WiLab Loves: The Best Bosses Aren’t Bossy

I’ve been reading with interest about Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign to ban the word “bossy” – because of the negative implications it can have for young girls’ feelings about future leadership.  While I’m very sympathetic to Sandberg’s message, there’s another aspect of the word “bossy” that interests me even more.  Even though the word “boss” has long been synonymous with “manager,” the simple fact is, the best bosses aren’t bossy.

The best bosses motivate you to be productive for them.  Not because you have to, but because you want to.

Overmanaging is one of the least discussed but most prevalent problems of management.   Too much management, or, more specifically, ineffective management – too often aka bossiness – is the enemy of productivity.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Photo from Forbes.com

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Photo from Forbes.com

Human nature being what it is, the trouble with bossiness is it alienates people. It doesn’t put them in the mindset to do their best for you. If long-term employee productivity is your goal as a manager (and why wouldn’t it be?), there are numerous reasons why, over the long run, too much of the wrong kind of management will only work against you.

Let’s look quickly at a couple of management manifestations bossiness frequently takes.

Pesky micromanagement produces frustration more than productivity – Nobody likes to be micromanaged. It’s natural to default to this style of management when you feel out of control and therefore want to exert control, but over time too much of this yields turnover not positive results. The best managers invariably want to expand employees’ horizons, not confine them.

“Gotcha” management gets defensive behavior more than positive results – I’d been hearing so many complaints about this style of management recently, I made it the star of a recent post. By “gotcha” management, I mean an approach that focuses management energy on catching employees doing something wrong. “Gotcha with that one.” “Gotcha there!” Suffice to say, if employee engagement and productivity are your goals, “gotcha” management rarely gets you where you want to go.

Continue reading the full story on FORBES here.

WILAB LOVES is a series of articles and blog posts from across the web that Women’s iLab supports. This article was written by Victor Lipman and published on Forbes.com on March 11, 2015.