America has a Boss’s day every year.
Every 17th October is set aside for “employees to thank their boss”. Apparently it started in the 1950’s, it wasn’t invented by a card company and, as yet, hasn’t migrated to the UK unlike most other American ideas.
I wonder why that is.
Maybe the proliferation of a certain style of post on social media sites like LinkedIn gives us a clue as to why.
I’m sure you’ve seen examples, articles pointing out how horrendous managers are and painting them as vile, bullying disciplinarians who are sucking the life out of their employees. The articles are usually accompanied by a stock picture of a (supposed) manager with a contorted, red face dramatically invading an employee’s personal space.
One such article had over 5,000 likes and hundreds of comments just a few days after posting, the individual who posted it had just over a thousand followers so it obviously spread way beyond their network.
It made me think why this style is so popular.
Let’s be honest, most of us have worked for a bad boss at some point, (actually, if it’s just the one we’ve been pretty lucky!) but are all bosses really so bad that they deserve to be collectively pilloried in this way?
Please don’t think I’m simply here to defend managers, the general standard of leadership in the UK, and many other countries, is bloody awful. There are innumerable statistics about people leaving jobs because of their boss, or how productivity suffers because people aren’t engaged and motivated at work.
There’s no point pretending otherwise, most managers aren’t very good at managing or, better still, leading others.
However, there’s a massive difference between managers being poor at the people part of their role and being the volatile, menacing despots they’re being depicted as.
Generally speaking people get promoted because they’re good at what they do, but getting others to be good at the same role needs a completely different skill set and it’s a skill set that less than 1 in 10 naturally possess. However, that doesn’t stop the people who promoted them simply increasing their salary, wishing them luck and letting them get on with it hoping it all works out okay.
That approach is nuts.
If HGV drivers were appointed based on their computer skills, or if engineers got the job because they were good at presenting, I imagine certain people would be asking some very awkward questions.
However, entrusting the motivation and development of an organisations most precious and valuable asset, it’s people, to those who have proved they’re really good at doing something else seems to be common practice!
I think it’s time to realise that very, very few managers are actually nasty. Mostly they’re just like everybody else. They want to enjoy what they do at work, feel like they’re making a positive contribution and maybe improve their life a bit.
That becomes very hard to do when they feel like they’re having to make it up as they go along, and feeling like they’re not part of the team anymore now they’ve been promoted. They also often pick up on the vibe that their team are moaning about them behind their back.
Let’s be honest, bitching about the boss is a favoured sport at most places of work. I know I’ve joined in on more than one occasion, and when I say “joined in”, I really mean “instigated”.
However, that doesn’t benefit anyone. Managers get isolated and don’t develop, employees get resentful and the outcome is both are miserable at work.
What’s missing here is everybody taking responsibility for their own situation.
Employees who spend their time whispering behind their bosses back need to use that energy in a positive way to help improve the situation.
As for managers, if they’re struggling with the people element of the role they need to be honest about it and talk to their team, ask them how they can balance the need to get the tasks completed with having a team who relish working for them.
They also need to take responsibility for their own development.
On average, less than 10% of managers get any training in people skills before they take up their new role, and it’s typical that they still haven’t had any five years later.
That’s not right but if that’s how it is then those caught up in the situation need to take control of their own destiny.
There are thousands of different resources available these days, free, that managers can access to improve their people skills. I’ve produced a video series for just that purpose but it doesn’t have to be mine that people look at, anything is better than simply hoping the situation resolves itself.
If everyone talked honestly to each other a little more then work would be a much nicer place for all concerned. Who knows, maybe we’d introduce a Boss’s day over here as well!