6 Signs You May Be an Insensitive Boss


4. Tuning Out

If power can lessen one’s empathy, it can also lessen a new boss’s ability to listen. A bad boss stops listening to his employees; a good boss hears complaints, then weighs the problem and the person’s needs.

“Leaders who are caring through compassionate behavior, inspire,” says Emma Seppala, associate director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. It’s a good rule: if your employees like you, they’re more likely to follow you loyally.

Also, listen to your office’s white noise. If your people are silently glued to their screens, or you notice a drop in attendance, your workplace could be cultivating stress; in turn, this could affect productivity. You don’t need to install a game room for your employees to unwind. Instead, being personable and understanding can lift spirits.

“If someone is having a slow day…say ‘Hey, I hate to pry, but I notice you’re having a slow day. Is there anything I can do?’” recommends Brush. The personable factor can ease tension, and if you do it equally — not picking favorites — then the rest of the office will notice that it’s O.K. to be off sometimes, that they’re not always under the gun.

5. Mismanaging Millennials

The UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School estimates 34% of the workforce will be made up of millenials by 2014. It’s a different type of generation, and winning those in the cohort with praise may be the best way to manage them.

“Millennials, unlike previous generations, don’t respond to criticism unless it is sandwiched with encouragement, because they grew up in a self-esteem mode,” says Susan Inoyue, author of the upcoming book Sawubona Leadership: The Bridge to Engaging a New Generation of Leaders, which focuses on the millennial generation. Inoyue suggests speaking to them in a way that “honors their gifts” with a healthy dose of reassurance.

But if you don’t let a power trip go to your head and lead them with compassion, it shouldn’t be difficult.

“If people know you care about them and respect them…you’ll cultivate loyalty no matter the generation,” says Seppala.

6. Believing Leadership Is a Right, Not a Skill

Just because you were promoted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re automatically a good boss. Like a profession, leadership is a skill to be learned. Similarly, a new title might make you feel like you deserve respect, but that’s not necessarily true.

“Your rank is what you earn—status is what you earn from other people and can be taken away from other people,” says Kulhan. That doesn’t mean having to do everything right. In fact, knowing you don’t have all the right answers and being able to fail without making a tragedy of it is a good way to increase your leadership skills.

If you’re unsure of your leadership ability, be aware that most people are when they first become leaders. To improve, there are many options, from training workshops to articles online to books about the skill of leadership. Whatever you choose, it’s important to step back and assess your skills and figure out how to make yourself a better people person.

“Never lose sight of the fact that as a leader, you’re leading people,” says Brush. “Management is a people’s game.”

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  • Dale

    All people with crazy bosses should be able to win lotto so they can tell their lousy boss to, “Take this job and shove it!” Agree?