Having a positive relationship with your boss ranks close to the top in evaluating job satisfaction for most people. Any of us who have been employed regularly for any length of time know that having a boss who “is just plain miserable” affects your desire to head to work in the morning and often how quickly you fall asleep at night. I’ve stayed up worrying many a night about having to work with a “not so likeable” boss.

I’ve had some horrible bosses throughout my career. Some people seem to thrive on instilling fear and angst in their employees. They appear to confuse Respect with Fear. In my experience, these difficult-to-work-with people seem to fall into a few specific categories:

• The Dictator – this person needs to micromanage everything. I once had a boss who actually bragged about identifying herself as “The Benevolent Dictator.” She was the least educated of any of the professionals that worked for her, but she consistently undermined her employees’ expertise and questioned their work stating that she learned new information about various topics “in a survey.” She would often challenge the evidence-based techniques used by the professionals in favor of something she had read online. She challenged every little choice made by every member of her team. I remember at one of the adolescent residential programs, she banned the cook from serving Iceberg Lettuce because she read it has no vitamin nutritional value. No choice, large or small, was never enough. The result of working under the Dictator is frustration, a lack of trust, angry employees, a general loss of confidence and self-esteem of the workers, and a lack of teamwork. An “us against her” became the overall agenda. Employees also tend to not follow The Dictator’s directions outside of his/her presence. The dominating micromanaging leader often has no real followers.

• The Judge – this person has a judgment about everyone and seeks out mistakes, faults, and personal characteristics to highlight in a negative way with very little acknowledgment of success. This person is about comparisons and usually can’t feel competent based on his/her own merit unless he/she is putting someone else down. I’ve also had a boss like this at one time. At every interaction, she was putting down another co-worker for one thing or another. She rarely had a kind word or positive compliment for anyone. There was always someone else to blame regardless of the situation. The Judge makes it seem like “no one knows what he/she is doing.” This leader makes everyone uncomfortable and there is no sense of trust and an overall poor and sometimes fearful work environment. It also seems that this type of boss often doesn’t understand the tasks of the job enough to make useful suggestions to improve outcomes. He/she is mostly just dissatisfied with the way you did it regardless of your effort.

• The Know-It-All – no matter what information or success anyone else has, this person can top it and is not satisfied until he/she can make you feel stupid or less-than. This results in frustrated workers who will do anything to avoid having to ask a question about a task. They will throw out suggestions that are sometimes helpful; however, he/she fails to acknowledge diversity and general differences of the individual’s personal flair. There’s one way to do it – his/her way! This creates a lack of growth in the employees as well as lack of confidence, mistrust, frustration, and hopelessness.

• The Avoider – this person is either disinterested in the job, over whelmed and tired, or just plain over his head and can’t handle the job. The result is often avoidance of providing any solid direction or definitive answers to questions because he/she doesn’t want to be held accountable for making the wrong choice. This boss will usually defer to a lower ranking employee to make the decisions and then have someone to blame when it doesn’t work out. This boss just doesn’t seem to care much about anything work related. I worked for a Director like this during one of my internships. She allowed the other intern and me to run the entire program while she rarely even came in to work. Although my friend and I learned a lot and did a fairly good job; in general the result is often a poor functioning environment with lack of direction, poor teamwork, and lower quality service.

On the other hand, I’ve had the privilege to know some amazing bosses. There are some very specific characteristics that define good leaders. As such, there’s not one predominant characteristic that defines a good leader. It’s a combination of several important traits (individualized to each industry) that lead to creating great teams and exceptional work relationships.

• Trust is one of the most important characteristics that make great teams and positive work environments. When an employee is hired for being a professional or having some special skill, it’s important for the boss and the members of the team to trust in his/her ability. This does not mean that the employee should be left entirely alone to do as he/she wishes. Of course, everyone needs direction, supervision, team meetings, communication, follow up and feedback. A trusting boss knows that everyone has a learning curve; and everyone makes mistakes on occasion. Helping the employee to recognize the error, have accountability for the actions leading to the error and find an alternative solution is a significant measure of a good leader. A good leader knows that mistakes are sometimes as important as success in that it encourages focus in a new direction. This boss will help the employee to acknowledge the mistake and guides the employee to developing his/her own solution to the problem. Thus, creating growth, confidence, and a positive, trusting rapport. And it’s important to help the employee stretch and grow by assigning tasks a bit above his/her current skill set. Respect for the employees’ skills and individual contributions go hand in hand with Trust.

• Team work, a sense of personal interest, and encouraging fun at work are also important factors that keep employees satisfied and build a positive rapport with the boss. There needs to be some type of relationship building activities if you expect to create a solid team. A good boss takes interest in each employee and learns at least some small personal interest to create an emotional investment in the employee’s well-being. A simple question like, “How did the kids’ soccer game go last week?” does wonders for building rapport. A good boss should also provide the employees with a yearly holiday party of some sort, in which the boss attends and participates. Periodic team building activities are also beneficial. The team should get a chance to play together and laugh together on occasion.

• Listening skills are paramount. A great boss listens and understands the unique attributes each employee lends to the team. Encouraging the employee to share new ideas, develop creative solutions, and express concerns benefit everyone. Not every suggestion will be considered but encouraging staff to share his/her thoughts will help build a sense of worth and team work. This is not necessarily true if an individual is only sharing complaints. I redirect any complaints to a more solution focused process, “So what’s your recommendation to solve this problem?”
Of course, each industry has its own set of challenges, but following these general positive characteristics will improve rapport and strengthen the work team.

Leadership is not an easy task, and it is a process in learning to become a good leader. Monitoring your team’s satisfaction with the job performance is a good tool for measuring leadership. Ironically, an individual who is generally satisfied with his/her performance is likely not as invested as an individual who can acknowledge his/her positive contributions but also recalls mistakes and has a plan to improve performance in the future. In order to self-evaluate in this way, an employee needs to feel accepted and valued.

Author's Bio: 

Cherie strives to help others make better choices in life to build a happier, healthier, more productive experience and reduce suffering. Cherie draws on her diverse experiences and formal education in her writing.