Are You a Good Boss or a Bad Boss? 8 Ways to Tell

“Are you a good boss or a bad boss?” That question reminds me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, first encounters Dorothy in Munchkinland. Glinda asks Dorothy “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” Dorothy replies that she’s not a witch at all, and besides, witches are old and ugly. After being informed that the beautiful, young Glinda is a witch, Dorothy says “You are! I beg your pardon! But I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.” Glinda responds, “Only bad witches are ugly.”

I think only bad bosses are ugly.

How do you know if you’re a good boss or a bad boss? Just over a year ago, Google’s People Operations group unveiled the results of their two-year study into what separates bad bosses from good bosses in their own company. They performed extensive data analysis on performance reviews, feedback surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards. What they came up with was 8 behaviors that distinguished the best bosses at Google. How do you stack up against this list?

1. Be a good coach

    • Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive.
    • Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage

    • Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being

    • Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work.
    • Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.

4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented

    • Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it.
    • Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team

    • Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information.
    • Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots.
    • Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6. Help your employees with career development

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

    • Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy
    • Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team

    • Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed.
    • Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Kind of a no-brainer list, huh? It reinforces the idea that leaders can make tremendous strides by simply following the basics: Be interested in your folks, help them achieve their goals, provide the resources and support they need and get out of their way, communicate and share information, and have a vision for where the team needs to go.

Hopefully you’re a good boss and these behaviors are already part of your repertoire. If they aren’t, don’t worry. They’re all things that are very much under your control and you can incorporate them into your leadership practices. After all, you don’t want to be a bad boss. Bad bosses are ugly.

12 Comments on “Are You a Good Boss or a Bad Boss? 8 Ways to Tell

  1. Great post Randy. May be a no brainer list, yet few managers execute well against the principles. And add humans as followers and this can be one steep hill to climb day in and day out.

    • You’re right, David. These may be common sense, but they sure aren’t common practice.

      Thanks for your comments.


      Sent via mobile device. Please excuse any typos.

  2. My favorite are #1 “Be a good coach” and #2 “Empower your team and don’t micromanage.” I don’t think there is anything that helps create positive and productive relationships better than solid mentoring. Nice job, Randy.

    • Thanks for your comments Kent. If leaders do a good job in recruiting, selecting, and training, it’s much easier to get out of the way and let your people do their thing.

      Take care,

      Randy Conley
      Sent via mobile device. Please excuse any typos.

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  5. Like others have said, all of these points are great. I have found that doing a great job with Career Development Planning helps with so many of the other items in the list, and it also helps to build loyalty. I also tend to have comprehensive and honest performance reviews that include discussions of career development and performance planning for the upcoming year.

    • Excellent points Chris. Career development and performance planning should happen throughout the year, not just at performance review time. I think there should be a regular (Quarterly) review/re-calibration of where your employees stand on their performance plan and where they need to go in the future.

      Thanks for your comments!


  6. I have another one – ‘Don’t use pejorative terms like ‘sissy”
    While I found the rest of the article a good summary, reading ‘don’t be a sissy’ really jarred. I am sure you didn’t intend to offend – but – and here is the point – you did. Hearing a term like ‘sissy’ from a boss can leave an employee feeling uncomfortable and even alienated. Being a good boss means understanding the impact that your personal behaviour has on your team and respecting their feelings where they may not mesh with yours.

    • That’s a great point and I agree with you. Just so you know, those 8 points are taken directly from Google’s own documentation. They aren’t my descriptions (but a valid point nonetheless).

      Thanks for your comments,


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