Does the Boss Matter?

More than 95% of all people in the workforce have bosses, are bosses, or both.  The relationship “manager – employee” is present in almost all companies.  Over 70% of employees identify dealing with their immediate supervisor as the most stressful part of the job.  A Swedish study, conducted on 3122 people from year 1999 to 2009, found that employees supervised by bad managers suffered 20-40% more heart attacks than those supervised by good managers.

No doubt, bosses matter to everyone they oversee, but they matter especially to their direct subordinates.  Bosses matter because they determine the pattern of behaviour in the organization, the tone of the relationships …
To be good business leaders, managers means to continually enhance the subordinates’ performance by watching their backs:  providing a safe working environment for the employees to act, learn, and take calculated risks;  protect them from unnecessary distractions and any external idiocy of any stripe;  and creating hundreds of small scenarios to help them achieve one small success after another (regardless of the size of the success it has a huge positive impact on people’s motivation) and feel dignity and pride along the way.

The desire to obtain approval affects our decisions and actions.

The excessive need for approval leads to decisions and actions pleasing the people, whose approval we seek at the cost of the “right” decisions and actions.

Low need for approval leads to self-isolation and loneliness.

The business leader should take those decisions that lead to achieving the goal.  But at the same time, he cannot succeed without the approval of his followers.  To be successful the business leader has to have “moderate” need for approval.  Alas, as with most human qualities, “moderate” cannot be described quantitatively.


D. Marlowe and D. Crown’s test allows evaluating our desire to get approval on our actions and words from the people surrounding us.

Answer the following questions with “Yes” or “No”.

  1. I read carefully each book before returning it to the library.
  2. I feel no hesitation when it comes to helping someone in trouble.
  3. I always do my best to be nicely dressed.
  4. I behave on the table at home as I would in a restaurant.
  5. I never felt antipathy towards anybody.
  6. There have been cases when I abandoned any work because I was not confident in my abilities to do it.
  7. Sometimes I like to comment (gossip) people that are not presented.
  8. I always listen carefully to the company, whoever s/he is.
  9. There was a case where I cooked up excuses.
  10. There we cases I benefited from people’s distraction.
  11. I always admit my mistakes.
  12. Sometimes, instead of to forgive someone, I act according the principle “an eye for an eye”.
  13. There have been cases when I insisted that everything should be done my way.
  14. I do not feel reluctant when been asked to assist.
  15. I never feel irritation or annoyance when confronted with an opinion that differs from mine.
  16. Before a long trip, I always carefully consider what luggage to take with me.
  17. It has happened to envy the success and fortune of others.
  18. Sometimes I tease people who ask me for something.
  19. When people have trouble I always think that they got what they deserved.
  20. I never say bad things with a smile.



Answer key:
One point for answering “Yes” to questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 20.
One point for answering “No” to questions 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19.

The test has no right or wrong answers. If you scored between 4 and 16 points you are most likely far from the troubling extremes, in terms of need your approval.

Here are some real life cases, requiring immediate action:

A manager repeatedly shares with friends one and the same problem with a subordinate.  The subordinated is totally unaware of the existence of that problem (possible causes for the situation: a lack of honest, open relationships or indecisive manager).
A supervisor to a team member, in the presence of the whole team:

“How can you be so stupid? Haven’t you visited a school?  Have you ever learnt mathematics?” (Not only that the supervisor did not preserve the dignity of the employee, but he even humiliated the employee; in the U.S., Germany, France, such a case will be followed by lawyer’s intervention and the employee will be paid a solid compensation, but in former communist countries that would be very difficult and several years long procedure).
An example of success rewarding:  An employee ends a deal at eur 85 000 margin, while the average margin for that types of deals is eur 8-10 000.  Employee’s manager honours him in front of the entire company and praises him with a memorable prize – an excursion (for two – employee and his beloved; to a place of employee’s choice;  budget – according to the rules of the company – if there aren’t any around 1.5-3 % of the margin).
An example of external distraction prevention:  An employee is in a process of divorcing.. Her husband is troubling her on the phone and frequent visits to the office.  The manager bans her husband office visits and exchanges her business telephone number with that of her colleague.  The colleague is acting as a telephone calls filter.

Managers are evaluated on the results achieved during the year.  That forces them to give priority to the annual results at the expense of investment in employees.  Good managers have to balance short-term results and long-term investment in people.  Leaders, when necessary, sacrifice short-term results in the name of quality employees and high long-term results (but if these leaders are not at the top of the organizational pyramid, most probably they will have difficulties surviving in this company).
Confucius said it pretty well:
“If you think a year ahead – plant a seed,
if you think 10 years ahead – plant a tree,
if you think 100 years ahead – educate people!”

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