Healthy Leadership: Avoid Being a Toxic Boss

Picture of Gina Blitstein Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.

Healthy Leadership: Avoid Being a Toxic Boss

Being a boss is no easy job. You wear many hats, manage a number of individuals, bear ultimate responsibility for multiple projects, all while keeping things running smoothly and on budget. The stresses on a boss can be enormous.

The best bosses carry their responsibilities with grace, integrity, unflappable confidence and a strong level of team leadership. They lead by example and genuinely care about the environment in which their team works. These bosses inspire their employees to do high quality work, value their job and respect their coworkers. Their employees are motivated, comfortable and empowered. Obviously, then, you want to be one of the best bosses whose team works cohesively and productively.

Your management style can have a significant impact on your effectiveness in the role of boss. Even though you may try to be the best boss possible, you could have some blind spots that prevent you from seeing things you’re doing to hinder, rather than help, your team. Common mindsets and behaviors can easily prove toxic to your management efforts.

Here are some things to consider to avoid being a “toxic” boss:

Putting too much emphasis on the power of your position - As manager, you are indeed in charge - and that’s a heady responsibility. From your position of power, remember that it’s not just about you. Recognize and applaud your team members’ accomplishments; listen to their input and criticism and take pride in teamwork. After all, your position has power only in relation to your team.

Unknowingly picking away at your employees’ motivation to do their best work - This is also known as micromanaging and there’s no quicker way to kill employee motivation. Employees need a sense of accomplishment to feel confident. Even if your motivation is to encourage them to do their best, being critical of things that ultimately don’t matter will only serve to discourage employees’ efforts and deflate their sense of purpose. Fostering their independence will improve their satisfaction and feeling of competence. Carefully consider your rationale before being overly critical of your team’s work.

Being unwilling to admit what you don’t know - Even though you’re the boss, you don’t know it all. When you find yourself lacking, don’t hesitate to admit it. Your team will appreciate your honesty and humility. Bluffing your way through things you’re unclear about will only lead your team to mistrust you. Don’t be too proud to take a class, read a book or consult with someone who can help put you in the know.

Neglecting day-to-day interaction with your team for broad, distant, arm’s length management - Employees don’t appreciate a boss who lives in an “ivory tower,” having infrequent contact with them and little idea of what the day-to-day workflow is like. Worse yet is the boss who only comes around at crunch time to nag or “inspire the troops” with less-than-helpful rhetoric. Be a manager who really is a team player, day in and day out.

Being either too familiar or too distant with employees - The role of manager could be compared to that of a parent; you must find a practical balance between familiarity and authority. It’s not appropriate to be their friend; socializing outside of the workplace and engaging in personal conversations. On the other hand, there must be a level of respect, trust and sociability that makes interaction and communication flow with ease.

Relying too heavily on facts and figures while not recognizing employees as individuals - This would be taking professional distance to an extreme. An employee’s track record and experience certainly matter, but avoid the mistake of only looking to raw data when choosing project leads or awarding promotions. Invest in getting to know each of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses; talents and personalities. This knowledge will help you pick the best person for the job and assure your employees that you really see them.

Thinking too broadly - One of the tasks of a boss is to think in big-picture terms. Recognize, however, that your team’s function is to make that big picture come to life. Avoid getting stuck in the clouds with your lofty ideas for too long; your team needs you to help organize and implement the actual steps necessary to accomplish the project.

Even bosses who strive to be strong leaders can fall into the toxic boss trap. Keep an eye out for these missteps to be one of the best bosses who employ healthy leadership strategies.

Have you ever fallen into the toxic boss trap?

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