Being A Nice Boss Isn’t Good

People talk about abusive bosses, harassing bosses, micromanaging bosses but people seldom talk about the perils that come with being, or having, a “nice” boss.

It seems like being a nice boss would be a good thing. You give people room to do their own jobs, you don’t sweat the small stuff—like somebody being late once in a while or someone making an off-color joke—you understand why someone can’t really function on the job right now because they were involved in a breakup or lost a pet. You let people talk about their feelings and blow off steam. You throw great work parties.

But here’s the rub: The kind of people you want to attract don’t take jobs because they just want to make money working for a nice boss. The kind of people you want to attract have a higher vision. They want to build a career where they can learn skills, rack up accomplishments and grow toward the next job they’re going to be aiming for.

So the most important thing you can do for those employees isn’t being “nice.” Instead, it’s to lead and manage your company, your division or your team really well. Create a functional, high-performing team, not a dysfunctional one where the feelings run the show.

Set The Vision

Make sure you have a vision for where you’re trying to go and a strategy to help you get there.

After all, people are wired to grow, to follow a vision. If you don’t have one you’re passionate about, the work has little meaning. Part of setting a vision is to create clear key performance indicators and other benchmarks for performance and success, then hold employees to these benchmarks. That demonstrates that your vision is real, and their role is important.

There’s no point in having a vision unless you have clear markers that show whether or not you’re actually getting there. A “nice” boss might not be hung up on meeting those markers, thinking that people are more important. A good boss, though, knows that nobody wants to work for a company that’s just treading water. Nobody wants the feeling that they, themselves, are treading water. Give people something to reach for and to feel good about once they get there.

Hold People Accountable

Top performers get frustrated in dysfunctional cultures and they will leave. Do you allow people to show up late, miss deadlines regularly, or behave like of a jerk? Every excuse you make for these employees makes it harder for other employees to perform well.

I’ve talked to bosses who were so conflict-averse they never called people on their poor behavior. I’ve actually had managers say to me “I want to hire a team that I don’t have to manage.” That’s kind of like a person becoming an ER doctor and saying, “I don’t want to work these hours.” A manager’s role is partly to hire people who are sufficiently emotionally mature to handle their own work and to discipline the ones who aren’t. You’re responsible for whether employees treat each other well and take ownership of their part of the project.

Look In The Mirror

Some people may seem born to be managers. They lead early in life and keep leading throughout their careers.  Research shows that first-borns, for example, are more likely to be in positions of authority and to have more of a sense of responsibility to a whole community rather than just themselves. But lots of second and further in the birth order born folks become great managers because it’s a learned skill.  Yup. You can develop the kind of leadership skills and understanding that will enable you to be a “good” boss rather than a “nice” boss. In the manager role or other leadership positions, you are choosing to be responsible for the well-being of the company and the success of your employees. It’s like sitting next to the exit door on the airplane—don’t sit there if you’re going to freak out when the doors are opened. If you’ve accepted the task of a leader, the only really kind thing to do is to learn how to be a competent one, even if that means being a lot less “nice.”

And if you need help, we’re really good at helping leaders step into the shoes they’ve chosen.

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