Are You a Jerk Boss?

Being a good boss isn’t as easy as you might think.
Jerk bosses may be prevalent in business today, but you can learn to be a better leader for your small business with a little education and introspection.(Photo: Artit Fongfung/Shutterstock)

Have you ever had a bad boss? It’s an unfortunately common experience that many people face at some point in their careers.

Dr. Bob Rosen

“Self-awareness goes a long way to adopting a more positive approach to leadership.” – Bob Rosen (Photo: Bob Rosen)

According to Dr. Bob Rosen, clinical psychologist and founder and CEO of Healthy Companies, a big reason there are so many “bully bosses” is that people don’t know any better.

“They may be modeling their leadership style on one of their early bosses or bosses they see in popular culture, where even bad leaders are often portrayed as offensive yet effective,” he said.

In his new book, “Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life,” Rosen explores how leaders can develop a better awareness of themselves, their team and their workplace culture. He sat down with NCR Silver to share how to avoid some of the top traps leaders fall prey to and become a better boss.

The role of self-awareness

Jerk bosses may be prevalent in business today, but you can learn to be a better leader at your company with a little education and introspection. According to Rosen, self-awareness is critical because we can’t understand others without first understanding ourselves.

“If you want to lead, you need to make some choices about the type of leader you’ll be, and how you’ll get there,” he said. “Self-awareness goes a long way to adopting a more positive approach to leadership.”

Taking time to learn more about who you are will help you better understand your employees and equip you to deal with challenges in a healthy way.

“Go deep by reflecting on your values and passions — the legacy you’d like to leave behind,” Rosen suggested. “You can also ask for feedback from family, friends and colleagues… The idea is to pursue anything that brings you a better understanding of yourself.”

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Leadership More Authentic

Breaking down common assumptions


According to Rosen, self-awareness goes a long way toward creating a more positive work environment. (Photo: totojang1977/Shutterstock)

While you may be the most well-intentioned boss, sometimes simply being in a position of power can blind you to how you are perceived by your employees. According to Rosen, small business owners make three common assumptions that impact relationships with staff.

First is the assumption that everyone understands the decisions you make as a boss.

“Even though the team is small and important conversations might happen within earshot of team members, owners still need to take the time to review decisions with everyone and ensure understanding. Otherwise, they can come off as arrogant and uncaring,” he explained.

Related: The One-Word Secret to Becoming an Inspiring Leader

The second is assuming everyone views the team as a family. While a small, close-knit team can start to feel like a family to some, he said, others may prefer a strictly work environment.

“Business owners need to be sensitive to the questions of fairness and boundaries that might come up. Appearing to play favorites or alienating team members who prefer to keep to themselves is not a productive stance for the boss to take.”

You should also not assume that sensitive information is easier to control with a small team and that employees will keep things in confidence, Rosen said.

“In reality, small teams can operate much like larger ones, where rumors get started or colleagues find out that they did not share equally in raises or bonuses. If a boss appears to lack transparency, or to misrepresent the facts, it’s hard to build trust.”

Related: 7 Ways You’re De-Motivating Your Employees

Changing direction


Remember, actions speak louder than words. When you’ve offended an employee, follow through on your apology with a change in behavior. (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Once you come to realize you’re being a “jerk boss,” Rosen advised apologizing quickly and sincerely.

“But don’t overdo the apology — start improving relationships and remedying things by your actions.”

If specific wrongs have been brought to your attention, find ways to make them right and seek honest feedback from those who have been hurt, he said.

“Your actions will speak louder than your words. Even in small companies, people are watching and listening for cues from their leadership. What you say and do matters.”

Be intentional about communicating with every single person in your organization. You can’t rely on smallness or proximity to keep your team in sync, he said; that can only be done through respectful communication.

Related: How Serving Others Makes You an Exceptional Leader

“By their very nature, small business owners are already some of the most conscious people out there,” Rosen explained. “It takes immense self-awareness and awareness of the world around you to perceive a need, develop a product or service, and then establish yourself in the marketplace. So, you have the foundation for great leadership when it comes to your team. You just need to draw on the same inner resources that brought you this far.”

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