Series on Dealing with Difficult People – Good vs. bad bosses

As a manager, one goes through a lot of stress and has a lot of responsibilities. None greater than the responsibility of handling people. The company expects leaders to get results. So, more often than not managers end up focusing on results neglecting their people and becoming difficult bosses that people don’t enjoy to work with. It is very important that you do not become someone who does not intimidate your colleagues.

Jim Clifton, the CEO of the Gallup organization, found that 60% of employees working for the U.S. federal government are miserable — not because of low pay, poor workplace benefits, or insufficient vacation days — but because they have bad bosses. He goes so far as to report a silver-bullet fix to this situation: “Just name the right manager. No amount of pay and benefits will solve the problems created by a manager who has no talent for the task at hand.”

This matters so much for two very basic reasons. Bad Bosses Negate Other Investments: As Clifton points out, none of the other expensive programs a company institutes to increase employee engagement — excellent rewards, well-thought-out career paths, stimulating work environments, EAP programs, health insurance, and other perks — will make much difference to the people stuck with bad bosses.

Good Bosses Lead Employees to Increase Revenue: And, as many other studies have shown, there’s a strong correlation between employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and revenue. To take just one example, in the first of many such studies, published more than 15 years ago in the Harvard Business Review, Anthony Rucci, Steven Kirn, and Richard Quinn identified “the employee-customer-profit chain” at Sears. This was a straightforward dynamic in which employee behavior affected customer behavior, which in turn affected company financial performance. Specifically, in Sears’ case, when employee satisfaction improved by 5%, customer satisfaction improved by 1.3%, which led to a .05% improvement in revenue. That might not sound significant, but for $50 billion Sears, that that came to an extra $250 million in sales revenue.

This study has since been replicated by J.C. Penny, Best Buy, and Marriott. And for all of them the results held true — effective leaders led to satisfied employees, which led to satisfied customers, which led to a direct and measurable increase in sales revenue. Put all of these studies together, and to us the implications are clear. Being a better and friendlier boss helps.