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Leader Pulse
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Horrible Bosses…the Movie and the Reality

By Aviel Selkovits

Friday night I saw the new movie “Horrible Bosses.”  If you are not familiar with the plot, the movie is focused on 3 friends – each of whom is a model employee with a less than ideal leader. The level of disgust these individuals have with their boss rises to such a level that they actually conspire to find a way to kill them. And just for the record, we are not recommending it is a good way to deal with workplace difficulties! But it got me thinking…

There is a reality to the movie that is somewhat unnerving. For how many hours we spend at work, our leaders can have a significant impact on how we are in the rest of our lives. It is not always so easy to leave work “at the door” and shrug off whatever stress we experienced during the day. How many times have you had a bad day at work and then snapped at a spouse or child? Or perhaps you were so exhausted and disenchanted that you decided to stress eat, or skipped out on exercise? The fact is, who leads us at work matters in more ways than just our career. Leaders are in a great position of power to influence how we interact with others, and feel at the end of the day.

It has often been reported that the number one reason people leave their job is because of their boss. However voluntary turnover was much lower in the past two years, mostly due to an extremely tight job market as a result of the Great Recession. In 2009, DDI conducted a survey of non-leaders called Pulse of the Workforce and we found that 55% of individuals said they would leave their organization as soon as the economy improved. So what does that say about the state of leadership in our organizations? Have our leaders been “coasting” or have they stepped up as well to ensure their teams are engaged, motivated and empowered in their jobs?

Looking at more recent research, DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011, the answer would be no. But it isn’t that we have bad leaders – leadership development has not been delivering on its promise. When we interviewed individual contributors, we also asked what skills they wish they could change in their boss. Communication, listening and feedback rose to the very top. These skills are the basics, and are essential to success as a leader. If  a leader cannot master these, they will never be able to master more difficult competencies such as influence, conflict resolution or coaching.

So how can you ensure you are developing leaders that inspire their teams, rather than have their teams conspire against them? Well for one, take stock of who you have. Where are your leaders’ current skills gaps? What strengths can they be leveraging? What kind of development do they need? And from a team member side, what opportunities can your leaders provide them to ensure they are growing and developing personally and professionally at work?

So have you ever left a job because of a bad boss? Have you ever stayed somewhere because of a good one? What did your best boss do that made her or him the best? 

Aviel Selkovits is a  former senior consultant at DDI.

Posted: 13 Jul, 2011,
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