Everyone Hates The Boss (And Other Opportunities)

Knowing “everyone’s in the same boat” paralyzes instincts to adjust the sails. Commiserating creates false teams. Misery with company is miserable. Solve problems instead.

The more painful the situation, the easier it is to believe that everyone is right. “This can’t be fixed.” “The guy’s a jerk.” “The system is flawed.” Everyone knows it.

Become a clever complainer and they’ll elect you to captain the co-misery ship. Sailing the bandwagon in the same miserable direction isn’t leadership.

5 Opportunities to Rise Above Everyone

Leaders who fall into “everyone” traps diminish their power. Rise above. Seize opportunities to be someone in a sea of everyones.

  1. Everyone hates the boss – Okay, hopefully that’s not where your team is stuck. But it happens. Groupthink makes even nice guys look mean.

    If you think your boss is a jerk, and everyone else does too, I challenge you to go deeper. Get to know her. Tell her the truth. If everybody’s frustrated, she knows it. Chances are, under all that crap, she is starving for help. Don’t bring the band or the wagon. Someone will speak the truth without emotion. Why not you?

  2. Everyone is struggling to achieve results – Self-delusion loves support. When everybody’s stuck, “clearly nothing more can be done.” Don’t succumb to excuses. Try new approaches. Leverage the bandwagon’s energy to brainstorm solutions. Someone will breakthrough. Why not you?
  3. Everyone does it this way – It may even be called a best practice. It’s working, but you know it could be better. It’s risky to try. No one expects new solutions. You have ideas, but why rock the boat? Leaders disrupt good for better. Someone will. Why not you?
  4. Everyone is exhausted – Tough one. Leading well from exhausted takes energy and there’s the rub. Find some. In the thick of the stress, stepping back seems insane. Do it anyway. Someone needs to. Someone will. Why not you?
  5. Everyone is looking for a new job – It depends why they’re looking. Either way, those looking elsewhere are distracted. If you chose to re-commit and excel you will stand out in the midst of distraction. Someone’s career will grow. Why not you?

The Problem With Opportunities

When I first read Karen Martin’s book, The Outstanding Organization, her definition of a problem versus opportunity stuck with me.

“In recent years, it has become popular to avoid the word problem in organizations, recasting it instead as an opportunity for improvement. While proponents of using more positive terms are surely well meaning, I think they’ve got it entirely wrong.”

If you are regular reader, you now know why I needed to meet her.

I asked Karen about the real risk of calling problems “opportunities.”

She explained that when a problem is labelled as an “opportunity”, the “urgency is lost.” It feels safer, like something good we are moving toward not something bad we need to overcome as soon as possible.

Leaders in great organizations do both. They create a safe environment for surfacing today’s problems, as well identify opportunities that are likely to surface as they move toward their desired future.

I’ll pause here.

  • Are you encouraging your team to surface problems?
  • How do you react?
  • Do you sugar coat the problems you surface?

“So why are people reluctant to surface the real problems in organizations?”

Karen’s theory? A lot of our fears are grounded in our first experiences with surfacing problems with teachers, parents, or even early bosses. And as life would have it, many of those first experiences were with people who are not “emotionally mature,” and reacted negatively. It’s much easier keep your head down, stay the course, and not elicit a potentially negative response.

“So what about TQM and Lean and Six Sigma programs. That should help address problems, right?”

“Efforts at improvement such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, or Lean may look like they produce positive rsults initially as you straighten some of your pillars of execution, but with a cracked foundation, the pillars start to topple again.”

Her suggestion, don’t treat improvement as an isolated program. The primary preparation of blackbelts should be about becoming “competent coaches” to spread the culture and methodology throughout the organization. For most blackbelts it’s about them “doing,” we need to shift that mindset to helping them become great teachers and coaches.

“What makes you skip to work? 

Of course I had to ask my usual question. She shared,

“I’ve seen first hand that work doesn’t have to be so hard. People can and should feel good about their contributions. There’s no reason for work to deplete people. Helping organizations (and their people) get closer and closer to the goal of being excited to come to work every day makes me skip to work.”

Excellent. Skipping is contagious.

Author, speaker, and consultant, Karen Martin, provides practical strategies and tools for building an Outstanding Organization. The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon