How to be a better boss

The Economist is running a series on management called ‘How to be a Better Boss’. It discusses all the good things that are happening in the workplace such as greater diversity and more flexibility. It also highlights the challenges that are leading to managers reporting issues of burnout. For example, we used to book one-hour in-person meetings in email calendars by default and there were articles published on taking different approaches to avoid having meetings for the sake of it or which were unnecessarily long. Not so many articles have been published on coping with the effects of back-to-back 15-minute Teams calls that leave your head spinning.

Managers are under strain so this can be very useful to reflect upon when looking for a new role. There are three scenarios to consider.

The Good Manager

When you think about a current or previous manager you have had, it’s worth noting specifically why you have come to this conclusion. Try to step back from the personality to figure out the things that they did that enabled you to do a great job. It then becomes straightforward to look for those signals in interviews and ask questions directly to make sure that you end up in a situation where the manager is great for you.

The Bad Manager

If more people voted with their feet and changed jobs, there would be fewer bad managers. For many reasons people stick with jobs they don’t like. The Economist points out in the series on management that management is often the only path to progress to more senior roles in an organisation so people often end up in management roles to which they are not suited and probably don’t enjoy either.

Before you conclude that a manager is bad though, it’s worth seriously reflecting on your own skills and experience and what you are doing about developing them. The barrier may even just be your own mindset. Even though work can feel like a whirlwind, the only thing that ultimately matters is your own objectives and your own happiness.

If you are offered a job by someone who you have concluded might be a bad manager, really take the time to think about whether you should take it. But only after you have reflected on your own strengths and weaknesses.

The Manager is Under Strain

A (hiring) manager could be one of the people referred to in the Economist series. Rather than putting them in one of the previous two categories, this is a great opportunity to discover during the interview how you can help. What are the real challenges? Many jobs turn out to be quite different once you get started and that’s because we don’t always get to the bottom of what the real issues are for fear of not landing the job. Rather than discussing how many days per week you are expected to be in the office, for example, ask about the issues the manager has jumping from one online meeting to the next and how you could help with that.

Whether applying for a management or an individual contributor job, find out about the challenges that the person you will report to faces and try not to bracket them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without taking a more considered and objective perspective. At BML.Work, we spend our time thinking about the human in all of us so get in touch to see how we can help.