The Tough-Love Advice Our Readers Would Give Their Bosses
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The Tough-Love Advice Our Readers Would Give Their Bosses

If only there was an instruction manual for how to be a good boss in 2024. Well, there is now… kinda. It’s Boss Week at Girlboss and we’re unpacking this very question. Does a good boss look like someone who prioritizes flexibility and transparency? Someone who sets clear professional and personal lines and leaves their ego at the door? If you’ve recently been promoted to a management position and suddenly have a team of people relying on you for *everything*, you’ve probably had your fair share of “what the f*ck am I doing” moments. Well, you’re not alone. We hope that these stories make you feel more equipped to navigate this new (exciting) stage of your career.

A bad boss can seriously ruin a great job. And there are lots of ways that a manager can fail their direct reports—from ignoring their hard work to micromanaging to being unapproachable or uncommunicative. But, in the spirit of recognizing bosses are people too, it’s only fair to let them know where— and how—they can do better. Feedback is, after all, how we grow.

That’s why we asked you—yes you!—to share the most honest advice you’d give your boss without fear of repercussions or blowback. And, whew, did you deliver the truth bombs. Below, advice that ranges from brutal to brilliant. Bosses, listen up.

Be a Fair, Flexible Leader

“Be the boss you needed when you started your career.”

“Be aware of your privileged identities and act mindfully accordingly, especially non-profits doing “DEI” work with mostly white managers supervising BIPOC staff.”

“Don't try to be everyone's friend.”

“Remember that you set the expectations for your employees—your actions speak volumes. Be mindful that your personal ambition doesn’t obscure your empathy for others.”

“Take a second. Deep breath. Your actions and attitude make or break the team. If something makes you upset, take a step back and come back to the conversation when you can answer as a leader.”

“Your insane turnover rate would change if you just cared about your employees’ personal lives more.”

“Listen more. So much time is spent listening to your perspective, and I get you have a lot of experience… but the rest of our voices matter too.”

“Empower all of your employees; not just those who bear the most resemblance to you and your experience.”

“Don't get distracted by all the little tasks that need to be done and are lower priority. Help me prioritize by keeping your eye on the big picture.”

“It would be more productive to allow me time to prepare for a meeting then to spring it on me at the last minute.”

“Don’t require us to advertise the company on our socials! It’s incredibly ridiculous to mandate that we put the company name/our role in our IG bios AND post about it on our Stories. Also, cool it with the texts past 7 p.m. please.”

“You can't pour from an empty cup. Please stop working overtime in order to micromanage little tasks instead of taking on the big tasks that are more important and actually your job. Everyone suffers if their leaders are running on empty, and then projecting their own personal dissatisfaction with themselves onto their employees.”

“Don't take it out on your employees; no need to call names and scream—it's juvenile and does not accomplish anything positive. Just makes you look incompetent. Also, you are not better than everyone else. Be more respectful and kind.”

“You don't need to have all the answers. Lean on your team. That's why we are here.”

Give Informed Feedback

“I wish my boss would give me honest feedback in real time instead of hearing from others two months later that she was harboring resentment about one remark that rubbed her the wrong way. I felt betrayed to discover she didn’t respect me enough to say something in the moment and perhaps use it as a teaching moment on how to better word a frustration.”

“Over-communicate expectations . When something isn’t up to your standard, please reflect on how you could have communicated expectations more thoroughly or if there was something you missed. Many times leaders don’t take ownership regarding expectation-setting.”

“Don't make feedback overly personal—I don't want my family's upcoming move, dating status and other events from my personal life making their way into feedback. Tell me what's wrong, let's talk about how to improve and measure goals, and move on. No need to bring my personal life in as the reason why I've made mistakes.”

“Be honest where you can and kind when you cannot.”

“Don't ask your team for feedback, only to degrade their opinions or not even listen to consider them.”

“It would mean a lot if you did research on ADHD after finding out that I struggle with it! It would also help you understand why my brain works the way it does!!”

“Tailor your management style to the individual employee; I have a different personality and work ethic than my coworker and we can't be managed exactly the same.”

“Give appreciation where it’s due.”

Protect and Value Your Team

“Be an ally for introverts—your team will really benefit from us. Find ways to get feedback and ideas from the more quiet, reserved people on your team. The loud (often extroverted) voices get heard the most, but you need to wake up and realize that quantity (how much you say) doesn't always equal quality. Introverts tend to speak less because we prefer thinking and fleshing our ideas out well before speaking, but we often get easily burned out and turned off by our louder peers.

”Don't make the meeting about you or other employee's private lives.

“Please respect my working hours.”

“Recognize toxic behavior within the department and take feedback when the behavior is brought up to you instead of defending the toxicity.”

“Stop comparing our work life to being a part of a family.”

“Stop hiding. Transparency and clear communication are key. Knowing something is up, without having official statements, hits morale and incentivizes leaving or coworker competition. Hire someone new, or planning to? Let us at least know the position is available. Making major changes to ownership? At least let us know part of the negotiations is to make sure all jobs are safe (or not). But I'm really focusing on the "local," team-based communication. If a new hire is coming in, give us a heads up; don't pick and choose which team members get to be in the know, let us all know.”

“Ask us how WE think our team is feeling about the current work environment.”

“Our 1x1 time is important. Put your phone away, tell your kid you need 30 minutes and walk your dog after, not right before. Late isn’t cute or respectful.”

“Talk less, listen more. It is an easy way to gain trust and respect, while also making sure your team feels heard.”

“Step up to your role. Your employee doing your dirty work for you is tacky and frustrating.”

“Listen! Your title does not make you an expert on all things, especially when you are not the one doing the actual work.”

“You cannot be an effective leader without taking the time to learn exactly what it is that your team does. When you don't understand what we do and what other departments ask of us on a day-to-day basis, you come off as ignorant when you ask us to complete a task that, to you, seems quick and easy, but in reality it could take us hours or even days. Ignorance does not a good leader make.”

“Stop with the micromanaging! It makes me work slower!”

“Learn to regulate your emotions so you don’t make your bad days our bad days.”
Please stop asking “does that make sense?” after explaining something relatively simple. It feels very condescending. Instead, say “let me know if you have any questions/need further explanation,” or just ask “do you have any questions?”

“Step into 2022. I know you have been doing this job for over 20 years but it’s time to flip the switch. Open your mind.”

“Please prioritize giving feedback on the things I send you. It puts me in a standstill waiting.”

“Stop butting in on things that are actually my job and my decision. You've delegated, now walk away.”

“You are a CEO, not a VP of marketing. Maybe you’ve read a few books and articles but that doesn’t give you the expertise it took me 15+ years to develop.”

Pay More

“Times are changing. You have to consider higher wages.”

“Pay me what I’m worth!”

“I wish my boss understood that we all want to make the business successful, and would be more inclined to do so if we had better compensation or equity in the company. Being able to say if we do or don't want to work with someone, and being paid fairly with real benefits are bare minimum requirements, yet feel like a luxury. Instead, we are seriously underpaid, grossly overworked and given a health care stipend that's taxed, so I guess my health concerns will have to wait until I can find a job that gives a fuck about me.”

“Invest in your people as they’re your most important asset.”

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