SURVEY SAYS – What's Up for Boss' Day?

October 15, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Tomorrow happens to be Boss' Day, which gives us all a good opportunity to think about our bosses.

This week, I asked readers if they planned to “acknowledge” the occasion in some way, and (on a somewhat related note), I asked them to share some insights about their boss’ strengths (and weaknesses).  

Well, most of this week’s respondents were planning to acknowledge the day in some way – a plurality ( 26.3% ) via a card, 21.3% via words, and nearly 19% with “food/lunch/treats” (including, as one reader noted, “We’ll bring in his favorite donuts” ).   Just 2.5% said “none of the above,” although nearly a third ( 32.5% ) said they had no plans to do anything about it.

That said, the final one-in-five opted for “other” – an interesting combination of folks who would be out of the office on that day, who currently had no boss (some unemployed, others WERE the boss), a gift, a combination of the above (one reader noted “Card and jar of peanut M&Ms or gummy bears” ). – or those who were truly going in a different direction:

  • We’re having a group lunch with hamburgers, hot dogs and the fixings at our place of work. All employees who are not management contributed to the lunch.
  • I personally won’t acknowledge it because 1) my boss won’t be here and 2) either will I! However, the department usually puts on a potluck breakfast for all the “bosses”. This way all get recognized and I don’t have to do anything personally! If my boss was a good boss, I might make a bigger effort.
  • We roll Boss’s Day and Secretary’s Day into one day and celebrate HR Day (in May) – we celebrate everyone instead of just those people who are bosses and secretaries.
  • While I have an excellent boss, I intend to patently ignore the day.
  • Why acknowledge him when all he does it drive me crazy!
  • Maybe. It depends on whether or not my boss is in a good mood that day.

Other boss comments included:

  • I have a great boss. He has been one of the few bosses who has actually been a great mentor and backer.
  • Do any of you have "Blackberry Bosses"? I try to limit emails to my BB into a single sentence and whatever I say to a sound byte.
  • My boss isn't perfect, but he's got a perfect bosses temperament. He's neither thin-skinned, nor vindictive. His criticisms of his team is never personal or petty. He acknowledges hard work, will jab slackers with a pointy stick, is flexible about everyones' work/life balance, doesn't hold grudges and really means it when he says his door is always open. He's a solid buffer against the institutional bureaucracy whenever possible. That's why he's getting donuts delivered to his desk Friday.

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who said "Since I'm old enough to be his mother, I think I'll bake him a cake."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

This week I also asked readers what their boss was better/best at managing - and, based on this week's responses, it looks like we're dealing with a pretty competent group.   Nearly one-in-five ( 18.9% ) said their boss was best at managing people, 14.9% said they were best at dealing with numbers, and a full third ( 32.4% ) said "more than one of the above."

Of course the "above" also included bosses that were better at managing customers ( 9.5% ) and those that were best at managing HIS/HER boss ( 8.1% ).   On the other hand, 16.2% said "nothing really comes to mind."

Some additional comments:

  • Managing, with compassion and resilience, to meet the mission of the organization (public safety).
  • I like my boss, but ACME has really made it hard to be effectively managed. ACME now says I "own" my career, which effectively means that my boss may wash her hands of offering me any assistance. While I agree with the idea in concept, it never hurts to have an advocate to help you network. My boss is supportive when I come to her with issues, but I really think my company has cut her off at the knees by making it difficult for her to be an effective manager. So it's not her fault, and I appreciate the predicament she is in, but I am screwed just the same.
  • Unfortunately my boss, the CEO, suffers from ADD & only says what he thinks people want to hear. I'm framing this as positively as I can. I don't have a lot of respect for him as a boss. He's smart enough, he just doesn't have any people skills.
  • My boss can be a quirky pain-in-the-butt sometimes (aren't they all?), but she treats her staff with dignity, respect, and hefty doses of praise and gratitude.
  • He doesn't know what the word manage means. He takes the credit when things go right & blames others when things don't go well. He doesn't let you know specific expectations.
  • I have never met my boss and as far as I'm concerned it's only an administrative relationship.
  • The answer MUST be her boss although, I'm not seeing it. The reason I think this is because she's not good at anything else listed here.
  • He is not a people person and hates confrontation. He likes charts and statistics and enjoys working with his hands in the warehouse. Not your typical President/CEO.
  • He used to be a peach, but now he is merely the PIT. It's been a horrible year.
  • I'm lucky, my managers are humans not monsters.
  • He's good at his job.
  • My boss supports her people, even going to bat with her superiors when needed. She also appreciates everyone's hard work and knows how to say thank you and give credit where due. Knowing how to appreciate the hard work (lots of hours) of your team and acknowledging it, to me, is the sign of a good boss. No one wants to put in long hours, under hard deadlines, and get nothing in return - a sincere thank you and a celebratory lunch goes a long way to keeping people happy.
  • We're cooking a special breakfast with all the trimmings for our boss.
  • My boss is good at keeping things in perspective. That includes both people and information (not particularly numbers because I report to an attorney). She is good at listening and making decisions quickly. She supports my efforts and is a good sounding board when I have issues.
  • My boss is not very well regarded by his peers or his manager. That being said, he is not very fair and as a result there are some people who work for him who will have a more positive review than others.
  • Great guy to work for.
  • Shows genuine concern for the people reporting to her and balances that with a drive to provide the best benefits services for the lowest possible cost...which means a lot of projects and late hours.
  • My boss is an incredible visionary.
  • Takes care of her projects, but no time for people who work for her.
  • He knows how to handle those in the group that think they are the boss. He's fair in his decisions and generally a nice person to work for.
  • My boss is very intelligent, but has a lot to learn about manufacturing. He reads something in a book and expects us to get it done. I wish he didn't believe everything he reads.
  • Although he is a great boss, he could use some help with delegating. He tends to get bogged down in all of the things on his plate and has a hard time starting projects and then finishing them without having to regroup and remember what has been done with the project to that point. Pass them off to a person with strong organizational skills who is motivated to cross them off the list: me.
  • He may be good at his job and he tries hard but he's horrible at managing. Last time I checked a manager shouldn't have to constantly check with his manager to determine what he should do.
  • He is very busy but he often delegates at the last minute even if the work has been on his desk for several days or longer. With the cutbacks we have had it seems most of the additional work falls to him but it probably doesn't need to. It just takes time to train someone on the new projects and he puts that off and just does it himself.
  • Not just people in his department though - also the people of the company which is, after all, supposed to be the function of HR. And I don't mean managing them as in controlling or disciplining but as in understanding their value and treating them with respect. But then that would also require his boss to acknowledge the value of employees - based on history, not going to happen.
  • Helping the team share information and "recalibrate" on a regular basis would help our productivity.
  • I would suggest being more open minded to what all of his direct reports have to say instead of relying on one or two of the "yes" men that he does rely on.
  • The general employee population. He wears his emotions on his sleeve sometimes and it can get misconstrued as impatience instead of passion.

I also asked readers to identify the thing(s) they would help their manager to deal better with if the opportunity presented itself.   Managing people - specifically the people that report to him/her may have been a relative strength - but it was the most commonly cited area of focus ( 48.6% ), well outpacing the second-most popular area, the 36.1% that said "nothing really comes to mind" (one reader noted, "Definitely not people or projects, but he works hard to manage other people's impression of him").

That said, 8.3% said they would help with more than one of the above, and just 7% said they would help their boss better manage his/her boss - and none suggested numbers of customers as an area of needed improvement.   Several said that their boss needed help managing - themselves.  

One reader noted that "My boss tends to share information about her subordinates to other subordinates."

"Directory" Assistance

As for comments on that assistance:

  • Do more delegating rather than carrying 150% of the load.
  • HR!
  • I'd help her better manage her own reactions - she tends to fly off the handle (not at us, but to us) at things that really aren't important in the grand scheme of things.
    Great strength of boyish sense of enthusiasm
  • I (& the other managers) feel like it's a lost cause.
  • Communicating with her staff. Something   anything.
  • We're all afraid of her as we don't know which personality is going to show up for work everyday - the evil, demeaning boss or the fake, try to be nice boss.
  • He's forgetful as heck, but as boss quirks go, that's pretty minor.
  • Letting people do their jobs
  • My boss tends to share information about her subordinates to other subordinates.
  • Although he is a great boss, he could use some help with delegating. He tends to get bogged down in all of the things on his plate and has a hard time starting projects and then finishing them without having to regroup and remember what has been done with the project to that point. Pass them off to a person with strong organizational skills who is motivated to cross them off the list: me.
  • He may be good at his job and he tries hard but he's horrible at managing. Last time I checked a manager shouldn't have to constantly check with his manager to determine what he should do.
  • He is very busy but he often delegates at the last minute even if the work has been on his desk for several days or longer. With the cutbacks we have had it seems most of the additional work falls to him but it probably doesn't need to. It just takes time to train someone on the new projects and he puts that off and just does it himself.
  • Not just people in his department though - also the people of the company which is, after all, supposed to be the function of HR. And I don't mean managing them as in controlling or disciplining but as in understanding their value and treating them with respect. But then that would also require his boss to acknowledge the value of employees - based on history, not going to happen.
  • Helping the team share information and "recalibrate" on a regular basis would help our productivity.
  • I would suggest being more open minded to what all of his direct reports have to say instead of relying on one or two of the "yes" men that he does rely on.
  • The general employee population. He wears his emotions on his sleeve sometimes and it can get misconstrued as impatience instead of passion.

I also asked readers what comments/counsel they would share with their bosses - good or bad - if they could do so anonymously.   Here's what you had to say:

  • While my boss is good at getting the work done, she needs to realize that not everyone works the same way she does.   If she wants something in particular done first, then let us know.   Otherwise, let us get the work done in the order we do it.
  • That person that used to be the boss, tell him/her to 'shut up' sometimes 🙂
  • You need a better poker face!
  • your staff will do what you want without you telling them, it will be o.k.
  • I don't think he is a great manager because he plays favorites and does not share information necessary for you to do the best job that you can do.
  • Thanks for believing in me and allowing me to flourish.
  • That I appreciate his hands-off approach with me - but wish he he would show more interest in what I do.
  • Overall, you're a great boss. I would like to see you out and about more often, helping the team pull together more. Regular staff meetings would be very helpful.
  • Employees of a company are not the enemy, not just numbers and deserve more than disdain.   These employees should not be called to continual sacrifice in pay and benefits when not only do executives not make the same sacrifices but actually grant themselves perks.   (But I'm not bitter.)
  • I feel I am honest with my boss at all times- good or bad she is that type of boss
  • Grow a backbone!
  • Don't leave.   I am not ready to train another boss.   There's enough stress as is.
  • He's a good listener and partner to our team and works hard to get initiatives that our team cares about accomplished at our firm.
  • I have the world's greatest boss. I've worked for her going on 17 years now, and I don't know how I'll manage to work for anyone else when she retires next year. She's personable, has a good sense of humor, supports me completely, and lets me run HR my way. She's the best!
  • Please stop hoarding work/knowledge.   Nobody is trying to get your job.
  • Please be consistent.
  • Put into practice the things you know.
  • I'd like to tell her to zip her lips because the practice of confiding in a subordinate about the weaknesses of another subordinate does not engender trust, but rather the exact opposite.
  • He is fair and he listens well.
  • Loosen up, talk to people, yell at them if they need it.
  • Talk to me!
  • She needs a new wardrobe.
  • She can be a real bully.
  • He needs to communicate better, both in frequency and the content of his messages.   He need sto do a better job of putting himself in the place of the staff so that he understands how his minimal efforts will be perceived.
  • Nothing. I'm fortunate to have one of those rare bosses that I can say virtually anything to face-to-face.
  • I think she's great.   She tells me what needs to be done and lets me do it without hovering.
  • There are pills now that help manic/depressive disorders....
  • Grow up & take responsibility & act like a CEO (someone that uses his brain & not his emotions to make decisions)
  • Great strength of boyish sense of enthusiasm - just don't show it to me before I had my morning Mt.Dew (caffeine).
  • Walk around the office with your head up and say hello to everyone you see.   Ackowledge your assistant's efforts and accomplishments regularly.   Delegate the small stuff.
  • If you'd asked me that several years ago, I would've had a hefty laundry list of grievances.   But one of the few advantages of advancing age is the ability to put things in perspective and realize that my boss's good qualities far outweigh her annoying ones.   (Gee, I hope my staff can say the same about me!)
  • I like you...I like what you do...but HR has made it hard for you to do your job.   How do we change that?
  • I'm so glad you're not the hovering, micro-managing type. You're a great boss!
  • Get a clue.
  • Don't feel guilty about spending time away from your family anymore, go ahead and retire and enjoy your free time.
  • Above, that he has to let go to maintain the big picture and allow a few mistakes to occur for staffers to grow.

But this week's Editor's Choice of the anonymous notes to the various boss' was from the reader who said simply, "Don't leave.   I am not ready to train another boss.   There's enough stress as is."

Thanks to everyone who took the time to share some thoughts (that we can now all share with our respective bosses!)

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