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Buddy or Boss: Where’s the Happy Balance?

A few months ago, I wrote about 5 Characteristics of my Perfect Boss. I included things like being a communicator, a relationship builder, a hard worker, and passionate. Re-reading the article recently, I think I forgot one major point. I don’t want to be “friends” with my boss. A little chit-chat here and there and a good rapport is perfectly fine in my opinion, but where should a manager and leader draw the line? Harvard Business Review Blog this week wrote: Your Nice Boss May Be Killing Your Career. Author Greg McKeown collected data from over 1,000 managers in major corporations such as Apple, IBM, and Microsoft. “I wanted to understand the conditions under which people did the very best work of their careers. What I expected to find were examples of over managing, controlling, tyrannical managers. About half of the participants confirmed this assumption. The other half surprised me: what they described were managers who were nice but weak.”

Would you consider a boss that was “too nice” to be weak?

Effective managers should try to understand the fine line between being nice and being a jerk. For many, management is a difficult feat. If you are too friendly, you risk losing the respect of your people; if you are too stern, you risk being labeled a jerk.

All managers learn this at some stage in their careers, generally early on. The first time I was responsible for a staff team, I was shocked to learn how difficult it was to not be everyone’s friend. I’ll admit, at first, I was doing a bad job. Team members would call me to call in sick and brush off lightly being late. Work standards decreased. Thankfully, I had a mentor to pull me aside and point out the obvious. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again. My staff may not have liked me, but that’s not my job, my job was to be the best boss for them that I could be, and to help them be their best!

My mentor explained to me that being the “too friendly boss” can do more harm than good. You can still be respectful and polite without becoming a push over. The key is to be professionally friendly. I needed to have my team respect me and have the same slight “fear” when letting me down, that they would have with other leaders in the organization. Personally, I had to understand that with the increase in responsibility, I was no longer their buddy. This was tough considering I had worked with many of them at the same level in the past. But trust me, focusing and developing those leadership skills at an early age seriously paid off.

Some writers suggest that it’s not just a case of managers being “too-nice,” as it may also involve:

  • Dislike for conflict
  • Lack of spine
  • Prioritizing other business goals over staff management
  • Lack of concern

If you’re not sure where you fit in as a manager, 360 feedback assessments can help you evaluate your leadership skills and effectiveness. The CheckPoint 360°™ compiles a feedback system from direct reports, peers, supervisors, and even customers. (Learn More)

Unfortunately for “too-nice” bosses, they can end up with the one thing that they are trying to avoid – unhappy employees. Be affirmative with your team. If it annoys you that they talk too personally in meetings, cut it out. The majority of employees want to grow and get better. We need you effective managers to help us do so. When we slip up, tell us. Be confident in your position. Give us expectations, deadlines, and goals.

by: Aoife Gorey