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Why a nice boss is bad for your career

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Everyone wants to work for a supportive and encouraging boss, but what happens when your manager’s good intentions work against the progression of your career?

It might sound odd, but a boss who is too nice can do more harm than good by ignoring some of the fundamental basics of the typical manager-subordinate relationship.

Here are four types of nice bosses who might be slowly killing your career.

1. The positive aspiration killer

This boss is a nice person. He or she is filled with positivity, always looks on the bright side and generally tries to keep everyone happy and smiling. He also probably also speaks with a soft voice. Good, right? Wrong.

While there’s nothing wrong with positive reinforcement, an unbalanced amount of positivity can actual sap the creative energy from a roomful of frustrated people.

For example, let’s pretend your staff are frustrated about a problem. Yes, they’re bitching and moaning and getting more annoyed about the fact that their competitors are beating them, or that their latest project is a dud – whatever it may be.

Then, the boss swans into the conversation with a pick-me-up attitude, saying something like: “But look how far you have come!” or “Don’t beat yourselves up about it, you’re doing great.”

Like a flash, I bet any sparks of aspiration that were once there will be gone. Being nice is necessary in many situations, but being too nice in a period of crisis will more often than not suck any remaining motivation out of the room.

2. The ‘one of the gang’ boss

It’s difficult for many bosses to draw the line between being a friend and being a manager – particularly if he or she is promoted over former colleagues, who they are now in charge of.

While it’s nice at times for an employee to feel as though they’re on the same level as the boss, it won’t do anything to help that staff member progress, because friends don’t hold each other accountable in the same way that professional colleagues do.

Put it this way, if your friend is 30 minutes late to dinner, you’ll probably let it slide. But if an employee was that late to a meeting, there’s every chance they would face certain consequences for their actions.

The typical boss-employee dynamic is positive for a staff member wanting to further their career – being treated like a friend might seem like special treatment, but it’s actually a cleverly disguised way of holding someone back.

3. The boss who tries to do it all

I hate to say this, but women generally fall under this category more often than men, simply because they generally have to deal with stereotypes of brash and bullying bosses, so there’s an overriding desire to come across as nice.

Often times, this type of nice boss will steer away from asking workers to stay late, or is constantly doing ‘favours’ for her employees, which means she’s popular, but overworked.

This behaviour can have a negative affect on employees, who can’t develop if they’re not being given the more difficult tasks to challenge themselves with. It’s only fair that employees are given their share of the workload, and by doing this properly a boss will see his or her employees eager to look for even more challenges.

4. The absentee boss

At least a controlling boss who yells a lot gets noticed around the office. A boss who tries too hard to be the opposite (i.e. overly-flexible and uncontrolling) can be damaging for your career.

Why? Because bosses are supposed to kick your ass. Managers who spend too much time worrying about how they are perceived or trying to neutralise situations still create pain – it’s just slower.

Bosses should be present and visible, praising good performance and riding people for poor performance. It’s what they are there for, and it’s what is going to push their employees to the next level.

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Rebecca Lewis
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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