If you’re a boss, how “bossy” are you?

The role of a boss has been around ever since people have been employed.There was a time that bosses wielded a tremendous amount of institutional power. With dramatic changes in the workplace, the role of a boss is no longer what it used to be. Bosses who insist on being bossy will struggle to attract and retain good talent, and extract the best out of their people.

The word “bossy” appears to have originated in the mid 19th century and comes from the word “boss”. Its use is not necessarily confined to the workplace. It refers to someone who is domineering, demanding and fond of giving people orders. That’s because that was what was expected of bosses in the second half of the 19th century and the majority of the 20th century.

But with the arrival of the 21st century and its influx of Millennials into the workplace, bossy bosses’ days have become numbered.

The workplace has replaced bosses with leaders and there is a very big difference between the way bosses and leaders operate. Bosses were given power and authority to get the job done, no matter what. They did not care about your personal life – you were at work to do a job and they didn’t care about anything else other than getting the job done. You were being paid for your head and/or hands and not for the baggage in your personal life. That was your problem. So, apart from being domineering, bosses were also insensitive and uncaring.

Those of you who were in the workplace during the second half of the 20th century would, somewhere along the line, probably have worked for such a boss. I certainly did.

If you’ve worked for a bossy boss, you probably have a few war stories of your own about how unpleasant that was. The question to ask yourself, though, is: if you’re a boss now, how bossy are you?

Before you go into denial, have the courage to ask yourself if you’ve been micromanaging your people. If you have been doing so as a matter of course and not because a particular person needs to be micromanaged for a particular reason, chances are you’re bossy – you’re getting in the way of your people, preventing them from doing what they’re being paid to do.

One of the biggest factors in retaining and engaging good talent then empowering them to be highly productive is giving them a clear understanding of what it is they’re required to do … then giving them the autonomy to do what they need to do. Of course, if you’re a bossy boss, you’ll probably be focused on measuring input and not output, so you wouldn’t be comfortable granting your people autonomy.

Bosses who focus on input are more concerned about having people in the office at their desks than having results of which every employee can be proud. Leaders who are focused on outputs quite frankly don’t care where or how their people do what is required of them, so long as they deliver.

Bossy bosses will never give people autonomy because they want control over their people. And when people feel they’re being controlled, they rebel. One of the most common forms of rebellion is the silent rebellion – people just do the bare minimum to stay out of trouble and cause the company’s performance to fall through the floor.

If you want to get the most out of your people, stop being bossy and start leading them. Give them a clear goal, make sure they have what it takes to achieve their goal, give them a sense of purpose and encourage them to achieve their targets.

Some bosses think that being nice is a sign of weakness and that people will consider you to be a pushover. Many people think that, if they’re nice, others will take advantage of them. Let’s bust that myth once and for all. You can be extremely firm in a very nice and polite way. It just requires emotional intelligence to handle things this way.

Bossy bosses are a thing of the past. Make sure you lead people in a way that makes them WANT to be led.

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches experienced business leaders and Millennial managers how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.

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