In CEB View’s last Talent Matters post we discussed how difficult it is to work for a bad boss. But what if, instead of working for one, you are one?


Of course it’s not easy being the boss. Research from CEB’s CLC Human Resources program shows that the three areas that most managers – even great ones – struggle with are evaluating employee performance, providing effective feedback, and turning around underperformance. These are hard things to do and because the way you do them directly affects your team, any missteps are likely to create friction.


Fortunately, the recession seems to have improved many employee-manager relationships but boss-bashing is still a favorite pastime (as proved by last week’s traffic on the first “bad boss” piece). So, how do you know if your employees are just letting off steam or if you are truly difficult to work with? Unfortunately, many bad bosses are the last to know how awful they are to work under. This may be because you aren’t getting the feedback you need, you’re disconnected from your employees or you just aren’t watching out for the signs.


Here are five indications that you may be a worse boss than you thought:



What To Do If It’s You


If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or have come up with a few of your own, don’t despair. Even the worst boss is capable of change. Here are some things you can do to begin the process:


Ask for feedback: Good bosses are open to and regularly ask for feedback. Your first step should be to ask people for input on how you manage. If you’ve signaled in the past that you are not open to hearing people’s honest opinions, you will need to make clear that you are trying to change your ways and that you intend to use their input not to punish them but to inform your own development. It may be possible even with a mea culpa, that your people won’t tell you what you need to hear. In these cases, it might be helpful to hire an executive coach who can gather feedback to share anonymously with you. Be prepared — you may hear some nasty things about yourself. Listen to what people have to say before you respond. While it may sting, negative feedback is just as useful as compliments.

Make a visible commitment to change. Research shows that those who go public with their goals are much more likely to succeed. Don’t keep your resolution to yourself. Explain to your team that you are working on becoming a better boss and exactly what that means. Are you going to start giving regular feedback to employees so they know where you stand? Are you going to hold “office hours” so employees feel comfortable talking to you about work problems as they arise? Tell them what success will look like for you and ask them to keep you accountable.

Request help. This can often be the hardest part for bosses. It’s one thing to admit you’re underperforming, it’s another to ask for support from others. Think about what you need to change your behavior — training on how to assess employee performance, coaching on how to have difficult conversations, regular check-ins with your boss — and figure how who can best provide that —your peers, your boss or an internal or external coach. Sustaining change can be especially difficult so enlist a few people to tell you when you’ve gotten off track. Be sure to pick those who are willing to tell you the truth.