I have had the situation of repeatedly explaining something to an employee and realizing that this person simply wasn't going to be able to do it, so what then? Making that decision and moving on was tough - especially because I'd never had to make the decision to let someone go before.

In general I just try to be very nice and always be available when those I work with try to reach me. Like you say, "not having time" is a quick way to be seen as a dick.

September 15, 2009 at 3:10 PM  

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