One year into my law enforcement career, I was promoted to the rank of sergeant. In hindsight, it was too soon. I wanted to be the best boss ever, but I had no training and no knowledge how to accomplish what I wanted.
Since I was swimmingly nice, I didn’t understand why I made some people angry. After all, I tried to treat everybody like kings and queens. There didn’t seem to be any demand for nice guys. But there was a much higher demand for effective guys.
My working environment was a laboratory where stress and frustration grew fast. Many employees came to work angry. Some blew their top on a regular basis and showed an intense disdain for everything good, everything logical and everything right.
“My way or the highway” which goes back to the 1970s, implies the demand “take it or leave it.” Many employees rush into their boss’s office with throbbing veins wanting change just because they want it and not because they need it. In addition, it usually impacts only them.
For me, increasing in rank did not seem to make a difference. I had my own dislike for terminating employees, and I was a fly on the wall during my first experience. When it was over, I told our chief that he handled the termination perfectly and made it look so easy. He said, “It’s never easy, but it’s easier when you have right on your side.”
Over the years it was my job to handle terminations, suspensions and issue reprimands to employees. Thankfully, it didn’t happen very often. I always told myself that I was right, but being right didn’t make it easier.
This will be a hard pill to swallow for many, but it’s all bosses’ job to look after the people who love them as well as those who loathe them. Troubled employees usually say it’s the boss’ fault and they refuse to admit it when the fault lies with them. Many times, the employee or employees who have the loudest voice gets what they want. If they say something ignorant often enough, many people start to believe it.
After I terminated an employee one day in early December, he told me that I screwed up his Christmas. Looking back on it I see his point. He wanted it to be my fault that he was observed stealing coins out of unlocked cars in front of a car repair shop.
But being right did nothing to help me overcome his hatred when I tried to do the right thing. It didn’t matter how hard I tried; some employees would find something to complain about if I gave them a million dollar raise.
Some bosses constantly breathe down the necks of their employees and constantly criticize everything that any employee does. They don’t know the difference between positive criticism and just being outright cruel.
Beating up folks for making decisions will teach them to never make decisions. Criticizing the little things is anti-productive. Throwing the rules or the law in people’s face because they want everything just because they want it, doesn’t stop them from feeling entitled. A boss who changes a good policy to a bad policy to suit complainers might as well throw tantrums. Many bosses feel it necessary to reply to every story with their own story that is bigger and better. A good boss does more listening and less telling.
If employees are told to take a chill pill, they might as well be told that they are out of control and acting childish. Successful bosses create an atmosphere where their employees are successful. They also should listen because bosses who don’t listen teach employees to zip their lips and hush.
Becoming the boss doesn’t bestow special power or benefits, it simply levies accountability. But there can be a silver lining to being the boss. In actuality, bosses don’t have to be the brightest crayons in the box, they just have to surround themselves with capable people who do what they want done. Employees who aren’t pushed may not have any idea that they have special talents that would allow them to accomplish great things.
Good bosses don’t overrate what they aren’t, nor underestimate what they are. It’s possible to be nice and effective at the same time. The silver lining is available, but it doesn’t come with every promotion. If the knowledge isn’t already there, it can be gotten the old-fashioned way, it can be learned.