People Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Supervisors

November 3, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” ~Unknown

There is a well known management axiom that says people don’t leave jobs, they leave their supervisors. You may be a new boss or just a bad one or a well intentioned one that just doesn’t recognize the impact of your actions.

Which ever one you are, this post is for you.

If you are in charge of a person or team, and you are struggling with productivity and satisfaction, there are several classic ways that you may be jeopardizing and undercutting your team’s development. You may have been promoted into the role without the proper training and coaching. It may be that you just don’t know how to lead and interact effectively with people. It happens to all us. You can overcome this but you’ll have to immediately stop certain behaviors:

  • You won’t let go of problems or mistakes. You return to discuss negative events continually and look for faults in your employees.
  • You won’t accept constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. You can’t deal with disagreement from employees who have their own opinions about work-related issues.
  • You break promises. You make up stories when you don’t know the answer to an employee’s question instead of finding out and communicating out appropriately.
  • You cause dissension among staff members (either intentionally or unconsciously) by your actions and words.
  • You fail to communicate, and lack clear expectations, timelines, and goals. You change your mind frequently leaving employees off-balance. You change expectations and deadlines frequently. Employees have trouble knowing where they stand and whether they’re meeting expectations. You forget that employees fail to feel a sense of accomplishment when expectations don’t exist or are not consitent.
  • You use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple, positive communication would correct the problem. You ignore employees until there is a problem, then pounce. You seek out the guilty when all you need to do is correct a problem with a well thought out solution.
  • You take credit for successes and positive accomplishments of your team members. You are equally as quick to blame employees when something goes wrong. You throw employees under the bus. You criticize publicly. You praise disingenuously.
  • You micromanage and by doing so, you lower productivity and job satisfaction.
  • In the worst cases, you discriminate against employees.

Here’s how to avoid these mistakes:

  • Learn – take a class on supervision and management and learn how to provide feedback, how to coach, how to conduct performance reviews and how to empower your employees.
  • Let go – You can’t do everything and your team won’t learn if you don’t delegate and share decision making as much as possible.
  • Get out of the weeds – Operate at your level – set a vision, be strategic, understand and articulate the big picture. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing the work of someone a level below you, focusing on minutiae, and micromanaging.
  • Teach and coach – Development is an active job. You have to spend time with your team members, be accessible, share your knowledge and experience, and offer guidance and feedback. You can’t do that if you are constantly in meetings or behind closed doors. Consistent teaching and coaching is essential for team development.
  • Trust and empower – You don’t have all the answers and no one expects you to. Trust that your team can come up with some pretty good solutions too and encourage them to give input, take risks, and share their opinions regularly.
  • Acknowledge – Part of your job is being a great advocate for your team. If you’re not willing to share the spotlight when things go well or take the blame when things go wrong, then team development will suffer.

If you’re frustrated by your poor-performing team, it may be time to stop focusing on what they’re doing wrong and think about what you may be doing wrong. Chances are you’ll discover that the barrier to their success is you.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Hate your boss? Learn to Manage Up!

September 21, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager. ”

-Bob Nelson

Sorry people, in this post, we’re going to get real. In fact, this is less blog post and more intervention for those of you out there who just can’t get along with your boss.

If you feel you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you, then this article is for you. What you need to know is that there are just some truths you can’t avoid when it comes to the wild and wacky world of work. And it doesn’t get more real than when you have to deal with the boss you despise.

Whether you like it or not, you chose this ship (no one forced you to take that job) and it’s now up to you to navigate the murky waters in which you swim. If you didn’t already know, the most significant factor impacting your job satisfaction is your relationship with your boss. Managing up doesn’t mean sucking up but it does require you to tap into your higher self. The best way to do that is to, well, suck it up and face some cold hard truths.

Cold hard truth #1: Your are expendable. Remember, the most advanced technical skills and content knowledge do not supersede the relationship you have with your boss. That’s a harsh place to start but I felt I needed to first stick your face in a bucket of ice water and wake you up. Now you’re ready to hear the rest.

Cold hard truth #2: Most managers are either overextended, overwhelmed, or downright incompetent. Yup, I said it. Incompetent. That’s because they never learned the art and science of management. They were just thrown into it. While it may be hard, the best approach here is empathy and compassion. Seriously.

Cold hard truth #3: Even if your boss has some serious shortcomings, it’s in your best interest, and it’s your responsibility, to make the relationship work. That’s right. It’s your responsibility, not theirs. Once you get your head around that, you’ll be able to walk the higher ground. And walk the higher ground, you must.

Cold hard truth #4: Your job is to support your boss’ success. Whatever you actual job may be, that’s your real job. It’s not to drag them down, show them up, or step over or around them. This is your mission and you have no choice but to accept it if you want to be successful at your job.

Cold hard truth #5: As much as you’d like to see them crawl back under the rock from which they came, you are going to have to muster up some EQ and nurture your relationship. Get to know them as a person. I’m not saying go ice skating together but you do need to have a sense of them as a person, their motivations and their struggles. Simple questions about them as a human being can a go a long way to building empathy for them as a person.

Cold hard truth #6: Understand their goals. By understanding their goals, you’ll be able to calibrate what you do to what their desired outcomes and objectives are for themselves and the company. Everything you do is directly tied to that.

Cold hard truth #7: It is up to you to find a way to be a genuine source of help. That means being the most effective employee you can be and  creating value for your boss and the company. It doesn’t matter that you hate your job. Remember, you chose your job, it did not choose you.

Cold hard truth #8: You have to educate them on You. Research shows that great managers uncover what’s unique about each person on the team and then exploit it (I mean that in a good way). Instead of having the arrogant expectation that they should know you, help them uncover what’s great about you.  Tell them your strengths, your struggles, how you deal with pressure and conflict and what lights your fire. Help them help you.

Cold hard truth #9: Your boss is not a prescient mind-reader. Learn to communicate proactively and to anticipate their needs. Ask what they need or better yet, do what they need before they have to ask you to do it. Align your needs with their goals. Find their preferred method of communication and use it. If they like to read bullet points, don’t write long rambling emails that frustrate them. Even if they don’t ask, keep them updated on your projects and progress. And if your boss is a micromanager, the more outgoing information you convey, they less they will ask about what’s happening.

Cold hard truth #10: You may have to help your boss become a better leader. I know that’s so hard to swallow when you think or know you could do it better yourself. John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up” says that great leaders have established the three Cs necessary to become an influential leader – competency, credibility and confidence. Your boss may lack one or all three. Help to support their weaknesses and you will reap the rewards.

Before you go…

Remember how at the top we acknowledged that you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you.  Well, maybe you are. And maybe, you should give your boss some credit for that. The best leaders make every attempt at building their organizations with people who are brighter and more talented than they are. This is a laudable practice that should be admired by workers, not resented.

Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship, there may come a time when you’ve lost your boss’s trust. It happens. And while it may take some diligent effort on your part, it is possible to put the relationship back on track.  Be mindful. Be grateful. Be patient. Have a good attitude. Be positive. Do the best job you can do. If your work doesn’t speak for itself, or if it does and isn’t being recognized, rather than act out, move on honorably and look for a better fit.

Good luck.


Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

May 30, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed

“People leave their supervisors, not their companies” ~ Unknown

Stress-producing bosses are not just bad for productivity, morale, loyalty, and engagement. They are literally bad for your heart.

In a large-scale study of over 20,000 employees conducted at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees.

The study also found that the stress of belonging to hierarchies itself is linked to disease and death. The lower someone’s rank in a hierarchy, the higher their chances of cardiovascular disease and death from heart attacks.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize your impact on those around you. No matter where you are in the org chart, from first level manager to CEO, your efforts and attitude impact your team.

Gallup calls this the “Cascade Effect” – that is to say, engagement at one level impacts the morale of those below you in your organization.

Performance is Personal Before it is Organizational

Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. You could probably add a few more to the list based on your own observations.

I’ve personally seen this pattern repeat itself time and time again: The issues that impede organizational progress the most are the people relationship issues – not the subject matter or the content of the work itself.

That’s because whatever the topic – revenue generation, customer service, or business results – it requires collaboration, communication, and coordination by people to move the ball forward.

It is the people that must understand and embrace the mission. It is the people who must be empowered to act on it. And most importantly, it is the people who must develop productive working relationships to advance the project.

Negative work environments increase stress. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.

3 Characteristics of a Positive Work Environment

Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Supervision is not just about ensuring task completion. As a boss, it’s imperative that you create a positive and healthy work culture for your team. In fact, this should be on every supervisorial job description.

Here are three ways to foster a positive work environment:

1.      Demonstrate Empathy – defined as the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others, empathy is more than mere sympathy. It is a key part of social and emotional intelligence critical to being an effective leader. Transformational leaders show their teams that they care about their needs and achievements. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy. So do active listening skills. Good listeners foster trust which in turn fosters greater engagement. Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, and other professional development opportunities.

2.      Show Gratitude – Show appreciation for your team members as a routine part of your day-to-day interactions. Act on the belief that employees will do their best if their contributions to the team are recognized. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Criticizing employees publicly can create a sense of embarrassment among all who are present and diminish their respect for you as a leader.

3.      Reinforce Purpose – Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Research shows that employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees. They are also healthier, happier and more productive. Explain to employees exactly where they fit into the company structure and how they contribute to the success of the business. Institutionalize purpose driven conversations.

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to design work that better serves people, organizations and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your cardiovascular health.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



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Crouching Leader, Hidden Agenda: 10 Signs Your Boss Is A Toxic Egomaniac

January 15, 2015 • 8 minute read • by Saeed

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

– Lao Tzu – 


65% of Americans feel the same way.

A venomous boss will likely jeopardize your career growth and impact your personal life. A study conducted by Baylor University, calls this the “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

To be sure, good leadership is hard to find (and harder than it looks). A good manager will help you thrive and bring out the best in you. Conversely, bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. In a 2007 study, Bennet Tepper, professor of management and human resources at Ohio State, found that nearly 14% of US workers are subject to abusive superiors. Because of the damage mean bosses inflict on workers’ self esteem and productivity levels, Tepper estimates that abusive supervision costs  companies $23.8 billion a year.

It’s important to identify the signs of an emerging messianic leader early on, before you get too involved (especially if you spot them during the job interview) because your boss will eventually crush all happiness you may be clinging to and short-circuit your career prospects.

To help you recognize and buffer yourself from these Leviathans, here are 10 signs that your boss is a toxic egomaniac:

  1. They have XL signatures: A study by a business school at the University of North Carolina analyzed the signatures of more than 600 American CEOs and found that the bigger the CEO’s signature, the more likely they’ll have an extremely high opinion of themselves. According to the study, oversized signatures are a sign of over-bloated egos and narcissism, and guess what… narcissists tend to be appalling decision-makers and managers. So, your boss could quite literally be signing your career away. For the record, the CEO with the largest signature in the study was Timothy Koogle, who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001.
  2. They don’t know when to quit: Managers that are there every day before their staff arrives and are the last ones to leave have a problem and need to get a life. There is a way to be productive and it’s not through burning yourself and your staff out. They either don’t know how to manage their own time or how to delegate effectively.
  3. They take credit for your work: A good manager is concerned with developing the people who work for them. They encourage people to develop their strengths. They offer training and professional development and constructive feedback (vs. criticism). They provide big picture input so that their employees understand the company as a whole, not just their piece of it. They bring them along and set them up for success. They stand alongside their employees rather than upon their shoulders.
  4. They are all about their own power: Bad bosses are on a power trip. They flaunt their title, act like they’re above it all, remain distant from the rank and file and cannot side step their own egos. Their power-centered authoritarian leadership style is the antithesis of what Robert K. Greenleaf coined as “servant leadership’ – those leaders that focus primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and communities to which they belong and serve rather than their own Selves.
  5. They don’t know how to empower: Rather than encourage and support their employees towards higher levels of performance, toxic bosses attempt to shame, blame and humiliate their employees into submission. In his provocatively titled book The No Asshole Rule, Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, advocates for companies to establish a rule to screen out toxic bosses and bullying behavior which impact morale and productivity. Two tests are specified for recognition of the asshole:
  • After encountering the person, do people feel oppressed, humiliated or otherwise worse about themselves?
  • Does the person target people who are less powerful than him/her?
  1. They have a hidden agenda: In a nutshell, the toxic boss has an objective to meet at your expense. If you find yourself not invited to important meetings you are qualified to attend, given performance reviews that seem out of whack, given feedback that is incongruent with your actual performance, or constantly having to read between the lines, there is likely a hidden agenda at play.
  2. They rule through manipulation: The archetypal manipulative personality is the narcissist (see: #1). Sitting nicely alongside the narcissist is the martyr, the passive-aggressive, the paranoid, the insecure and the control freak. Through their shrewd machinations, these personality types convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests. They need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others.
  3. They are all or nothing: Egomaniac bosses view challenges to their reign as akin to treason. You are either with them or against them. Unless you stroke their ego 24/7, you are the enemy. They demand blind loyalty and allegiance to their vision and they meet defectors from that vision with swift punishment.
  4. They are often charming: It is common for toxic traits to be hidden behind a mask of charisma. Toxic leaders are actors playing a role to overshadow their personal shortcomings. In fact, since toxic leaders often lack substance, their charisma and fear mongering is likely what has propelled them forward in their career . This points to a more disturbing trend within organizations:  as long as they are achieving results, we ignore the methods by which those results were achieved.
  5. They divide in order to conquer: Operating on the premise that competition fuels productivity, toxic bosses pit individuals and teams against each other creating seething swamps of resentment and back-stabbing. Nice! On the other hand, experienced managers discourage internal competition in favor of external competition. They encourage employees to channel their rivalry towards the competition rather than at each other. Poisonous leaders create divisions amongst their employees and sap their strength and creativity.

Detox or Depart?

If you have a toxic boss, you have to first decide: should I stay or should I go? Sometimes, leaving is the best option. If leaving is not an option, you have to learn to communicate assertively and set clear boundaries. Remember  that you have the right to be treated with respect. You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and wants. You have the right to set your own priorities and to say “no” without feeling guilty. You have the right to have opinions different than others and most importantly, you have the right to protect yourself from physical, mental or emotional harm.

There is good news in all of this. Companies are catching on to the high price of their bad hires and they are getting better at screening out these poisonous personality types. Remember Timothy Koogle with the oversized signature who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001? It appears he has not held a meaningful job since then.

Good Luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.