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What Kind of Boss are You?

As I work with faculty and staff at NC State, a significant number of issues focus on evaluative relationships – meaning, people bring concerns about their direct report. For 2018, evaluative relationship concerns were the primary identified issue for faculty (37%) and staff (54%) visitors to the ombuds office. In many ways, this is not surprising as people bring different approaches to their role as managers, there are often management changes that require time and attention to rebuild trust and confidence, and then there are times when the manager uses a style that is perceived as counter productive. That’s the polite way of stating what some folks call being a “bully” in the workplace.

I’ve previously written about the work of Laura Crawshaw, self titled “Boss Whisperer” (aka management coach) who spoke at the International Ombudsman Association conference last year and authored “Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace.”  Crawshaw focuses her work on the conduct of managers who act abrasively and on how to help them change.  She defines abrasive behaviors as “any aggressive interpersonal behavior that causes emotional distress in coworkers sufficient to disrupt organizational functioning.”

Crawshaw also sets the stage for boss whispering by identifying different types of bosses based on behaviors. She stays away from exaggerated labeling and; instead, seeks to establish what she describes as professional categories.  Here’s a summary of the bosses Crawshaw finds in the workplace:

  • Adequate Boss: good interpersonal skills; knows how to relate to people to create relatively “smooth working relationships”;  able to address workplace issues with minimal distress. [Roy’s note – while Crawshaw calls this “adequate” this could also be seen as a good boss!]
  • Annoying Boss: not so good interpersonal skills; act in manners that cause “mild, temporary irritation”; behaviors cause problems but not enough to disrupt functioning.
  • Abrasive Boss: interpersonal style is “harsh or rough”; causes “lasting wounds”; perceived as “harmful” and people take their actions personally; behaviors disrupt functioning.
  • Avoidant Boss: absent; avoid interpersonal contact; isolate themselves; neglect disrupts functioning.
  • Aberrant Boss: psychologically abnormal; behaviors can be planned; very disruptive of functioning.

Where do you fit in Crawshaw’s boss categories?  Next entry – I’ll share Crawshaw’s Abrasive Manager Self-Test that will help you identify behaviors that are impacting you and those you manage.

And, in the meantime, if you are not sure where to go for help in your workplace – Go Ombuds!