Differences Between Good and Bad Bosses

Everyone knows how important it is to have favorable conditions at the workplace. Starting from trivial things such as air conditioners or coolers with fresh water, and ending up with flexible schedules and good relationships with colleagues—all this, as well as many other factors, impact employees’ productivity and quality of work. In this regard, one of the most important factors is the manager, or the boss, who directs the working process. It is not a secret that bosses are often a category of people difficult to deal with: many of them are unfairly demanding, tyrannic, prone to shifting their responsibilities to other workers, and so on. At the same time, there are many bosses who not only manage to maintain their staff’s productivity at high levels, but also treat them nicely, fairly, with understanding, and are pleasant to work with. Let us try to figure out the differences between good and bad managers, or bosses.

There are numerous cases when a boss sees his or her staff as personal attendants. The scales of this attitude can vary: some bosses may from time to time ask an employee to bring them a cup of coffee—this is tolerable, and in many cases this can be evaluated as a friendly favor a coworker would do for another coworker without feeling inferior or exploited. However, there are managers whose personal demands go far beyond friendly requests. Highly qualified workers sometimes have to face humiliating demands; for example, Jennifer (the name is changed)—a finance executive in a big company—had to dress up like a Japanese woman, because her boss demanded her to do so. Or, another victim of unfair chief-subordinate relationships, Marisa, had to stay in the office late after work, because her boss required her to (attention!) trim his ear hair (Everwise).

A “good” boss would obviously not treat his or her subordinates like this. Respecting their feelings, dignity, and personal space, such a boss would not demand colleagues to do personal favors, making use of a higher position in a company’s hierarchy. As it has been mentioned before, asking for a cup of coffee or some other small favor can be tolerable if it does not harm a worker’s productivity and/or somehow infringes upon their dignity. Such favors are often made by subordinate employees for each other, and probably cannot be evaluated as exploitation. Things like those described in the previous paragraph, however, go far beyond a friendly attitude, and feel more like exploitation.

There are bosses who are typical “emotional vampires.” These people are extremely difficult to work with, and even though they may possess traits necessary for performing their duties excellently, their subordinates usually suffer severe stress because of their bosses’ psychological peculiarities. According to the clinical psychologist Albert Bernstein, vampires fall under four categories: anti-socials, who pursue excitement in all of its forms; obsessive-compulsives, who meticulously seek for the slightest flaws in their subordinates’ work and micromanage everything; histrionics, who need other people’s attention, and narcissists, who believe they are the most spectacular, valuable, and professional employees in the company (Everwise). Each of these types can be emotionally dangerous for employees. For example, anti-social bosses may provoke conflicts within the office environment, and then enjoy the emotional dramas following up; narcissists will criticize everything and everyone, never satisfied with the work their subordinates do, but never “stooping low enough” to organize it in such a way that benefits everyone; obsessive-compulsive bosses can drive employees crazy with trying to handle and regulate every little detail of the working process—implementing rules for ridiculous things like how sharp should pencils be, or what angle monitors should be. It does not mean that emotional vampires do it on purpose: rather often, such traits are subconscious behavioral patterns, but this still does not make employees’ lives easier.

A “good boss,” on the contrary, does not try to regulate everything, or put himself or herself on a pedestal. Such a person is supportive, knows the weak and the strong professional traits of each of his or her subordinates, listens to what staff has to say (and not just listens, but cares about implementing good ideas), encourages personnel, and cares not just about the work done but also about the team in general and about each of the team’s members. “Bad” bosses may be highly competent in the latest theories regarding their field of work, but it is the skill to manage personnel, to inspire rather than to enforce, which makes yet another difference between the good and the bad boss (Developing People). And even though it is important for a manager to care about the tasks his or her team must accomplish, a good manager will always consider the capabilities and skills of his or her team, instead of blatantly demanding results without regarding how people in the team feel.

All this does not mean that a good boss is one who is nice and tender to his or her subordinates, and a bad boss is one who demands too much, though. In fact, a “good” boss can possess all the traits of a “bad” one: he or she can criticize, yell, or force people to do a lot of work within a short period of time, for example. However, it is the sense of limits that makes the difference. Robert Sutton, a professor of management at Stanford University, says that: “The best bosses have that ability to sort of turn up the volume, to be pushy, to get in people’s faces when they need it, maybe to give them some negative feedback, and to back off when it’s the right time to do that as well. We want people leading us who are confident, who are competent, who act like they’re in charge, who make firm decisions, but we don’t want to work for arrogant, pigheaded bastards who can’t take input. And so what you end up with is sort of this challenge—what great bosses do is find a way to walk the line between these two things” (Business Insider). In other words, many of the “nasty” things “bad” bosses do can be done by “good” bosses as well, but a “good” boss uses such tactics only when it is necessary and knows when to stop being pushy—unlike “bad” bosses, who know no other manner of management.

The relationships between bosses and their employees greatly affect the productivity and the quality of work within any company—this is why it is important that these relationships are, if not friendly, then at least constructive and respectful. Unfortunately, not all managers know how to treat their personnel well. There are traits that indicate a bad boss with almost 100% accuracy: such bosses often treat their subordinates as personal attendants, are demanding, pushy, and offensive for no real reason, or may let their negative traits of character loose, turning the life of regular employees into psychological hell (as in the case of emotional vampires). On the contrary, good bosses treat their subordinates with respect, consider their emotions and professional capabilities, care about teamwork, try to inspire employees instead of forcing them to do something, and even when they need to be pushy and harsh, such bosses always know when to stop.

Works Cited

Giang, Vivian. “This is the Difference Between a Good and Bad Boss.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 02 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 June 2017.

“The Difference Between Good and Great Managers.” Everwise. N.p., 13 June 2016. Web. 16 June 2017.

“Good Manager vs. Bad Manager—What is the Difference?” Developing People. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 16 June 2017.

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