The best bosses I ever had seemed to understand what makes a great employer... they were tough, often demanding, but also inspiring, and fair. If you are a boss, you know that these three attributes are absolutely necessary -- and if you are an employee looking for a new job -- then this is what you should be looking for in your new boss. Let’s go through each of the three qualities, and then you can ask yourself whether or not you have a great employer.
Great Employers Know How To Be a Tough Boss, Demanding Boss
If you work forty or more hours per week in your chosen career or vocation, you must admit that the job has to stay challenging, interesting, and engaging. Employers who have ideas about creating great team members by consistently challenging their skills are rewarded with very experienced, fulfilled employees.
People often leave a job if they are bored. It’s not that the pay isn’t adequate, or that the stability isn’t appreciated, but employees sometimes move on to see what else is out there for them, to continue their career trajectory, and to face and meet new challenges. Why else would talent at great established technology companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and others ever leave to go work at untested start-ups? We all need a challenge -- even if we like it when things are sometimes slow at work -- it’s also necessary for work to be testing our skills, knowledge, and helping us grow and develop.
This is why Fortune 500 companies groom executives early and consistently by giving them a series of new challenges, increasing responsibilities, and variety of positions and locales. These corporations know that it is very expensive to put time and energy into a employee’s development, only to have them share their expertise with their next position and their new job -- maybe even with a business competitor. If a plan for increasing responsibility and new projects is in place, employees will stay forever.
How to Be a Tough Boss
So how does a great boss put this into action? If a boss who has the respect of his employees goes directly to the worker and delegates a tough job in a way that is affirming - the team member will most often rise to the occasion. “Hey Bill/Carol, this task is going to be a huge challenge -- but I know you can do it. What do you think?” Of course, the employee is emboldened by the vote of confidence, and starts to immediately conquer new territory. This is even more affirming if the team member knows that his/her boss has done -- or could do -- this project themselves. You feel that your boss understands the full extent of what they are asking you to do...
A bad boss -- with poor management skills, and without the respect of his/her subordinates -- often delegates hard tasks to any worker who won’t complain, even if that person is ill-equipped for the project. Bad employers often have unrealistic expectations for their entire staff -- resulting in being tough, without understanding the complete scope of what they are asking others to do. This only makes things worse for everyone involved -- and it’s bad for morale.
Great Employers Know How To Be a Inspiring Boss
What does it really mean to inspire others? Can the dedication, passion, and resolve of a boss, employer, or even a chief executive really stir and energize a company’s employees? Absolutely. It’s easy to think of a visionary CEO like the late Steve Jobs at Apple, and see that he knew how to inspire his ‘troops’ with forecasts and aspirations of his ideal technological landscape. Or employees working for Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway -- often in awe of his ability to see great opportunities for long-term growth and returns, all while protecting the sanctity of shareholder’s money. But in any business, sector, or company, a great boss has to motivate the team members with a sense of purpose, commitment -- even a covenant -- of the importance of the work at hand. No matter what the task or job, employees are often sustained by a clear mission statement, and a boss who understands and galvanizes that mission in all that they do. If it feels like important work to management, employees will be inspired to treat it that way.
A bad boss is one who barely tolerates the work on their own - leaving them incapable of inspiring others in any capacity. These employers are focused elsewhere -- and no longer on the task at hand -- and might just continue on because of their pay/compensation, stock options, or the implied prestige of their position. They would do well to leave the company (or sell it) -- and either find new challenges, or retire altogether.
Great Employers Know How To Be a Fair Boss
Who said life is fair? Maybe it’s not, but you want to spend your working hours at a place where things are at least mostly fair and equitable. Who is next in line for a promotion? What’s the best way to delegate unwanted tasks? Great bosses can be tough and inspiring, but they must also be fair and unbiased. Employees will work very hard on a task when it is their turn, but if it seems that a boss is playing favorites -- for any reason -- morale is immediately damaged. Who wants to feel slighted when each great opportunity seems to go to the employer’s star worker, only to have each arduous task disproportionately given to you? No one wants that. It’s probably the main reason that people leave companies and organizations -- and the perception of fairness is the first aspect of retention to consider for your company’s best talent.
Good bosses realize the value of being the Chief Morale Officer -- that even though there are less-desirable projects, that eventually everyone -- at the same level, rank, etc -- will get them. For benefits, perks, and more, outstanding employers realize that sour grapes over an unwarranted promotion or benefit can cost the company its most valuable resource -- good people.
For those bosses who are not, by nature, fair employers, it could be the hint of an ever deeper bias. Bad bosses lose the respect of their employees -- and often their suppliers, competitors, and customers -- by coming too close to the line that separates fairness with the immoral and unethical positions of discrimination or unjust favoritism.
I strongly believe that an employer who knows how to balance being tough while also being fair and inspiring, has the perfect combination of skills to be a great boss. With the proper leadership skills and the earned respect of their employees and/or team members -- this is the best possible employer to aspire to be, or to work for. If you don’t work for someone like this already, then this is the kind of boss you should seek out! Maybe you’ll never approach a job interview the same way again.