Real Leaders

5 Reasons Why Businesses Don’t Need Bosses

As employers look to reopen offices and recoup losses, they face a full-blown employment crisis dubbed “The Great Resignation” that requires new thinking about bosses.

It’s been a rough 18 months with multiple COVID-19 variants, burnout, and fears over health and safety that has resulted in a trend of increased employee disengagement. As a result, 11.5 million American workers opted out of corporate employment voluntarily in the 2nd quarter of 2021 alone, and 48% of America’s working population is actively searching for a new job or looking for new opportunities

As HR departments scramble and C-suite executives pivot, everyone in the corporate management space expresses their opinions on the situation. While many are targeting superficial causes such as benefits, compensation, generational laziness, and/or entitlement – a few see the actual root cause. It’s the manager. More specifically, the practice of management has exacerbated post-pandemic, as Gallup stated in their valuable 2018 Employee Engagement Report. 

It’s time for corporate leaders to take a hard look at how their businesses are structured, what is truly valued in their culture, and what they really represent. It’s time for bossing to end and modern leaders to make employees the top priority. 

In this article, we will uncover five reasons why businesses don’t need bosses anymore with solutions.       

As an example, Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter, and Holger Rathgeber is a top modern leadership book. In it, a group of penguins becomes alerted by an astute member of their community that their home may be about to melt into the sea. The book deals with what happens when urgent change is required, and teams must navigate to survive. There is a leader named NoNo in the story who is the primary antagonist of the group. Because NoNo refuses to see what everyone else is quickly coming to understand – their livelihoods are at stake. If they don’t make a move and fast, no one will make it. 

NoNo is a classic boss archetype – who is more concerned about his standing in the community and defending his personal needs versus doing the right thing for the greater good. Unfortunately, employees have been under the thumb of corporate bosses like NoNo for far too long. Similarly, in a recent analysis by The Predictive Index of the current turnover tsunami, “63% of employees who state they have bad managers are thinking of leaving their company within the next 12 months compared to only 27% of those with a good manager.” 

With that said, let’s look at our definition of a boss and bossing to determine the causes of employee turnover. 

“A boss is someone in a position of hierarchical authority who is primarily focused on furthering their own career interests. Bossing is the activity of leveraging this hierarchical authority to make workers adhere to their beliefs, values, judgment, and behaviors to gain access to their own future employment opportunities.”

Gallup states that an astounding 82% of people chosen for managerial positions are the wrong hires (bosses)! Are executives not paying attention to all this data out there, or are they too beholden to a model that doesn’t work anymore? When the penguins start fleeing for safer shores, it indicates that the bosses failed to keep the flock together. And now it’s up to the employees to define the market for one of the first times in modern employment history. 

Employees have spoken clearly – bosses will no longer be tolerated. To illustrate this point, here are five reasons why businesses don’t need bosses (as well as what modern employers can do about it).

1. Bosses can’t cultivate trust or talent

Bosses are usually masters at managing up and playing politics, but far worse at developing their people due to an inability to manifest professional intimacy with their staff – a fundamental component of the Trust Equation (credibility + reliability + professional intimacy divided by the degree of self-orientation). Without trust, the only way for managers to get things done is through browbeating, berating their employees, and creating active employee disengagement. Solution: Create managerial performance assessments that take employee trust into account. Managers with low employee trust scores should be flagged for immediate mediation programs.

2. Bosses thrive in toxicity 

When a person’s value system has been corrupted by over self-orientation, self-indulgence, and feeding ego needs, this desire for more taints their every action as a manager. They are harbingers of chaos who turn working for them into an emotional gauntlet that workers must successfully navigate daily to gain favor and avoid being denigrated and/or denied opportunities to succeed. Solution: Remove toxic bosses from the system ASAP and create new manager selection programs that focus on identifying individual contributors with low self-orientation but high task orientation and emotional intelligence. Assess alignment with the values of high-performance managers (trust, compassion, stability, and hope). Then only promote those who meet these criteria.

3. Bosses don’t care about equity, diversity, or inclusion

Bosses are all about aligning with the desired metrics of the day. They will do whatever they are told will gain them visibility and promotional opportunities, including fudging their recruitment, onboarding, and diversity and inclusion efforts to look good on paper. Self-absorbed bosses make sure they pass muster but make no effort to understand or create spaces for employees so their team members can thrive. This insidious box filling can give the impression of progress where none is occurring. Solution: Create “how-based” metrics that are harder to mask in regular team 360 managerial assessments with an emphasis on DE&I measures, tenure statistics at a demographic level, the overall hiring mix, demographics of those promoted into positions of increasing authority, and team productivity targets. You may convert bosses into effective managers simply by changing how (and why) they are incentivized using this measurement approach.  

4. Bosses lack the humility, will, and empathy to lead in the modern era 

Bosses are so busy focusing on what’s in it for them that they get lost in today’s increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. As a result, they take every challenge personally, lose steam before the job is done, and burn out those around them. As a result, it inhibits their ability to help people navigate the constant changes and challenges in businesses today. Solution: Prioritize servant leadership as the most incentivized management style in the organization. This will allow companies to identify and leverage the future Level 5 leaders who use the paradoxical combination of humility and will to achieve results because of their empathy for people.

5. Bosses don’t solve customer problems

Bosses see their job as a means to an end. That end being their own prosperity. They are often poor listeners who regularly ignore issues brought to them by their employees in favor of doing whatever is easiest for them. When they are responsible for people who create value for customers, this lack of purpose demotivates good employees and may also cost the company revenue. Solution: What gets incentivized gets done. When customer orientation and problem-solving are genuinely valued and prioritized, managers will fall in line. Conduct calibration exercises where groups of managers are rated on solving employee concerns related to customer issues with role-play exercises. Film the exercises so they can review how they communicated in the training sessions. Lower-rated managers should be required to have coaching and training on this topic.

As you can see, many bosses create more issues versus adding value. The typical “boss” archetype now costs businesses talent, innovation potential, productivity, and revenue growth. It’s time to take an honest look at the overwhelming data. Companies must take action necessary to demonstrate that they are addressing The Great Resignation. There will be hope if businesses replace bosses with modern servant leaders. The Dawn of the Enhanced Employee Experience is within reach on the other side. Is your organization ready for this shift?

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