How to Be a Boss Like a Boss: Seven boss practices from reflections on seven former bosses and seven steps to take with the not so much boss

Are you a Like a Boss boss? Do you work for a Like a Boss boss?

“Like a Boss” is slang for awesome or impressive. My son explained it to me as follows: “If I pass an exam like a boss, just know I got 95 percent or above.” Having immigrated to the U.S. in amazing race pursuit of an education, my son explained it to me — like a boss — in language I would understand.

I’ve had seven former bosses in 28 years. Some of them have been Like a Boss bosses. Some of them, Not So Much. Though not an exhaustive list, here are some of the boss practices I have learned from them:

  1. Is On Your Side (Shows Respect for and Honors Others): The Like a Boss boss is always on your side — at least, publicly. We all make mistakes. We all — at sometime — do not meet deadlines. As employees, we all will experience being verbally attacked by a disgruntled customer or colleague whether or not we have done something wrong. Regardless of what the situation is, the Like a Boss boss is always on your side in public. Later, expect the Like a Boss boss, to pull you aside — privately — and give you an earful. Expect a reprimand, and advisement or correction as necessary.Case in Point: A teacher is being berated by a parent. The Like a Bossboss steps in to mediate, and engages in resolution-finding efforts, not allowing his or her staff to be depreciated. If necessary, the Like a Boss boss holds a private meeting with the parent and another with the staff member before bringing both parties back together. The work environment can be a war zone sometimes, but ultimately we need generals, commanders in chief, and leaders we can trust. When a boss is unwilling to stand with staff, or confront and shut down attacks, divisiveness etc., or just plain get in the mud with employees, he/she will not be respected. The Like a Boss boss effectively prevents disparaging comments, destructive behaviors, and anything that can tear others down or weaken the organization’s foundation, regardless of origin (internal or external).Employees will support and work harder for bosses they respect and trust.
  2. Walks through the Flames (Demonstrates Responsibility and Accountability): The Like a Boss boss walks through the flames, takes the heat, and gets under the bus him/herself.Case in Point: A project is long overdue. A subordinate volunteers to take the project off the boss’ hands and gets it done in two weeks. In those two weeks, the boss conveys to higher ups that the responsibility is that of the subordinate and does so in such a way that the subordinate’s external reputation is undermined.Some bosses will find scapegoats for their mistakes, missed deadlines and more. They will throw subordinates in the fire and under the bus because they do not have the fortitude to face the heat themselves. Such conduct is unethical and destroys any shred of respect the subordinate has for the boss. The Like a Boss boss is principled and honorable and will take the heat him/herself.
  3. Does not Play Favorites (Practices Equality): The Like a Boss boss does not have certain standards for some and different standards for others. Everyone is subject to the same standards, follows the same regulations, is held accountable to the same degree, and has their performance evaluated by the same performance criteria and moral practice.Case in Point: Good attendance is expected of everyone. Over time, some employees increasingly come in late and do not follow the required protocols. Management knows but does not address the issue. Staff members complain among themselves and eventually bring the matter to management. Nothing is done. Staff becomes resentful. Morale erodes.Of course, the problems can be more severe than issues of attendance and time keeping, and small issues are generally an indication that larger ones exist. More importantly, such issues lend themselves to questions about the boss him/herself, around permissibility and beneficiality and propensity to engage in ethically questionable behavior.
  4. Is Squeaky Clean (Practices Transparency): The Like a Boss boss has nothing to hide. I don’t mean that he/she divulges everything, but that he/she is willing to and actually communicates with staff. He/she is not afraid to communicate difficult things, explain the reasons behind something, directly respond to questions asked or issues presented, or facilitate problem-solving and solution-implementing dialog. The Like a Boss boss does not just let you talk to the air, and leave without a resolution, or direction or without confidence that the matter will be addressed.Case in Point: A major organizational change is taking place. The Like a Boss boss engages representation of all constituents in the exchange of information and implementation dialog prior to institution. Similarly, a problem has risen its head. The boss listens to the problem, helps generate a solution through inquiry and dialog, and provides implementation support, if necessary.
  5. Gives Credit Where Due (Shows Recognition): The Like a Boss boss acknowledges jobs well done. He/she gives praise and thanks when these are due. When a project, report or task is done efficiently, in a timely manner, and sheds a positive light on him/her, the Like a Boss boss does not accept recognition without acknowledging the employee’s role in the success. Case in Point: A $10,000 fraudulent check is presented for cash at a bank. The teller recognizes that the check is fake and reports it to the supervisor. The supervisor takes credit for identifying the fraud attempt and saving the bank money. Publicly and privately, the Like a Bossboss makes it known that he/she could not have gotten a job done without the help or work of the subordinate(s). A boss may not be able to increase an employee’s remuneration but a Like a Boss boss will always toot someone else’s horn and reward them with encouragement.
  6. Tells the Truth (Exhibits Honesty): Re-read points 1 through 5. The Like a Bossboss does all these things consistently because these are elements of ethical leadership and the Like a Boss boss is a person of integrity.Case in Point: Unnecessary. Truth is truth.
  7. Involves Stakeholders (Practices Collaboration): Coupled with transparency and communication, the Like a Boss boss involves representatives of all constituent groups in conversation about matters that will affect the organizational community. Why? Because voice, buy-in and consensus (or near consensus) on professional decisions is necessary for promoting common vision, mobilization, and a caring, committed community that shows solidarity with leadership and each other and works together to obtain maximum results. Case in Point: See point 4 above.

It is important to know that the Not So Much boss probably does not feel good about him/herself. He/she is often insecure for some reason. If the Not So Much boss is your boss, and his/her modus operandi does not include the above seven Like a Bosspractices, recognize that you cannot change him/her. You can only control and change yourself. So reflect and make some decisions. Then, stick to them.

  1. Discuss the matter with the boss. If you have tried this previously, to no avail, try to get a third party mediator to facilitate. If you have already gone through mediation and things remain the same or worsen, it is time to consider moving on.
  2. Focus on doing your job exceptionally well. If this is already your practice, continue. If this was not your practice, step it up. This is not for your boss’ satisfaction. Personal excellence is for your own conscience and satisfaction.
  3. Perspective shift your job mindset. Don’t think about your job as home away from home as many people do, if for no other reason than how much time spent there. Think about your job as training ground for your next job, which will be for a Like a Boss boss.
  4. Avoid any on-the-job griping and complaining with colleagues. This magnifies the problems you are already battling. Repeatedly talking about the same unchangeable things makes you re-live the negativity and grief constantly, takes valuable time away from the work you have to do in an already stress-ridden environment, and undermines the boss’ authority more than he/she is doing him/herself.
  5. Document as much as possible. Keep a log. When attending any meeting, or receiving any assignment or responsibility, write everything down. Seek clarification if necessary, and keep a record as your proof. When possible, get verification of the communication, assignment or responsibility. Similarly, log any problems, issues, etc., making sure it is a factual record. Include any outcomes of the problems, actions taken, etc. If fired, you’ll collect unemployment while you seek out a Like a Boss boss. Conversely, if the Not So Much boss makes your working conditions unbearable, and you eventually resign, with adequate documentation, you might still qualify for unemployment benefits under the constructive dischargeexception. Documentation is necessary to fulfill the burden of proof which lies with you, the employee.
  6. Decide if the cons outweigh the pros. If the cons wins, look for a new job and move on as soon as you find a good fit. Life is already difficult. The added on-the-job stress can negatively impact health and wellbeing. If the pros win, hold on to points 2, 3, 4, and 5 above, and re-evaluate as necessary. At some point, the weights may change.
  7. Be gentle with yourself. With this type of daily stress, you are liable to mess up at some point. If that happens, get up, dust yourself off, take corrective action as soon as possible, and move forward. And whatever it is that calms, stabilizes and re-energizes you, determinedly make time for that.

Bottom line: Just because you work for a Not So Much boss, there is no reason to lower your standards. Hold yourself to the highest ethical standards and comport yourself Like a Boss.

Your turn: What are some other boss practices of the Like a Boss boss? What other strategies do you employ with the Not so Much boss?

Origonally published on LinkedIn August 20, 2016




In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath

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In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath

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