But being a boss has its own problems. First of all, unless you own the business, you usually have other bosses. Even if you are the head cheese, there might still be a Board or an Executive Committee to answer to. Or, more often, just the next boss up the totem pole.
Some people never dreamed of being a boss at all. They just kind of got promoted up there. And, while they like the extra money, they might not really like all that comes with it.
Whiny employees. Unrelenting deadlines. Bosses that undermine what you’re trying to accomplish. Day in and day out the load is now on their shoulders and, if for any reason they don’t have a top-notch group of employees ready to pitch in and make the work happen, their days become nothing but problem-solving and putting out fires.
Before they know it, they feel miserable and they feel trapped because the money is so good and there doesn’t seem to be any practical way out of this role that they are not enjoying.
Now I’m sure some of you non-bosses are saying “oh boo hoo!” You’re probably just as miserable and making a lot less, so getting more money to be equally miserable doesn’t sound all that bad. But trust me, there’s no joy in bossville when things are not going well.
Clearly, there’s no way for me to write a single post that magically makes being a boss a lot better. But here are a few thoughts that might help a little:
- You don’t have to do it all yourself. The sooner you learn to delegate, the better.
- Even those of you who think you are delegating may not be delegating enough or effectively. Make an extra effort to learn to delegate well.
- If you’ve delegated well and yet you have employees who are doing a rotten job, don’t close your eyes and hope it will get better. Start working with them right away. Meet regularly and set clear goals – and clear consequences should the goals not be met. And stick to them.
- If the employee(s) still does a rotten job, you could try to get someone else to work with him/her or to be an extra managing layer. I’ve seen this work sometimes. Other times, not so much. But it’s worth a shot.
- If you don’t want to fire the person or can’t, consider reorganizing and creating a different role for the person. Ask them what they are interested in and/or who they’d like to work with. While you need to make sure they understand there’s no guarantee, at least you can try for a better allocation of resources.
- If the person still isn’t working out, I’m sorry but you have to find a way to let them go. Even if it means you need to patiently follow a process of writing them up (as in a government job). I know that sucks, but I’ve done it and it’s worth it. Of course, if you can get them to apply elsewhere or even help them get another job, all the better. I’ve done that too and the person actually did a better job in another area more suited to his skills.
- Delegation is important…but you also have to roll up your sleeves sometimes and show you’re part of the everyday effort. That doesn’t mean micro-managing. It might mean taking a role on some projects. But more often it means finding out what your staff needs and helping lead them through choppy waters. Or just listening to them and offering support and encouragement where needed. And of course, letting them know when they do something good!
- Remember to hone your own leadership skills. Take classes in management, leadership, coaching, or even in a specialized areas of your business. Form a peer group and work with fellow managers to help each other. Try new things, even if they don’t all work out.
- Remember to solicit ideas from the staff. Don’t be a loner. Let them know your door is open and ideas welcome.
- Communicate up and down. Better to make the effort to find out what’s going on and let your staff in on things as much as possible. It keeps them from feeling left out and helps show you see them as part of your team.
- Also remember to keep your sense of humor. If the workplace doesn’t include laughter, it makes everyone miserable.
- An occasional surprise might brighten everyone’s spirit including yours. Think about what would make you smile (other than winning the lottery) if you were one of your employees. Some people think you can’t work hard and still have some fun at the same time. You can.
- This also applies to the atmosphere you create. In fact, firms who treat employees like adults with flexibility and respect get better productivity. And firms who limit freedom, such as not allowing any personal e-mail or monitoring every move, get limited returns. (But if someone regularly abuses the freedom and/or doesn’t get their work done, then of course they must be dealt with firmly. That’s only fair to everyone else.)
- Ask your staff to work with you to make things better. It could be individual contributions or even an ongoing committee or task force. Yes..I know people dread these things, but if you keep the meetings short and set clear goals that actually result in positive change, people feel good about their contributions. You could even include one (probably not two) of those “special people” who make your day less than fun. You might be surprised what they add. (If not, come up with an assignment and put them into their own one-person task force!)
- Come up with some projects or changes that make YOU happy. Be creative. You are the boss after all.
Of course, if you really are miserable and nothing you do helps, then maybe it’s time for you to think about changing jobs and/or even not being a boss any more. Not everyone is suited for the role. Why stay miserable when you could change your life for the better?
Is there something else you’d rather do? Another company? A slightly different role? Would going back to school help open things up for you? Or maybe even some volunteer work that could lead to eventual change – or just a chance to do something you feel good about.
Oh, I know we all have obligations and I also know change is hard…but it’s even harder 5 years from now when your health has deteriorated and your misery index is through the roof. Now is the best time to do something to help yourself. Even if it means a cut in pay, you’ll work your way up again, but this time doing something you actually enjoy. Won’t that be a nice change!
And whether you stay or not, don’t forget to feed your spirit with things you love. A class in sculpting. Piano lessons. Tai chi. Yoga. Singing. Snowboarding. Dirt biking. Anything fun to shake up the rut of day in and day out drudgery. You’d be amazed how some simple changes in how you treat yourself can reflect back on the job and on your employees. When you feel more balanced and joyful, it kind of rubs off on all those around you. (Even your family.) Or at the very least, you aren’t as focused on all those annoyances. You now have cooler stuff to think about.
Well, maybe you’ll never love being a boss. But with a few changes maybe…just maybe…you won’t hate it quite so much any more. (-;