Are You an Overbearing Boss?

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | April-18-12




Overbearing Boss quiz

The top reason employees leave organizations is due to poor relationships with their managers. This fact has been documented in articles so often that it’s becoming a cliché: people don’t leave organizations they leave managers.

A recent ECO Canada blog revealed that the average organization is losing up to 7% of its annual sales due to poor leadership. That’s over $1 million per year for an organization with $15 million or more in annual sales. So what are these managers doing wrong?

The following article adapted from suggests that some managers may just be too overbearing and intimidating, hindering the performance of employees. Are you an overbearing manager? Take the following quiz to find out:

1) Do you easily become impatient with people who don't appear to feel the same sense of urgency you do?

2) Do you consider yourself a competitive person? Do other people find you competitive?

3) Have friends or family ever told you that you are being unrelenting or too driving?

4) Do you have an open-door policy, or do employees freely e-mail you with their questions and ideas?

5) Do you receive a lot of feedback?

6) Do you often  get into arguments and have a hard time understanding other people’s perspectives?

7) Do you typically offer your opinion, whether it is solicited or not?

8) How often do you let other people give you directions or tell you what to do?

9) Do you ever deliberately provoke mild-mannered people because you think a little confrontation would be good for them?

10) When you drive, do you consider a traffic jam to be war? Do you shift lanes, cut off other drivers, and prematurely exit the highway in attempts to find a quicker route?

11) Do you think being called a "Type A" personality is a compliment?

Did you answer yes to more than one of these? I'm sure you already know what the results mean.

As a manager, being assertive and determined is important. You have to set goals and keep things moving in order to stay ahead of the game. And you have to be decisive: The buck stops with you. If you get a little edgy at times, well, it's only because you're the one who has the stress of seeing the whole picture and being responsible for every part of it. Right?

On the other hand, you might be an overbearing boss--one who creates a work environment that is filled with tension and fear. If your employees are not comfortable speaking with you, you may be missing important information--and great ideas. You could even lose good workers who decide to go elsewhere.

Your employees who are less assertive will continue to be polite to you, no matter how much inner turmoil you are causing them. They won't tell you if you are stressful. Who wants to volunteer for that job?

Assertive bosses have many virtues. They tend to be direct, decisive, and task-oriented. They will step up to get things done, and they don't mind handling uncertain situations. Being in charge comes naturally to them, and they can be fearless leaders. If they have a dose of expressiveness, they will be outspoken and vocal about their expectations.

For people who are less assertive, however, take-charge bosses may be anything from annoying to downright terrifying. The overbearing boss can be dictatorial, confrontational, rude, domineering, and unreceptive. Some are determined to get their way at all costs--and the costs may be very high. If the boss is argumentative, employees who do not like conflict will simply keep their mouths shut.

If you are a forceful boss, don't be afraid to try new behaviors from the other end of the assertiveness spectrum, so you can foster a stronger relationship with and engage those who are like that too. The opposite of overbearing is not wishy-washy. The opposite of overbearing is respectful. People who are reserved can be just as resolute as you are, but they are quietly determined. Understand that conflict is not their way to address the things they care about.

If you're an overbearing boss, take some pointers from the mild-mannered, peacekeeping boss:

  • Stay calm
  • Keep your voice even-toned, and don't interrupt.
  • Listen and reflect before you set an opinion in stone.
  • When you ask a direct question, give your employees time to formulate their answers.

Overbearing bosses can be like a hurricane entering the room. Whatever plans the employee had for the day, go out the window as the boss spins off new tasks and reasserts priorities. This can create resentment and confusion. Honor the diligence of your employees by asking if they have a moment to speak with you, rather than summoning them in the middle of what they are doing.

People enjoy working for a boss who is grateful and appreciative. Continue to set high expectations for others, but use encouragement instead of intimidation. Ask for opinions. Give your employees a way to provide you with feedback. Acknowledge successful ideas that came from others. Praise the different strengths your employees bring to the workplace. Remember that with peaceful interaction, they will relax and share important information and ideas with you.

One of the factors leading to poor management is a lack of training or management skills. While managing others may come natural to some, not everyone has the natural know how to effectively manage people. To make matters worse, many organizations still fail to provide comprehensive management/leadership training, particularity for newly promoted or first time managers.

This lack of training may help explain why 40 percent of new management hires fail within their first 18 months.

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