"When I'm in charge…." How many times do you remember saying that in your career? How often are you still saying it? (Yes, I'm talking to you CAE's, also.) Any chance you remember what it was that set off that tirade? Can you recall the affront to your sensibilities that elicited such a response?
Monday, I mentioned an email I got from Harvard Business Review titled "Management Dip of the Day: Don't Be a Bad Boss." After a few snide remarks about the obviousness of the title, I mentioned that it had some good points – particularly about the kind of things that make bad bosses, the kind of things which we know are true but aren't that obvious.
But it reminded me of one of the more fascinating reactions we seem to all have when we move into a position of …Power. It has happened to your boss, it has happened to my bosses, it has happened (or will happen) to you, it has happened to me. (And, if I've talked about this before, please forgive my redundancy; it bears repeating.)
There is a funny thing that happens to people when they become "the boss". They seem to forget all those things their former bosses did that drove them crazy. They seem to forget the words "When I'm I charge…" For your enjoyment, some classic examples:
Employee: "The boss never tells us enough. We are always in the dark. We don't know what is going on in the company. We don't know why
decisions are made. We are just told what we need to do."
Employee who has become the boss: "I'm getting too much information. The employees don't need to be bothered; they've got work to do. I'll save them the trouble of weeding through all this and just provide them information on a 'need to know' basis."
Employee: "We have rewritten this report 32 times. Every draft looks the same. I can't tell what the boss wants. And I can't even tell what any of our reports should look like anymore." [An aside – that was my personal record, being involved in the writing of a report where the CAE asked for 32 revisions of a 10-page report.]
Employee who has become the boss: "I'm not sure what's wrong with this report, but we have to keep rewriting it until it's perfect. Why can't the auditors get this right?"
Employee: "Why do we keep having these monthly department teleconferences? Nothing new is said. The same people prattle on. And nobody seems to understand the effect of time zones. Why do they always schedule this during my lunch? The only good thing is I can brush up on my resume while the meeting is going on."
Employee who has become the boss: "I don't really have anything new, but we need these monthly meetings to ensure we have good communications."
Here is a hint on how to keep from being a bad boss. Right now, write down everything your boss is doing that drives you crazy. Going forward, every time something else happens, write it down, also. Make sure those foibles are etched in acid across your mind. Then, when you actually get to be in charge, go through that list and make sure you don't do the same things.
And for those of us who are already in charge, do two things. One, try to go back into the dust-filled, web-smothered recesses of memory and dredge up the things you didn't like. And then don't do them. Two, try asking around. Make up your own 360 degree review. Find out what you are doing that future generations will look back on and swear never to do. And then don't do them.
And to everyone – if you catch yourself doing those things you know you shouldn't, don't buy into the justification you will try and sell yourself. It was a bad practice when you were an auditor; it is still a bad practice now that you are in charge.
And now you'll have to excuse me. I just heard an employee say, "When I'm in charge, I'll never spend company time writing a blog."