There’s no such thing as an ideal boss, right?
We all have our ideas about what makes a good boss. There are countless stories and jokes that we share online and with our friends and family about the terrible bosses and of our haunting, daunting experiences with them.
Managing today’s workforce calls for a management style that’s dynamic. Today’s global workforce is characterized by a variety of factors including:
- Demographics, (Millenials, GenX, Boomers)
- Multi-cultural (global and diverse talent pool)
- Telecommuting workers (from around the world)
- Precarious workers (gendered nature)
- Contingent workers and outsourced workers
The above representations call for a management style that is enterprising. However, many managers—be it at the top, middle or the bottom—are often ill-equipped at managing the challenges that come with today’s workforce.
A study published by Ernst &Young provides insights on the different generations of workers and their strengths and weaknesses. The results are quite interesting but not the least bit surprising. In short, Millenials have an edge over the others on technology, while GenX-ers are entrepreneurial thinking and Boomers are great team players, but oh so not adaptable.
Say what? So where does that place many of our top management? And the middle management? What about our line/direct managers?
The Good Boss
Years ago, I was privileged to work with a boss (Boss X) who cared deeply for his team. The hallmark of his success was his genuine interest to only see the positives in his team members, his subject matter expertise, his trust in his team members and his adaptability. While he was a GenX by definition, I was able to see characteristics from all demographics in him. Working closely with him enabled me to realize that most of the successful traits he acquired were skills that he intentionally picked up from having to work with an extremely diverse workforce across multiple geographies. He was able to gain the respect, loyalty and command of his team members regardless of their age. He had a way of capturing every individual’s attention through his genuine care. To me, he was authentic. And it was obvious, that he was ‘real’ for the rest of the team, too.
What can Human Resources do to create an organization rich with good managers with the best people skills?
The Bad Boss
Let’s be honest. Not all of us are born with people skills, and that’s okay. What is not okay is to promote someone with no people skills to the top because of his loyalty (years of service) and subject matter expertise. Unfortunately, I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum having had to work with a control freak who loved to micro-manage. He had great subject knowledge expertise, was extremely entrepreneurial and the epitome of a hard worker. Along with the accolades also came the resignations. While we sat through a board meeting trying to address the elephant in the room, no one had the power to speak up. After all, he was genuine, hardworking, and managed and micro-managed folks with the best of intentions. So do we give people like him the axe and say goodbye? Or do we demote such prolific geniuses and run the risk of losing his brilliance? Or do we simply just suck it up and deal with it?
…and the Ugly!
It is a well-known fact that people leave managers, and not their job. And it is certainly a tough call for team HR since people vary so much. But being a strategic partner also calls for a high level of critical thinking. Does one person’s brilliance outweigh countless resignations? Do your managers reflect your organizational values? What is the financial and social impact that organizations risk by retaining or firing such managers? Does goodwill have a price tag associated with it? Most of these conversations are going to be ugly and that is the truth. But keeping your organizational values, mission and vision in mind can help deal with the ugliness of the good and the bad. Not all risks are worth it—even if it may be financially superior. It may get you to the top in the short run, but it certainly will not keep you there!
About the Author
Susan Varghese heads Business for Cynet Systems Inc. You can find out more about her on about.me/susanvarghese or connect with her directly on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/susanvarghese/