Nobody leaves a company. They leave a bad boss when there’s no other reason to stay. Great bosses who understand the value of networks, offer support, development and challenge are a critical part of your talent network. Are you addressing the core of what attracts the network of talent to your organisation?
Bad bosses are diminishers of the talent of their people. They destroy what value their people create.
I worked for a diminisher once. After a year in which my business exceeded its goals, with help from a great team, favourable circumstances and my colleagues in the business, I was told in my annual performance appraisal that “a drover’s dog could have achieved that result”. (Drover’s dog is one of the more flexible bits of Australian idiom, but the phrase’s most recent meaning which comes from politics is that a drover’s dog is a non-entity). I would have been happy to discuss the many contributions to my team’s success, but that phrase left me with nothing more to say. I thought it unkind when my boss repeated the phrase to my leadership team colleagues a week or so later in a meeting, but if you can’t take unkind words, then corporate life is not for you. However, the moment that hurt most was when it was used again to describe my and my team’s performance at the end of year dinner in a speech to the leadership team and spouses.
Who did it hurt? My boss, not me. By that point, I was used to the comment. Remember the actions of a diminisher says more about them than their team. The dinner guests were disturbed by the comment, especially the spouses who knew how hard their partners worked. While the comment was directed at me, it was a signal of what everyone could expect from such a boss.
Because the issues with bad bosses are usually their own concerns, it is rare that a bad boss will change without a major personal catharsis. Few employees have coached a bad boss to better performance. Sadly that means that employees of bad bosses need focus on survival or escape. Survival will require employees to leverage their reputations, their networks & their mentors. They need to work more transparently and deliver stellar performance. These actions can help replace missing leadership and build support to survive the assaults. Survival is hard work because a bad boss will focus their attentions on survivors as a point of resistance. Escape is by far the easier and better option. The organisation is the loser.
Do you know the diminishers in your organisation? They are easy enough to find as your networks will tell you all you need to know. If your organisation has bad bosses, change them, remove them or avoid them.
Remember it takes great talent to survive a bad boss, but most won’t. Great talent has better things to do than play defence. The networks of great talent offer too much opportunity. Even a drover’s dog knows when it is time to run away.