In January I started writing the Bad Boss Blog Series.
I was initially worried about the whole idea. I didn’t want people to misunderstand the intent and think of the posts as a sort of ‘subtweet’ series about imagined colleagues of mine. If you missed the original post, it was easy to miss the point:
Having a bad boss can be awful. Leaders and managers play an important part in our professional lives. They can inspire us and direct us, bringing energy and purpose to our work. Good managers take an active role in our development as well as what we deliver. Having a good boss is brilliant. Having a bad boss is the opposite. A bad boss can demoralise us, having an emotional impact that drains our energy and makes everything feel harder. They can also provide poor direction, complicate things, add ambiguity, reward bad behaviours, set a bad example and make things harder.
The idea of writing about imaginary bad bosses had two key strengths for me. We all, at one time or another, think our boss has made a mistake or done something we don’t like. I think it’s more or less inevitable that will happen to us at least once in our life… so I liked the “universality” of the bad boss framing. I also know that a relationship with a boss or someone with formal authority involves a power dynamic that can sometimes leave the non-boss feeling disempowered in the situation and unable to resolve issues.
…the reality is that sometimes we find ourselves with a bad boss. And the power dynamic that puts them “in control” makes holding them to account or changing the situation difficult. But just because someone has formal authority doesn’t automatically mean they have “control.” And it doesn’t mean we can’t adapt to continue to be effective.
Since then I’ve written about diary management and getting time with a boss, managing unpredictability and building rapport. I’ve written a mini-series about decision making and covered “rigid rulers” and “decision dodgers” and “decision deniers”. And I’ve explored scenarios around optimism, humility and confidence.
In March I wrote about feedback. I discussed ways bosses can intentionally construct feedback conversations to ensure they’re effective for both people in the conversation. I described how there are different types of feedback and wrote about how conversations can sometimes switch track and change subject, contain ambiguous labels and about the danger of blindspots obscuring our opportunities for growth.
The post on resilience was the first in the seires to feature a guest contributor. I then wrote about the danger of inattention blindness, and introduced and developed the idea of Strength/Weakness pairs over two posts. Those ideas around strengths, weaknesses and mediating forces led to a post on introversion and extraversion. And I concluded the series by introducing Bad Boss Bingo!
I like to compare this project to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and those three paragraphs describe Phase 1. In the first five months of this year I’ve explored the adaptations that people can make to improve their relationship and interations with a boss. I identified three sources of challenge or conflict that we can have with a boss — the 3C Model of Bad Bossing:
1. Competence: The boss is bad at some things (and some things are unacceptable). [Skills]
2. Confidence: Their badness is due to the relationship between confidence and competence. [Behaviours]
3. Compatibility: Our relationship is complicated and compromised by our own preferences and ways of working. [Relationships]
I’ll return to and develop the 3C Model Of Bad Bossing™ as a way of analysing and understanding our relationship with a boss. But most of the feedback I’ve received on those Phase 1 posts has been from leaders, managers and bosses — or aspiring bosses. And the 3C Model suggests that improving bossing competence should improve things for everyone. So now that I’ve written a little about the 3C’s I’m going to concentrate on 3B’s — being a better boss. Back in January I said:
I’ve been blessed in my career to be in teams with some fantastic leaders. They’ve cared as much about me as what I make and do.
Everyone deserves a great boss. I work with people who are technically brilliant, emotionally literate and professionally committed to excellence. I started writing about ‘bad bossing’ and adaptations non-bosses could make on the assumption that bad bosses don’t care enough to improve or don’t know they need to. But that might have been a little arrogant or misguided — it’s clear that the audience of bosses and aspiring bosses reading this want to be better.
All of the posts in this project are based on the fundamental premise that our relationship with a boss is a partnership — and that both sides need to invest, adapt and empower each other to become their better versions. For the next few months the focus of the posts are going to shift more towards the adaptations that bosses can make to build better relationships with individuals and teams.