Bad Boss or Motivational Leader – Which One Are You?

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Do you want to know the real reason good employees quit? In the State of the American Workplace report, Gallup CEO John Clifton said, “The single biggest decision you make…is who you name as manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that decision. Not compensation, not benefits, nothing.” So how do you make sure you’re getting that vital part right?

If you’re a manager, your responsibilities boil down to hiring the right people, then keeping them engaged. When administrators rely on their position to keep employees on task, that’s positionship, not leadership. If people do what you tell them to just because you’re the boss and you say so and they’re trying to avoid disciplinary action, they start to feel resentment and apathy.

Most people don’t think of themselves as a bad boss. Usually, they’re just very busy and trying to get things done. The difference is as much about how you think as what you do. Which of the following most describes how you operate in common workplace situations?


Poor managers primarily focus on what’s right in front of them. They feel like they’re always putting out fires, so they have time for little else. They know the next project, deadline or challenge is looming ahead, but they reason they’ll deal with that when they have to, today has enough trouble of its own.

Leaders tend to think long-term by default. Even when they’re solving today’s problems, they’re thinking how they can do so in a way that reaches future goals.

Workflow and Processes

Poor managers measure efficiency on each task in isolation, hyper-focusing on one process or system. Employees complain they micro-manage because they want to control how staff completes every step. They equate success with getting the job done, then quickly moving on to the next.

Good leaders work on hiring, supporting and nurturing the most talented people and helping them identify creative solutions and effective processes. They know one person can’t force several to be consistently creative and productive, but teams can be inspired to do so on their own steam. Consistent growth is as important as getting things done.


Poor managers think pay is motivation. There’s some truth to that – most people show up every day instead of relaxing at home because they have to pay the bills, and everyone likes a raise. But employees don’t stay motivated and engaged just because they get a check with pay in line with their skills and experience. It’s possible to make piles of money and still hate your job.

Good leaders know employees need more than that. They’re motivated to do their best when they’re challenged, supported and cared for. They offer other incentives besides money, so they get better results.

Workplace Relationships

Employees describe poor managers as always busy, hard to have a conversation with, distracted and impatient. When staff members approach them with a need or request, they’re preoccupied, and they dismiss themselves as quickly as possible. When employees hold a different opinion on how something should be done, they might quickly shut them down.

On the other hand, when employees feel like leaders are interested in them and in working with them to find solutions. Leaders are more social. They don’t just think in terms of meeting work goals; they try to help employees meet personal and professional goals along the way. They cultivate talent and creativity instead of feeling threatened by it.

Employee Motivation

Poor managers rely on financial reward and the fear of punishment as motivation. If workers do a good job, they get raises or bonuses on a set schedule. If they don’t, they receive critical evaluations, write-ups or whatever else their organization uses for discipline.

Good leaders have more tools available, because they know how to motivate individually. Some employees appreciate public recognition, others would rather work behind the scenes and receive extra paid time off.

Hire Strong Leaders

Strong leaders are hard to find. At Brelsford Personnel, we’ve been placing executives and administrators since 1988. Check out our online positions or get in touch today.

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