After she hired me, she tried to re-hire a former employee who refused her offer, and two of her own sons quit working for her. Now this should have been a diehard clue that working for her was not the picnic she thought, but when I quit, she wanted me to tell her why because, “It doesn’t do me any good to not know why you quit.” Since my last paycheck was on the line and any chance for a job reference, I didn’t feel I could be blatantly honest and tell her she was a tyrant and completely horrible at training people.

My boss before that, used to literally throw candy down on our workstations as her way of attempting to show appreciation, but you could tell by her body language and attitude that she was doing it like she felt obligated and it was an inconvenience for her to make the effort to give our crew any recognition for a job well done. And no thank you was ever given during said candy-throwing ritual. This from a woman who also told me on several occasions that I was overpaid by the previous boss who she took the place of. As a department manager, I would always give our department praise and thanks when they would stay late, put in extra hours and effort to get the job done. One day she saw me do this and instantly undermined it by saying, “Well, we still need to improve a lot of things around here,” with such a snotty attitude it was obvious she felt we deserved no credit for working under horrible conditions, short staffed. long hours and still meeting deadline. I quit working for her about 3 months later.

So…long story short….bosses….before you blame and judge employees for the state of things in your business (like so many bosses I’ve seen and known) you would benefit more from taking a step back and looking at yourself. Poor employee performance is most often the fault of poor leadership more than just lazy employees. I have found as a business owner that the majority of employees genuinely want to do a good job, but they won’t if they feel they are being taken advantage of or not appreciated for their efforts. Poor job performance almost always comes from poor leadership or a complete lack there of. Management that lacks “leadership” and just “manages.” You can manage a barn full of cows, that doesn’t make you a good leader. Corporations usually hire managers and not leaders based on how they look on paper. But good leadership is not necessarily something you can express on a resume, in black and white statistics. A good leader has more to do with attitude, personality and people skills than previous years of management experience and production figures. If you are responsible for hiring managers, you must first change your thought process yourself. Are you looking for a manager (for a barn full of cows) or a good leader? Then you must think of the human element of this potential candidate and throw all the facts and figures out the window. Most employees could still keep up their same level of production with a bad manager as well as not having one at all. In other words, if all you are looking for is production output, you don’t need any manager for that. Employees know they need to do their job or they will get fired, so what is the point in hiring a “manager” to oversee them if this is all you want to get out of them? You are just raising wage cost by hiring a babysitter not a leader who can actually get better results from a group of employees.

An excellent leader leads by example. I have been told several times over the years by several employees that they “love me” and I’m the best boss they ever had. I believe that is because I earned their respect by being right in the trenches with them. I never expect my employees to do what I’m not willing to do myself. If I asked them to work late, I worked late. I was more an experience higher member of a team who gave them input on how to be more efficient, focused and productive through what I had learned over years and years of being in their place. In other words, I taught them, not told them, how to be as productive as possible with as little effort as possible.

In the last decade, we have greatly lost the human element in the work place. Big business is all about profit margins, bottom lines, production costs and keeping wage costs as low as possible. Does any of this create a fun, fulfilling work environment? No. Does any of it pertain to what an employee can walk away with and feel good about? No. Sure you can get a workforce to produce and meet your company goals while still being a bad boss, but you can get so much more out of them if you treat them right. An old-fashioned notion that we seem to have disregarded over the years.