Toxic Bosses And The Best Way To Handle Them

The boss seemed so incredible and nice during the interview.  The first couple of weeks have gone amazing, you love the decision you made.  All of a sudden you are quickly realizing you might have a boss from hell situation on your hands….Now what?

Unfortunately, you are not the only one who could write a book that would make “The Devil Wears Prada” a soft bedtime story.  Bad bosses are out there in every industry, at every level, at every organization.  Sucks, but it is a fact.

The good news? They usually come in one of a few identifi­able varieties. And by recognizing what kind of monster (er, manager) you have on your hands, you can come up with the right tactics for dealing with them.

Here is my quick guide to the four common types of bad bosses and some tips for managing the craziness.

First (my personal favorite)

1. The Slacker

The slacker spends Monday through Thursday taking long lunches, leaving early and “networking” on his/her smartphone (a.k.a. texting friends/playing games). Then here comes Friday, and they are panicking about deadlines and projects that haven’t gotten done—and calling on you demanding that you help pick up the pieces.

Try This

One of my high school teachers had a sign on her desk that said, “A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” Unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t repeat this to the person who signs your paycheck. Instead, try looking at your boss’s laziness as a good way to advance your own career.  Ask him/her if you can take the lead on a few projects that interest you. Chances are that your boss won’t mind relinquishing the extra work, and you’ll be fattening up your resume for future job opportunities.

2. The Land Mine

It’s mid-afternoon, and you’ve been a model of hustle and productivity. Emails have been answered, projects are being completed ahead of schedule, and you’re just getting ready to grab some well-deserved lunch, when—BOOOOM! Out of nowhere, your boss is at your desk yelling at you for something small and meaningless.

Try This

What’s the best way to diffuse this bundle of human dynamite (short of anonymously leaving an anger-management flyer on their desk)? The key is to not set it off in the first place. Yes, there will always be unanticipated freak-out sessions, but do your best to control them by understanding what triggers a meltdown, and avoiding those things. For example,  if your boss starts foaming at the mouth if you arrive a moment after 8 AM, plan to get there at 7:45—Every. Single. Day.

3. The Egomaniac

They seem to think that the rules apply to everyone but them. They act like everyone else (including you) exists only to confirm their awesomeness or make their life more convenient. They regularly takes all the credit for team projects, and passes blame for anything that goes wrong onto everyone else.

Think the boss equivalent of Kanye West: You’ve got an egomaniac on your hands.

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Short of changing jobs, the best way to deal with egomaniacs is to ignore their calls for validation as much as possible. You certainly don’t want to disregard your boss, but feeding the ego monster with unnecessary compliments and attention will only reinforce bad behavior.

Then, work on cultivating relationships with other people in the office. Look for someone else to act as a mentor, give you solid career advice, and serve as a reliable reference. And make sure to keep a paper trail of your accomplishments and projects so that you don’t have to rely on your boss for recognition.

4. The Michael Scott

Arrogant yet incompetent. Desperate for friendship but unintentionally offensive. Finishes other people’s sentences with “That’s what she said.” Okay, so the last one might be a (slight) exaggeration, but the point is that the Michael Scotts of the world do exist outside of prime time television. These are the bosses who can’t decide if they want to be your supervisor or your friend, and who, quite frankly, aren’t very good at either.

Try This

The good news is that Michael Scott-type bosses tend to be pretty harmless. Usually, they’re just lacking in confidence and social ability, and want nothing more than to be considered one of the guys—or girls.

If you’re stuck with a Michael Scott, take pity on him. Include him in office chit-chat or visit with him over lunch. And then, get back to work. Seeing good social skills in action can help your boss learn to act in a more “office-appropriate” manner.

If you have a boss that goes over and beyond these 4 listed items, I pity you, I do.  Contact us and we can help give you more advice and tips to survive your daily grind.

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Working in a small office – The real deal

I have worked in small offices for a large portion of my professional working career, from when I started my intern program up until now.  Personally, I have to say that I prefer the smaller environment, but I can assure you, it is not for everyone.  There are many pros, there are also many cons.  Yes, I know you can find both good and bad in any working environment, but obviously, these differences will vary.  Here are a few things to consider…

You get to dabble in different fields

Yes, I work and specialize in operations management, but in a small office environment, it is all hands on deck.  If someone in a neighboring department needs help, you can bet the I am there working on it.  Personally I love this as my work each day is really never the same – it doesn’t get mundane.  Another plus, I get experience and knowledge even outside my field which can help me in the future.

Everyone knows each other

I know all of employees by name.  I work directly alongside all of the employees in every department.  By knowing each employee I am able to develop relationships with employees of every level, relationships you may not be able to develop working for a large company.  I have many friends who have never met their CEO, CFO and other high ups, where my employees speak to me on a daily basis.

Drama and gossip
If two people get into a disagreement, you bet the entire office knows about it. This happens in any small environment, but of course it’s a bit tricky when it’s your professional working environment. Just don’t get involved in things that are going on between others, and focus on your own personal work and development.

Your work is recognized
The CEO and the Directors know what work or projects you completed. Your name is attached and associated with them. People are aware of what you contribute, especially those higher-ups. In fact, in some cases where applicable, even the Board of Directors will know your work and contributions as well.

You have more responsibility 
As there’s only a small amount of people to get work done, you’re given more responsibility. No one has time to look over your shoulder and watch what you do, or tell you what to do, as they have to get their own work done. You need to be a go-getter and a self-starter/motivator if you work in a small office.

 

Have you worked in a small office? What was your experience like?

Did you know MCDA CCG INC was recently selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 business blogs on the web?  You can check out other great business blogs here.

https://blog.feedspot.com/business_blogs/

 

Supportive Work Cultures for Working Parents

This is a very important topic to me and let me explain to you why…

I coach baseball at a local high school here in Orange County (Go Mustangs) and I also coach baseball in a local travel organization (Go Colts).  As we prepare for games and the stands are filling up, I consistently see the same parents in the stands, but more importantly I consistently do not see the same parents in the stands.  I will ask the kids if their parents will come and I usually get the same exact answer, ” My parents can’t get off of work.”  So that leads me to this blog post.

Mandatory care benefits and policies for new parents include paid maternity and paternity leave. Beyond the support provided to your team members beyond the initial stages of parenting, does your organization continue to support your people once they make the transition back into the workforce as working parents? No matter your company’s current plan for working parents, it’s a necessity to cultivate a workplace culture that recognizes and supports the needs of your employees and their dual roles in work and in life.  When push comes to shove, who is more important to them?

Creating a culture of support around parental leave

Companies need to create, provide and SUPPORT a culture for working parents throughout the journey from parental leave to working parenthood.  To do so will require helping team members change their mindsets towards the parents with their teams.

Recent study statistics suggest that there is still hesitation from parents when it comes to taking advantage of paid leave.  While about 76% of working parents reported having company policies that support parental leave, 56% admitted to experiencing a disparity between their company’s stated support of taking time off and the responses they encountered when requesting time off.

57% of working parents stated they would have treated their leave differently had they had support from management, and a very alarming 63% of new fathers believe that taking extended leave would be detrimental to their careers.

When it comes to parental leave, organizations need to take active steps to communicate to their employees that they have permission to use the leave time they’ve been given without the risk of feeling guilt and being perceived as lacking commitment to the organization.

With half of all employed parents stating that they struggle to keep an interesting or challenging role at work while being a parent, it’s clear that the failure to support working parents in this regard can lead to serious impacts to a company in terms of workplace performance, talent turnover, and business costs. Organizations that value working parents as an integral part of their overall company strategy must invest their support efforts accordingly.

Securing the future of your workforce

Working parenthood is a universal concern for securing the future longevity of your workforce, driving decisions of whether people choose to join or stay in your organization.

It is important for an organizations Human Resources department to have foresight about parenting by anticipating changes in the workforce and address how those changes will be handled.  In the eyes of prospective and your current employees, how a company treat working parents is an indicator of how they treat their employees in general.  For example, including information regarding family-related policies during the onboarding process sends a positive signal of the company’s long-term investment in retaining and supporting their people and allows employees to envision building a career within your organization.

The ‘working parent problem’ of work-life balance

Studies reveal that for working parents, flexibility with work-life balance outweighs every other career criteria and YES that includes SALARY.  For these employees, they strive to be present and productive both at work and at home.

HBR (Harvard Business Review) refers to this navigation of parental work-life balance as “the working parent problem,” or “the challenge of effectively employing and fully unleashing the potential of the folks who are trying to navigate the demands of work and family.”

In HBR Daisy Wademan Dowling, Founder & CEO of Workparent, offers the following supportive solutions to the working parent problem:

  • Demonstrate personal support for working-parent employees in a visible way
  • Define your organization’s working-parent challenge from the front-line employee perspective
  • Engage allies within and outside of the HR department to identify and execute on solutions.
  • Take a comprehensive approach rather than relying on “silver bullet” solution
  • Support and shape grassroots, employee-led solutions, such as peer-to-peer working-parent mentoring and coaching programs or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

In short, raising the visibility of working parenthood and your organization’s support for it, from the executive level to the managerial level, through open communication and open collaboration are key methods for implementing a positive workplace culture for working parents.

Forward-thinking organizations don’t just support working parents because they are obliged to — they do so because they know and understand that working parents are a business asset worth investing in.  Creating an environment where a parent can leave work an hour or two early to catch their kids baseball game would mean the world to both the parent and the child.

As I continue coaching our youth and developing them as both athletes and as young men, I hope I can see their faces light up when they see their parents in the stands.  On the flip side of that, I hope as I continue to develop business leaders into great forward thinkers, I hope to see them foster a culture of working parent support.

Things to Consider Before Buying Equipment for Your Small Business

Purchasing equipment for a new business is an important, yet often stressful part of getting ready to launch.  You may be the most confident entrepreneur out there but investing hard-earned capital into fixed assets before you even make your first sales can be a nail-biting experience.  To ensure you make the right purchases, it is essential to comparison shop and carefully assess the LTV (Long-term value) of each piece of equipment.

You have so much at stake when you consider the importance of the equipment you choose.  To help you simplify things, here are a few guidelines to help you in your buying process.  Our clients have seen great results using these 7 tips.  Some may seem simple but can really get you thinking.  If you need assistance please reach out as we would love to assist you.

1. Start with a List

Before you head out to the local supplier and start shopping, it is critical to create a list of your equipment needs and wants.  This list should be part of your business plan and something you continue to update and revise as your business grows and evolves.

The list should be broken into two columns. The first includes a rundown of the essential pieces of equipment that you must have now for basic operations. The second is a “wish list” of items that could help your business but aren’t mandatory. Start by shopping for everything on your must-have list before investing in the extras that you can get once your business is up and rolling.

2. Identify What You Should Outsource

While it may be very convenient to have one of those fancy postal machines to stamp all of your outgoing mail, could you save money and just take items to the post office?  As part of your list of needs and wants, you’ll want to identify what makes sense to outsource for financial reasons and space limitations. You may be able to get by without the industrial coffee machine (just go with the Target or Walmart special), copier or other cumbersome piece of equipment in the near term to cut down on your initial capital investment and to avoid cluttering your workspace.

3. Make a Drawing

Whether you have a salon, restaurant, office or retail business, you need to have accurate measurements of your workspace to help you make smart choices when it comes to what you’ll be buying. That photocopier with all the bells and whistles might seem like a fantastic deal in the office supply store. However, if it’s too big for your office, it’s no bargain!

Carefully measure each area where equipment will be placed and note the ideal dimensions you’ll need. A space planning tool like SmartDraw can be particularly beneficial by enabling you to digitally design your space and drag and draw furniture and fixtures that you need. Having this plan in hand when you start your equipment shopping can help you narrow down your choices and prevent costly mistakes.

4. New or Used?

In a perfect world, you’d purchase all of your business equipment new. However, this isn’t typically possible when you’re working with a limited budget. Just as you listed tasks you could potentially outsource, it is worth your time to carefully assess what you need to buy new and what can be purchased “gently used.”

Keep in mind that you can expect to find savings of at least 25 to 50 percent on used equipment. Often, you can snap up higher quality items than you expected to purchase when you venture away from new equipment dealers and start searching for bargains on used items. Don’t be afraid to go to auctions, liquidation sales, garage sales and online sites to find deals. It can be a great way to slash those initial capital expenditures that can take a significant bite out of your first year’s profits.

5. Choose Quality over Price

Of course, a seemingly good deal on a piece of equipment is no deal at all if it frequently breaks down or doesn’t serve your operational needs. While price is important in deciding what to purchase, the greater focus should be on quality and value.

When it comes to buying equipment for your business, “caveat emptor!” Let the buyer beware. If you find an incredible deal on something you need, take the time to research the model online. Often, you can find reviews on sites like ConsumerReports.org or even retailer sites where customers can provide feedback. By carefully checking out an item before you buy it, you can save yourself a lot of potential headaches down the road.

Additional considerations? You will want to factor in whether or not there is a local provider who can work on the equipment if it needs service or repair. Also, find out if parts are locally available or if they’re being shipped from across the country or overseas.

6. Just Say No to Scrimping on Your Most Important Items

When you’re looking to save on equipment, it’s easy to just go for the lowest price model. In some cases, this strategy works. However, there are those critical items that are worth spending a little extra on to avoid many potential problems.

For those in the restaurant industry, knives, ranges and pots and pans need to be able to produce quality food while withstanding heavy use. Hair salons require top-notch client chairs, lighting and cutting tools. Offices that rely heavily on computers should stick to well-established brands and avoid lesser quality PCs, printers and monitors. And, you deserve to have a high-quality office chair that supports you when you’re tackling the administrative and marketing tasks that will require you to sit at a desk.

7. A Flexible Source of Capital

If you’re like most new business owners, you probably don’t have enough in the bank to cover the cost of all of your equipment needs. Yes, there are small business loans available, but typically, these are not given to new businesses that have yet to establish a track record of success. Credit cards are another option for paying for equipment, but it’s important to consider the interest rate and how long you’ll take to pay back the amount owed.

Another option is to reach out to MCDA’s line of credit options.  We have developed a working relationship with over 30 lenders who specialize in working with small business who are just starting out.  Reach out to us today for a free analysis and we can tell you within 24-48 hours if we can get you funded.  Loans up to 150K.

Remote Workers – Create Accountability

Advancements in technology and the many changes in current workspaces have undergone over the last few years, so many small businesses may host entire teams of remote workers.  The struggle that many of you will face is how you can create accountability for those who work in the non-traditional environments.

Accountability goes far and beyond ensuring your team is productive.  I have put together some tried and true tips and techniques with a little creativity to keep your remote workers involved and operating at the optimal levels.

1. Create Time for Chatting

You may think that building accountability might seem like setting a lot of goals for your employees to hit by the end of the day.  Goal setting no doubt plays an important part, but many remote workers lose their drive because of isolation.  Unlike a traditional office setting, remote workers don’t have anyone to encourage them, bounce ideas off of, or assist them in general decision making.

Don’t misunderstand, time for chatting isn’t trying to create a “water cooler” space for your virtual workers.  It’s about opening room for discussions & collaboration.

Now to make it work:  Provide set dates and times for remote workers to interact online. Give these meetings a looser structure but have a goal such as, assign independent tasks for an ongoing project.  Accountability will come from knowing that they are contributing work to a larger team and that the team does rely on them.

2. Use Technology to Eliminate Micromanaging

If you have been around the “remote workplace world” you know how Basecamp shook up how many companies would interact while everyone was in or out of the office.  But there are so many other software solutions out there for working remotely that are very user friendly, way easier to access and quite honestly just more affordable.  The issue that many small businesses have with accountability is walking that ultra fine line between management and micromanagement.

If you’re corresponding through email, skype, or a messaging app, then it’s likely that you are either communicating too little or too much. There are many options available now where you can leave video messages, screen captures, or schedule and assign small tasks that add up to larger jobs. Assigning tasks makes it easier for employees to check in and mark off an assignment without having someone regularly ask if something was done yet.

How to make it work: Use software or an app that allows your team to communicate while also showing who has which tasks assigned to them. The software should allow you to manage your team and the projects you’re working on while allowing your staff to show what jobs they’ve completed.

3. Ask for the Proof

Remote workers rely on maintaining a level of trust, and many managers or small business owners feel that requesting a play-by-play of their employee’s day violates that trust. A manager or small business owner who would otherwise work with a person day in and day out have the right to ask for proof that a job is getting done.

If you have large projects that need time to develop, then request work in specific stages to prevent an all-star employee from slacking off until it’s the day of the deadline.

How to make it work: Request deliverables daily. Even if it’s a typed up summary of the work done for the day, or a few screenshots of their progress on a big task, deliverables build accountability but they also open up the opportunity to further discuss the project or task, and it will likely result in better quality work.

4. Track Time and Whereabouts

There are plenty of offices that have severe consequences for employees who spend too much time away from their desk or general workspace. The misconception that people have is that remote workers don’t have to deal with these types of consequences. Instill accountability with your remote workers with software that tags a time for when they clock in or out as well as their location.

How to make it work: Along with using software to track your remote workers time and location you need to lay out some ground rules that allow them to enjoy the benefits of a non-traditional work environment still while ensuring that they’re actually putting in the hours of a regular workday. Set out some basic expectations and let them know that the software is in effect.

Vision Without Execution is Just A Hallucination

Thomas Edison had such wise words….  “Vision without execution is just a hallucination”.  It hits home with so many of our clients.  Let us at MCDA help you build your plan and train your team to execute your vision into a reality.

A great vision is the table stakes for building a valuable business.  A great vision:

  • Is clear, concise, and understandable to a broad constituency
  • Is inspiring and motivational to those that are trying to execute on it, or buy into it (e.g.: customers, partners, consumers, etc.)

But to move from hallucination to reality, requires hard-nosed execution.

The keys to effective execution include:

Clear plan and objectives

The WHY, WHAT, HOW, WHO and WHEN

Great execution starts with a plan.  The plan sets the stage with strategy (the why, if you will), then lays out the objectives (the what), and then the required steps and actions (the how), to be carried out by the respective team members (the who), and the timeframe in which the actions should be accomplished (the when).   Like the vision, it needs to be clear.  Unlike the vision, it needs to be as comprehensive as possible, with a robust appreciation of the risks and challenges, and well thought-out “plan B’s” for all the major risk points or hurdles.

There are many tried and true frameworks and strategies that can help leaders design a great plan that sets them up for successful execution, but in my opinion, one of the most effective of these frameworks (as proven by several of our portfolio companies), is the True North model.  I’ve also always been a fan of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis as a key preparation exercise heading into a planning process.  A brief note on SWOT –clients will often get confused between the first two and the second two and struggle a bit with the differences.  Strengths and Weaknesses are internally focused; Opportunities and Threats are externally focused.

As to objectives, it’s imperative that the objectives be relevant, meaningful, unambiguous and very very measurable.  I can’t stress measurable enough!  KPI’s are a great tool for measuring, we can get into that in another discussion.

Focus

Once a clear executable plan with properly aligned resources and capital is in place, focus becomes paramount.  More startups go astray by either losing their focus on the plan and objectives, chasing down distracting shiny new objects, or by getting caught up in details  and losing sight of the overall objectives and outcomes.  Maintaining focus, along with building a great team, and raising capital, are probably the three most important jobs of an early stage entrepreneur/CEO, after the vision and plan are set.

Common techniques for maintaining focus are to post the key objectives and milestones publicly; to review the milestones at the start of all-hands meetings; to tie bonus or variable compensation to their achievement; and often overlooked but perhaps most importantly of all, to explicitly state WHY those milestones are important.  People are far more willing to chase audacious goals, to achieve extraordinary results, and to make the sacrifices necessary to deliver ground-breaking outcomes when they understand why the goals matter.  Explaining “why” may be the most important thing you can do to achieve buy-in and co-ownership of the goals.  Get your employees to buy-in to you as a leader, you are the drumbeat of success.

Motivated Team

Whether it’s The New York Yankees or The 12 year old Yorba Linda Colts, extraordinary effort is required to get to the top and deliver a stand-out performance.  Explaining “why” is an important element of building a motivated team.  So is shared sacrifice.  Even though most of my work as CEO has to be done between 7am and 7pm, I have played many a 10pm soccer games or improvised whiffle ball games with staff who needed to blow off some steam as they pulled an all-nighter to crank out a client project.  And with shared sacrifice must come shared success and victories, and shared rewards (a key reason stock options have been so instrumental to Silicon Valley’s success).

Celebrating wins company-wide, whether in client development, sales, customer success, etc., was a key element of keeping the team motivated at my last business.  So was personalizing the customer, through internally published success stories, customer logos prominently displayed on the reception area walls, even notations of which new customer brought us that week’s paycheck.  And there is nothing like a common enemy to motivate the competitive juices of the team – never underestimate the value of a common foe, even if it is semi-manufactured.

Measurable Intermediate Milestones

These intermediate stakes or flags in the ground are a crucial tool to maintain focus and pace.  It’s hard to keep focus or feel a sense of urgency when milestones are many months or quarters out.  Intermediate milestones give you a measuring stick and a goal toward which to sprint that is within easy sight and distance.

They also give you an early-warning indicator to know where you are in the journey and if you are ahead or behind the desired pace.  It’s much easier, much less stressful, and significantly less costly to adjust and correct early in the journey.

We can help you build those tools and measurable stakes during our journey together.

Proper Capitalization and Creative Resource Guarding

Make no mistake – early stage capital is brutally expensive.  You don’t want to take a penny more than you need to reach your next major value inflection point in the business.  At the same time, you do not want to come up short, as that can be even more expensive. It’s a tricky balance, but it’s what an entrepreneur must learn how to do.  In all cases, there must be enough capital to get the plan done.

Resource guarding is a term dog trainers use to describe a dog that isn’t friendly to other dogs or people when its food or toys are approached or threatened.  Good entrepreneurs need to be like that snarling dog; you paid a dear price for that capital.  Guard it viciously; make sure every penny is spent wisely; and only utilize it on your execution of the plan and objectives.

I’ll end this post with a quote from one of the great business leaders of the last few decades:  “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Is your brain spinning with ideas?  Give us a call or shoot us a message we are always here to help.  I am always open to answering questions personally through email.  Let me help guide you on the path of success.

 

Is it Urgent?

Here we are and another work week is upon us. As you enter the office to jump into the mix of the week, are you anxious? I think that many people are. This is especially true if you are in management . Why do I say that? It’s because our days are never our own. When you work in the field of people, management, you’re subject to constant movement.

I’ve written before how most folks in management (and business in general) state that their job is to “put out fires.” This is such a challenging way to work effectively because your entire day is based on something going wrong. You are always moving from one urgent situation to another. The urgency may not even be legitimate, but you jump to react because if gives you a sense of value. It’s short lived and it disrupts any attempt at consistency.

Now, I understand that there are things which are urgent and need to be addressed quickly. You shouldn’t ignore them, but you should step back to see if the situation truly is urgent or just packed full of emotion. When emotions rise, people tend to want things addressed immediately mainly to get their emotions back in check. The key is to take the time to gauge the level of urgency. Don’t step away from any situation, but get context first.

A stronger way to approach your work with people is to focus on what’s important. I’m not going to dare to define what that looks like in your current company and role because I’m sure it varies with each person. The method you do this is an individual choice as well. Some use quadrants to place items in, and some use to-do lists. It’s essential that you have a method that works for you because without some defined approach, you won’t get to important items. Your day will slip away so rapidly and you’ll wonder why you didn’t get to the important items . . . again.

There’s one more factor to consider in looking at this topic. Both urgent and important aspects of our job coexist. You will rarely be able to have one that can keep your full attention. I find that I keep an on-going list of “important” items that never ends. Some items can be accomplished sooner than others, but some stay on my list so that I don’t forget them. Losing sight of the important facets of how manage automatically puts me in the fire extinguishing business again.

I recommend that you become fluid in how you manage.  Go into each day with the assurance that urgent situations could occur. Take them in stride and do your best to not freak out. That never helps anything. Don’t let the urgent situation consume your attention, or day, completely. Make sure to get to one or two important items as well. Having a combination of the two allows you move within the natural flow of the day as it occurs.

We will continue to be frustrated, or worn out, if we keep separating the reality of our days. Take things in stride. It’s important !!