03/03/14

Stop Talking Sh*t About Your Boss

Leadership is a huge topic of discussion among entrepreneurs and management. Being a good leader is what many of us strive for, but being the boss is hard work. It’s even harder when your team is talking sh*t about you being your back.

While in a kickoff meeting recently, two employees of my client were confiding in me about how hard their boss was to please. “He just doesn’t understand marketing.” “He’s so stubborn, he thinks he knows everything.” “He’s just not easy to work with and will probably throw out everything if it’s not exactly what he wants.” “You don’t understand how hard he is to work for.” “I’m sure you know guys like him.” They were clearly terrified of him and talked as if they were on my side wanting to let me in on a secret. 

Why on earth would you work for a boss you have to apologize for?

It’s almost as if you married someone you have to warn people about. You made the choice to work for this person. You represent him and his company.

As soon as they left, I looked at my team and said, “I hope you never talk about me like that. I hope you would just tell me before complaining to others so I could fix it.” My team has to be on my side in order for me to be successful. If they talked about me behind my back, I’ve failed. 

Over the years, I’ve worked with project managers who killed a project by being terrified of their bosses. They had us make a ton of changes to design work when, in hindsight, their boss was perfectly happy with what we first did. I’ve met the bosses of these terrified employees and, although sometimes I can see that it may be a leadership problem, many times I’m confused as to why they feel that way. Whatever the reason, it comes down to one thing: You have to stop complaining about your boss. It doesn’t help anyone and ends up ruining someone’s career - usually yours.

Here are four ways to stop:

1. Talk to your boss
As much as you might think your boss wouldn’t want you to tell him, he's human. If it’s truly something he can fix or work on, he will want to know. Ask him to coffee and have your points written down with real examples. You don’t want to forget what you want to say. This is business, not personal. Keep feelings out of it and focus on tangible things that can be worked through. If you are a valuable employee, they will listen. 

2. Quit your job
If talking to your boss is out of the question or doesn’t work, quit. Although you may think this is the only job out there for you, you have the choice of where to work. You’re not slave labor. You weren’t forced into working with this boss. Find happiness in another job. When leaving, give a detailed exit interview of your reasoning for leaving.

3. Ask yourself why
Take some time to ask yourself why you’re complaining or sharing your boss’s dirty laundry with unsuspecting people. Is it because you don’t like his work style? Is he a complainer? Are your coworkers complaining? Do you just like complaining in general? Do you also do this about your spouse? Answer this question before making any rash decisions.

4. Look at yourself
If this isn’t the first time you’ve complained about your boss, he may not be the issue. Look around and see if you hear the same things from other people. If not, you may be the problem. Find a mentor outside of the company to talk to and be open to working through some of the reasons why you complain about him. It may be that you have had bad experiences before, or you just don’t have complementary personalities. 

How do you feel about your boss? Why are you choosing to work for him?  Tell me what you love about your boss.