Qualities I Want In A Boss
Your boss is a significant factor in your job. Depending on the job, you may work near and with your boss constantly. Other jobs may only require that you see him or her periodically, but no matter what, you will most likely interact with your boss.
And your boss does have a significant hand in your future at the company. Your boss may prevent you from moving up in the company if he or she doesn’t think you do good work or may push you to move up if he or she sees potential.
Nonetheless, good bosses are difficult to find.
I was fortunate in my working career to have good bosses/supervisors early on. But luck runs out eventually, and I later had my share of incompetent bosses. My experiences have allowed me to realize what kind of qualities I want in a boss.
Here are some of the qualities I want in a boss:
1. Leveling with us.
By this, I mean not acting like they are better than us. Clearly, they have a higher pay grade, more responsibility, and potentially more respect. They have authority over us, and they are usually not our friends for this reason.
We often do the dirty work, but a good boss is not above doing the dirty work. They will not act like they’re better than us.
Clearly some rules don’t exactly apply to the boss, but they don’t break them just to exert their power. They connect with us as if they are one of us, not as a friend, but as a fellow employee of the company.
My worst internship included a very distant boss and incompetent supervisors. It was a very small firm, with three full-time employees and four unpaid interns. One of the full-time employees was the owner, and the other two were recent college graduates with minimal professional experience. The firm was overall successful, with actually too many clients than it could handle. It was a semester-long internship, and I met the owner probably about two or three times.
I try not to judge. The office knew her, even though she was barely there. Maybe she was never in the office because she was meeting with so many people, or doing higher work that we couldn’t do as regular employees or interns. It’s completely possible, and the higher ups don’t always have to explain their work to their subordinates. But they have to respect us.
I heard her in the office talking to some of the other office mates (not her employees, but other people that shared the office). She described how she doesn’t come downtown to work because she doesn’t like the commute, and she doesn’t like the trains. Driving is much too long, so she generally works from home and will stop by the office if she feels like it.
So going downtown to your office is not good enough for you, but perfectly fine to subject your employees to? And by the way, we all take the train. It’s what most working people in the city do.
She was the owner of the firm. But she actively considered herself better than us, and would not dream of subjecting herself to the same work and lifestyle as us (even taking the train).
2. Clear Communication.
At that same internship, the other two full-time employees that I usually answered to were also the most unclear communicators that I had ever worked for. Their emails were filled with a lot of fluff, and we were expected to find the needle in the haystack.
At first, I thought it was just me. Maybe I was misunderstanding them every time.
So I started running their emails by the other intern. I asked her what she thought the directions were, and she continuously reached the same conclusions that I did. Which were all incorrect, according to our supervisors.
So either we were both ignorant at understanding what they were saying, or they were just pretty bad communicators. I lean towards the latter because I have never had that problem with anyone else. I never had a situation where I just continuously did not understand someone, aside from language and cultural barriers (which did not apply in this situation).
And clear communication isn’t just for bosses. It’s beneficial for employees and pretty much everyone to be able to communicate clearly and make their message understood.
For bosses and supervisors, their subordinates need to understand them to know what needs to be done. Without clear communication, no one will accomplish anything at the company.
3. Support When Needed.
Things will often go wrong at work. Some are within our control; others are completely out of our control. But a good boss provides support when needed.
I heard someone say that the job of a manager is to assist wherever needed. This implies that he or she should be able to do the job of the employees and subordinates, as he or she may need to jump in and assist.
Then I’ve heard someone else complain about their manager, who arrives at the office after everyone else and leaves before everyone else. That manager does not assist, and really milks his salary wage. And that’s insulting to the employees.
Supporting your employees doesn’t mean holding everyone’s hand at every aspect of their job. Sometimes, things get really busy and backed up for whatever reason. It could just be a sudden influx of work that the department is not equipped to handle, or people called in sick or went on vacation, and there were no back ups to assist. Even something as minor as a technical issue could cause everything to go haywire.
That’s when the boss is expected to provide support and help out. And this doesn’t mean micromanaging either. Providing support and hovering to wait for a chance to criticize are completely different.
Assuming employee training was effective and the employee isn’t ignorant, the employees should be trusted to do their job. While feedback and constructive criticism is often necessary, micromanaging is something different. It implies that even after training and however many years that employee has been on the job, the boss or supervisor still does not trust the subordinate to do the job correctly. It’s insulting.
Support when needed is simply when things are out of hand for reasons outside of the employee’s realm of control. The boss jumps in to assist because it is necessary not because it’s the fault of the employee.
4. Ensuring an Effective Workforce.
This refers mostly to reprimanding employees. One of my bosses was amazing. As a new employee, he was super supportive to me and always open to assist when something came up that I didn’t know how to handle. He was the type that was friends with everyone. It seemed like no one had a negative thing to say about him. At first.
Then I realized how he lacked administration. He was so friendly with everyone, including his employees, that he wasn’t effectively reprimanding the weak or lazy ones. While everyone makes mistakes, there’s a difference between supporting employees through mistakes and lacking administration.
I know I wasn’t the perfect employee when I first started, and I definitely made mistakes. Mistakes are normal, and we shouldn’t be reprimanded for every error. Sometimes, a long day wears us out and we make minor errors. It is what it is, and it happens to everyone.
But at that same job, I worked with people actively ignoring their job duties, requiring the rest of us to pick up after them. They knew that we would pick up after them, and therefore actively ignored their job duties knowing that someone else would do it, and it wasn’t that big a deal.
Only it was a big deal to those of us forced to finish their jobs and do our own. It was insulting and disrespectful.
Even worse, these employees knew that there would be little to no repercussions. And that was on the boss.
By not reprimanding the lazy and ignorant employees, the message to the rest of us was that there would be no punishment for not doing our job. It was insulting to us that actually did our jobs, and while I’m sure that boss did not intend to insult us, by continuously being friends with even the lazy and ignorant employees, he was disrespecting us. When being friends with some of your subordinates means disrespecting others, there is definitely a problem.
5. Opportunities To Grow And Expand
I first got into writing publicly with an old editorial internship on campus. My job duties first included editing a newsletter, transcribing interviews, and researching information. I enjoyed it, and I became pretty good at it. I always finished my work on time, and my boss and I were on good terms. And he was the one that offered me more opportunities.
Once I got good at simple editing, research, and transcription, he asked if I wanted to write a blog with the organization. It was low commitment, and blog writing was very awkward at first. But I was willing to try it, get the experience, and see where it led.
Afterwards, he asked if I wanted to write full stories on local student organizations. This would mean from start to finish, where I would pitch which organizations to cover, contact and interview respective members, transcribe the interview, and write the story.
I felt so grown up. But the point is that I started as a simple editor, transcriber, and researcher. I ended writing full stories myself.
Sometimes it’s the company and not just the boss that allows for more opportunities to grow and expand. In that situation, my boss came to me to offer me more opportunities and more responsibility. It was a reward to me for doing good work, and it helps the organization by having more stories written to publish.
Opportunities to grow and expand include everything from a promotion to more tasks or simply allowing the employee to shadow other departments that the employee may be interested in. And some people don’t want the extra responsibility, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But a good boss will recognize the good, hardworking employees, and at the very least offer the opportunities to grow. Bosses like that actually want to see you succeed, not just use you as another worker for the company. And that’s the greatest quality we could ask for in a boss: actually wanting to see us succeed.