Thursday, June 10, 2010

A boss too friendly or too stern?

What do you think of a boss who is not only evil but just loves to make people’s life hell for no rhyme or reason? Who is the ideal boss – the friendly one or the strict one or the one who has bits of both in him/her? Here’s what some experts feel
A number of studies show that in most cases, an employee doesn’t quit a company but quits a boss. But the idea of a perfect boss remains much undecided. Should a boss be overtly friendly with his/her subordinates or should he/she maintain a stern and strict persona in order to get things done?
“I would say that a fine balance needs to be achieved – an extreme of anything is ineffective from a leadership point of view. But having said that a friendly boss is more likely to be able to build good working relationships, get buy in from teams as well as be a source of guidance and support for the team – all critical to effective leadership,” expresses Smita Affinwalla, head of consulting, DDI India Pvt. Ltd. According to Mangesh Joshi, general manager - HR, Plethico Pharmaceuticals Ltd., “A friendly boss is always the better boss! If he is friendly, he comes across as a very open person and employees feel comfortable sharing various things, ideas and concerns. Also, a home like and family atmosphere is created in the organisation.”
Rajaram Agrawal, Managing Director, TalentAhead India Pvt Ltd opines, “A friendly boss is the better one. Firmness is acceptable but sternness is not. One can be stern at times, due to peculiarity of a situation but not normally.”

No extremes

But as it is said, extremes of anything is bad, what can be the disadvantages of having a boss who is either too friendly or too stern? Agrawal feels, “If the boss is too friendly, the subordinates may take the boss for granted. Hence the team may not achieve the objectives in the desired time frame. And if the boss is too stern, he/she may not be able to carry the team along and hence quality of work may get affected.” According to Affinwalla, “Too friendly may lead to a situation where he /she is unable to take ‘hard’ decisions, or correct performance issues. Too stern may lead to disengagement of the team.”
Joshi further states, “If the boss is too friendly, the team may take the liberty to mould him anyway they would like. Priorities could change and systems and protocols can be disturbed. Similarly, if the boss is too stern, the team will always be too cautious of his reaction and scared at each step, hence unable to give their 100 percent. Also, there will be very little creativity if they feel highly controlled all the time.”

The ideal boss

In the long run, what is it about a boss that makes an employee stay in a company and show good performance. While it is obvious that in order to be a great boss, there is a fine line to walk between friendly and stern, what qualities should an ideal boss have? “Fundamentals of leadership will always keep people engaged and motivated. They are to treat everyone with respect and maintain their self esteem, be transparent and honest, involve people and empathise when need be,” asserts Affinwalla.
“The boss must align the team to the bigger picture of the organisation. He must demonstrate victories and encourage the team’s achievements and also take the lead in accepting his failure. He must ensure timely deliveries of assignments and create an ideal open environment,” adds Joshi.

Dealing with a difficult boss

So, if you are being forced to work under a boss who is either too stern or too friendly, here are a few suggestions that can help you soar through successfully. “An employee should have good listening ability, must be result oriented, should be willing to put in extra hours to meet a deadline and also be willing to work on non related assignments,” suggests Agrawal.
Joshi advises, “If the boss is too friendly, an employee should very clearly understand expectations of him and deliver accordingly. Naturally, he must also be extra cautious and avoid mistakes. Even if the boss is too friendly, the employee must never take advantage. He must be careful that even though temporarily he may enjoy the powers given to him by the boss, the situation will not remain the same in future. The employee must always have the larger interest of the organization in mind.”
According to Affinwalla, “In either case, it is often a good idea to let your boss know what is working/not working for you and why. Suggest an alternate to the current practice – it sometimes takes a load of the boss themselves - for all you know, they may be struggling with how to handle people themselves!”
Being in a position of authority is sometimes tough. To be a good boss and bring out the best from one’s team, a boss must learn how to maintain a balance between being too friendly or too stern. Let your employees know that they are each valued members of the office team and give them the respect they want from an employer. One should create an environment in which people will be proud to work and give their best efforts to do the best job they can!