Terrible Leaders and Recognition
I seem to be on a recognition binge. So… one more thought.
In as much as I believe leadership skills are important, there are an unfortunate number of people in leadership positions that are inexperienced, uneducated in, or actively ignore the “soft skills” of leadership.
What can you do when you encounter these creatures in the wild? Do you have recourse?
What happens if your boss steals your credit?
It is an unfortunate situation when supervisors confuse power with leadership. A sense of power can lead to a feeling of entitlement or invulnerability at the cost of the employees. Leadership is a social process and requires a give and take of mutual respect and trust. Power implies a unidirectional or simplex process: the leader gives orders, the subordinates obey. There are people in leadership positions that assume that if they are responsible for everything (right), they are also entitled to all credit – and they take it (wrong).
When this happens, there is no easy recourse.
People are complex and exist on a spectrum. If you have a strong relationship with your boss and he/she is a reasonable person, discuss it.
I have been a sort of inverse mentor to young executives. Some people, as new supervisors, are focused on their careers and are honestly unaware of the effect of their actions on their subordinates. They do not realize that they are taking public credit of another’s work, but view it as taking responsibility (and credit) for a positive outcome. A conversation can lead to a moment of self-reflection and, hopefully, an epiphany. But, tread lightly.
A candid comment could be perceived as a formal complaint or as a personal attack and could lead to retribution. A complaint to HR may lead to a labeled perception of “disgruntled employee”. However, in larger organizations it is advisable to use an ombudsman (if one exists) or an anonymous tip line. I believe that it is always better to shine a light on the situation, though it is certainly understandable if you prefer self-preservation.
The downside of passing up I always make the opportunity to express the skills and achievements of my subordinates to my peers and upper level executives. My military and government experiences are based on a culture of leadership development and selfless behavior is lauded. In private industry I have witnessed the unintended consequence “If your people are doing all this, I don’t see why I really need you.”
The proper response is, first, don’t stop praising your employees. It is the honest and moral course of action and you will build their loyalty to you. Second, leave. Go to a different department, location, or company, look for other opportunities. When there is such a fundamental mismatch of values, it may be impossible to reconcile the differences.
Other people will value you as a leader and a mentor.
There are no easy solutions to a bad boss.
All you can do is be aware that these kind of people do exist. They are intelligent and educated enough to deserve a leadership position, but may lack the social skills to keep a leadership position (or to keep any subordinates). The best you can do is avoid the problem, isolate yourself away from poor leaders, or leave the danger zone as soon as possible.
These thoughts are not intended only for those of you who have terrible bosses, but to those of you who enough honest to recognize yourself. Be aware of the effect you have on the people your success relies upon.
I am aware that radical change is not easy, but hating going to work every day is worse.
About Ken Wrede