I don’t usually read USA Today. In fact, I learned about this article from Lifehacker. But I see the issue of Bad Bosses (including, but not limited to, poor management, management styles, and how to manage up) everywhere these days. In the arts, this conversation is perennial. In the general population, it seems to be more and more prevalent, or maybe I am just looking more closely.
The issue of a bad boss, and how to handle him or her, is crucial to feeling comfortable and productive in the workplace. A positive relationship with a manager is (and has been) a deal-breaker for me. Being able to diagnose in what way your manager is behaving problematically is so helpful to me, and this is clearly the main takeaway from the article.
For me there were two things that stuck out in this article:
Firstly, this quote resonates with me deeply: “Bad bosses aren’t necessarily bad people, but they certainly can make work challenging for those who report to them,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Often, individuals are promoted because they excel in a given job, but that doesn’t mean they have the skills to be an effective leader.”
I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. Management is a skill unto itself that is not the same as being able to perform a set of job functions at a high level. In the arts, we usually have to do both, as we don’t have the resources to have a level of management whose sole responsibility is to organize the work of associate/assistant level workers. In fact, this seems to be a very old-fashioned way of organizing responsibilities and workflows. But the point is that management, as a skill set, is under-valued and under-utilized.
The second thing is the idea that employees cannot take the behavior of their manager personally. This is a crucial lesson for me to take forward into my new work situations, whatever they may be. Work is work; it’s not a marriage, a friendship, or a referendum on your humanity. As mission-driven workers, I think arts managers tend to take to put a lot of pressure on themselves. However, I know that I have definitely taken a lot of conflicts or disagreements personally, when it would have been much healthier to just walk it off.
I take the issue of management extremely seriously, and I will probably write about it pretty extensively here on this blog.