Be a Good Boss

You're the boss. Congrats. However, it can be very difficult being a boss who is not respected, ineffective at managing staff, or even actively disliked. How do you get your staff to be the best thing that ever happened to you? The answer is intuitive: by being the best boss that ever happened to them. This article is intended to be helpful in a smaller, more casual setting. Although the tips could be helpful to a person in a larger, more formal executive setting, some would not be appropriate in those settings - see How to Be A Good Manager for advice in a more formal setting. But if you're someone who is pretty much the ultimate authority in his or her company or store (a small business owner or a general manager (GM) for a retail store, for example), there are a few guidelines you should follow to be the best possible boss. Developing trust and conveying appreciation to your employees, for example, might be all it takes to become the best boss you can be.


  1. Realize that management succeeds via the efforts of the workers. Because you're in charge doesn't mean you deserve all the credit for the work being done. Your staff is responsible for the bulk of the work. You are leading them as they get it done to be sure all regulations are complied with, etc.,.
  2. Delegate responsibility and then trust your people. Micro-managers are never appreciated and shows disrespect toward the team member. Once you've trained someone to handle a task, allow him or her to handle it without interference. Different people have different approaches, and someone else's way of doing something may be just as efficient as the way you would do it. Before you step in and force your way on anyone, give an honest evaluation to the method, and if you find it works just as well, even if it's different from yours, let it be. Constantly correcting your people undercuts their confidence and does not allow them to exercise their own style.
  3. Know your employees to know your strength. Watch your staff; get to know them as individuals. Understand their motives: Whatever that is, do your best to understand. That allows you to enhance, adjust, and align their motives with your goals. The cream always rises to the top, and it's your job to figure out which employees do what is required in their jobs, and employees do all they can in their jobs. There is a huge distinction.
  4. Most bad bosses are under the (mistaken) impression there is something threatening about this, because the bad boss thinks that she or he is the only one who can perform a given function. The truth is, the best boss trusts that his or her staff can be utterly relied upon.
  5. Empower your staff to make decisions, and don't second-guess them. If you've done a good job of training your people to be your proxies, then you must believe they are doing their best to act in your (and your company's) best interest. Even if they make a wrong decision, or handle a situation in a way you would not have, don't second guess or berate them. Instead, use it as yet another training opportunity. Hear out their reasons for their action - most of the time, when taken in context, there was a logical basis for what they decided to do.
  6. Help them learn to work out issues without your intervention. Sometimes one or more of your staff may experience friction with others. If they come tattling on one another to you, Listen to them carefully. If someone is not fulfilling his or her own responsibilities or is mistreating another employee, you'll need to step in and resolve a conflict at work. But if you're satisfied it's only an issue of competition or a simple personality clash, urge them to settle it between themselves.
    • Talk to the other person, and upon verifying that it's a personality issue, simply let them both know that they aren't required to be friends, only to get along and get their work finished.
    • Tell them both you believe in their abilities to work and get along. Then leave them alone, but watch carefully. Don't interfere unless they bicker in front of customers. Put a stop to anything like that instantly.
  7. Deal with any problems quickly and directly. Any boss who is busy totally understands this concept: "I don't need all the details. Bottom line it for me." You don't have to be so blunt that you crush people, and Be Honest Without Being Harsh is a big time saver, and frankly, appreciated in the end. When you see a problem, deal with it quickly and don't nag your people about it later - let done be done. Try to elicit the agreement that whatever just happened was not acceptable. Remember that your goal is to promote productive behavior and retain the respect of your employee, NOT to antagonize your people, particularly in front of others. Here's an example:
    • Boss: "Evan. I need you in the office for a moment." (Say this in a neutral or pleasant tone. Don't come out in front of customers or peers with your guns blazing, bellowing, "Evan, get in the office NOW." This is between you and Evan.) Privately, once all prying eyes are away:
    • Boss: "Evan, the cell phone call. Is everything okay with your family?"
    • Evan: "Yes, it was just my dad wanting some help later..."
    • Boss: "Okay, I see. We're all human, but when you're out in the front office, you cannot take personal calls."
    • Evan: "I know. I'm sorry. It's just my dad doesn't have many opportunities to talk to me..." (the actual problem or subject of the call is irrelevant)
    • Boss: "I understand; nevertheless - when you find you can't end a personal call immediately, I'd like you to leave the front reception. When customers see you taking an obviously personal call instead of helping them, it looks bad for you and the business Our customer is always to have priority unless you have an emergency.
    • Evan: "Yeah... that was my mistake."
    • Boss: "Alright. Glad you understand that. Ideally, I'd like you to let your phone go to voice mail when you're at work, but at least leave the front office if you can't end the call immediately,
    • And that's it. Don't belabour it, don't nag him about it, just let him get on with his job. It isn't necessary to cushion these discussions with compliments or flattery. Your employee should (A) know better than to take lengthy personal calls on the job and (B) be a grownup about discipline. You, as a Good Boss, should (A) stay cool - it's a training opportunity, and (B) be kind and calm, but firm and clear in expressing your correction of the behavior and your expectation for the future. Excessive compliments and a constant attempt to "relate" to your staff's personal issues are a waste of time, as are berating and belaboring lectures. Get to the point quickly - but without becoming strident or making a mountain out of a molehill.
  8. Tell your staff how much you appreciate them - in front of customers if possible. Never hesitate to pat your employees on the back, Compliment staff, and thank them for their excellent service - if customers are there, letting them know how you value your people can go a long way toward the customers actually having more faith in the services your business provides. When your staff feel valued and appreciated, their job means more to them than simply a paycheck. When your customers know that you, as the manager think highly of your staff, they feel confident that they're in good hands, and it gives you more freedom to leave your customers in the very capable hands of your staff. See how this becomes a "win-win-win"? By lifting up your employee while your customer was watching, All you got something good from it - with zero downside.
  9. Show your appreciation by doing things for them. They go the extra mile for you. You do something nice for them.
  10. Learn to be an effective listener. Your employees deserve to be heard when they have concerns. Allow them to finish talking before you speak; do not assume that you know what they are going to tell you before they finish talking; do not form objections in your mind while they are talking. Instead, try to be fully engaged while they are talking without making it about your rebuttal. Acknowledge their points, which do not mean that you agree, but does mean that you understand their concerns. Repeat their points in your own words to confirm, if necessary. You may not need to take any action, but hearing them out is important to their sense of empowerment and significance. Often, simply saying, "I appreciate your telling me this" is all that's needed to make them feel they were heard.
  11. Always say thanks to them for what they do at work.
  12. Always say neat. People don't hear it enough in everyday life.


  • Be cautious about becoming friends with your workers. Try to keep communications on a professional level, at least in the office.
  • Don't reprimand the entire department for what one person is doing wrong. For example, you discover that Sue is coming in late nearly every day, while everyone else is on time. Instead of sending a group email about the importance of punctuality, meet with Sue to discuss the problem.
  • When an employee brings you evidence of an employee's unethical (and potentially illegal) behavior, don't just give lip service to the fact that you will address it. If the behavior continues a daily basis as a boss, you do nothing, you will lose the respect of your employees.
  • Have a little tolerance in your heart. Your staff works however many hours for you and then lives the remainder in his or her personal life, which may leave a big impact, bleeding into work hours. Your employee may be cranky or have an off, low-producing day due to any number of personal reasons. (Still, remember it is their responsibility to deal with their personal lives on their time. You must remind them of this if they continually have the problem, but if it's a rare occurrence, do allow for the human limitation.)
  • Being nice takes the same amount of time (or less) as being a curt, rude, or a jerk. And it gets you treated better in return.
  • Understand that things beyond your staff's control are bound to come up from time to time. As long as it's not habitual, it's in your best interest to treat your people like PEOPLE, not objects or numbers or cogs in your grand wheel. Give them the freedom to handle their personal issues, even if they come up on your time - as long as it isn't continual or egregious.
  • If you are on a tight budget, becoming a good boss can save you a ton of money. Many studies show how a staff that feels you care for them and value them will be far less motivated by money, and far more motivated by their sense of empowerment, value to you and the company, and the feeling that they have significant responsibilities.
  • The owner or manager of a small company may be able to afford only a very meager year-end bonus. Instead of giving your team a teeny bonus of less than $50 each person, consider throwing a party for them - host it at your own home if you can. Your staff will be very touched that you have (A) invited them to your home, (B) spent money to cater for them, (C) provided a warm, fun event for them to share each other's company, and yours. Remember that $50 is a tank of gas that will be forgotten in a few days, but that party will give them a memory they may carry with them all their lives. A few themed party favors cost little but create loads of fun and good feelings.
  • A good way to remember the importance of treating your employees well is to remind yourself to think of them as you do your good customers. Your good customers often get the benefit of the doubt in a dispute. You will sometimes offer special perks as a way to say thanks or build loyalty. No matter what kind of personal mood you may be in on a given day you always put on a good positive face for your good customers. And, of course, you always treat those customers with great respect. These are the kinds of things you should also be doing for your good employees since, after the day, they are every bit as important - if not more so occasionally - as those good customers you so treat them well! Their morale will be higher, and therefore business will be better, the more valued by you they feel.
  • Always ask for input from your employees in a one on one setting. By doing it one on one, it allows the employees to feel like you value their opinion and they have some say in the company. This makes them feel valued in a way that is often better than saying you appreciate them.
  • Recognize that you need to learn to be a boss. Many of us are promoted to be a boss because we did a good job as employees. However, the job of a boss is very different - and sometimes counter-intuitive. Without some level of effort, you may not grow into a good boss. Instead, you may continue to be just a good employee to your new boss.
  • Being a good boss really is a lot like being a king or queen. You have to rely on your people for so much, it's important that they feel loyal to you, and do things the way you want them done. Telling them to remember that wherever they go, even on their own time, they stand for you and your company, and to remember who they are in that light - it's actually a good thing. It makes them feel invested in the company in a very deep way, and those who are your very best will always go far beyond the call of duty to serve you to the best of their abilities.
  • Have fun with your staff. Joking with them and allowing them to see you as a human being binds them to you with feelings of friendship. Letting them address you as "My Queen" or "Captain" may amuse them. It's okay, then, should your staff start doing something like this, to address them occasionally as "My Prince," or "Lieutenant Commander!" etc. This is charming to them and lets them know they are not simple minions, but essential members of your crew or "royal court." While it's important to maintain the reality of your position as their leader, it's also important that you be accessible. (And it's quite telling as to how they feel about you - being addressed with a bow and "My Queen," even privately or in a light-hearted way says this person respects and admires you, and is willing to defer to you).


  • You will feel indebted to your staff. The better they do their jobs and you recognize them for it, the harder it is for you to feel as if you live up to their loyalty.
  • Don't feel you need to cushion counseling or disciplinary statements with compliments or flattery. It makes you seem oily - in the "Evan" example above, starting out by complimenting and coaxing him to "get it" himself would be akin to bribing him to accept your guidance. If Evan is a halfway decent employee, he will know that being called into the office is not about his doing a good job, and you will seem weak if you cannot just come out with the problem. You don't need to dress him down, you just need to correct the behavior quickly. Your staff should be able to do a good job as a matter of course. If you are giving your people the props they deserve at the appropriate times, they will not require stroking at inappropriate times.
  • Not everyone is cut out to be the boss. If you are the owner, you might do well to hire a manager who is a good boss to interface with staff; if you were promoted, you might seek a different position elsewhere, which does not require you to make management decisions. Sitting in the Captain's Chair really does require a certain personality - if you don't have it, that's okay; just figure it out and make your decisions accordingly.

Things You'll Need

  • Courage - you have to be brave to relinquish controlling tendencies.
  • A positive attitude - if you're sullen and morose, your people will be sullen and morose, too. They will mirror you. Staying upbeat will keep them optimistic and happy.
  • Patience - teaching people to do things your way takes time.
  • Empathy - understand that your people are human beings with needs and feelings, just like you.
  • Good work ethic - You didn't become a manager to sit in an office and let others do your work. It's important to delegate but also important to work hard. It's especially good when your employees see you working hard because it will drive them to work harder.

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