How many times have you taken on a new member of staff and heard them say that their previous boss was a nightmare (whilst thinking that you’re not)? It’s OK, your staff like you, they seem reasonably happy and get on with things………until they leave, and you wonder if there’s a staff morale problem.

empty office as a metaphor for staff morale problem

What are the problems with being a nightmare boss?

Ever felt any (or more than one) of these?

  • It’s really hard work in your firm, and it seems as if nothing ever happens the way it should; it may be time to
  • New staff take ages to train, and then leave
  • Trusted team members leave, and you later find out their reason for leaving was not true
  • Increased fees are not leading to the same increase in profit
  • The chill in the air makes it feel like it’s close to midnight (OK, bad link to a Michael Jackson song).

Of course, these problems might not be caused by you. But, in most firms ‘the boss’ has a disproportionate affect on the staff morale and that’s even more true in small firms. Is it time to think about your leadership?

Learn how to attract, recruit and retain the RIGHT staff. FREE webinar on 23rd May. Click for more details

What are the traits of a nightmare boss?

I listen to feedback from staff in many firms, and often the things that really gnaw away at staff morale are ‘silly things’, like those in this list. I’m not saying you do them all, but which could you improve on?

  • I need to manage them closely. You keep a close eye on everything they do, and monitor all client communications, or they might not send stuff out to your standard? Now they don’t feel trusted, could you delegate better?
  • Pretending to listen. You listen, to your team…well you kind of listen. In reality you’re really thinking of your response, or something else altogether. Active listening can help here.
  • Praise. Of course you praise them, but if they are “just doing their job” they don’t need praise. Saying please and thank you doesn’t waste time or make you sound weak.
  • Get it right. You work to high standards, so when your team make mistakes, you ensure they know it.
  • Credit: You give them credit, right? Well, apart from the fact that it was your idea, so they should just get on with it.
  • Challenges. Dealing with people who challenge your ideas, is hard, it’s easier to ignore them. But at team meetings when you say “what do you think”, they don’t say anything – what’s the matter with them?
  • Super staff: Understandably you support and encourage your best staff. After all, the others are less important (and easier to replace). These super staff might make the odd mistake, it’s OK that’s how they learn. The rest should be doing what they’re told.
  • Changing practices.When things need to change and you’ve given them the big picture it’s their job to sort the detail and make them happen? Apart from when you like the details, and do it for them, and forget to tell them why?
  • Been there and done it. You’ve done their job, and can do it easily. It’s not your job to listen to what it feels like? Until you’re having a bad day, and want them to know how you’re feeling?
  • Decisive, apart from when you can’t decide? Do you analyse things to death, make tentative decisions, and often revisit them? Good bosses may make decisions quickly, but then stick with them (till the agreed check time). Is failing to decide, deciding to fail?
  • Feedback – always and never. You often tell them you care and what you think; but when it’s appraisal time other things come first? How do you think that sounds, to them?

The real staff morale problem

The real problem with staff morale is that it often doesn’t surface until it’s too late, but you can’t spot it until it surfaces.

Of all the staff morale problems, ‘the boss’ and really silly simple things get reported as the cause. Morale can be helped with team awaydays, but the root causes have to be solved first.

Do you need to check your own leadership style?

Learn how to attract, recruit and retain the RIGHT staff. FREE webinar on 23rd May. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.