5 Scary Boss Behaviors that Cause Quiet Quitting

The ‘No Jerk’ Leader’s Guide to Being a Better Boss

A spooky Halloween Witch summoning courage to go back to work tomorrow because her boss sort of sucks.

Being a leader nowadays is scary. With “quiet quitting” blowing up on social media and people leaving in droves, you want to make sure that you’re not the source of the problem. Here are 5 Scary Boss Behaviors to avoid.

1. You Lose Your Cool.

The most effective leaders know that each time they lose their cool, it destroys trust – the most critical building block of teamwork, performance, and innovation. When people experience verbal abuse, withering looks, or sarcastic tones, it triggers an “amygdala hijack“ — a stress response that robs everyone (including yourself) of the ability to access the “executive” planning and decision-making brain functions they need to do their best work.

Follow these steps when you’re about to lose your cool:

  1. Notice what is happening. The simple act of noticing that your heart rate is elevated, that you’re sweating, or that you’re having trouble finding the right words, can stop the anger arousal cycle from escalating.
  2. Take a breath or a break. Taking a deep breath or consciously relaxing your body is often enough to restore your sense of calm. If not, excuse yourself from the situation to gather your thoughts.
  3. Get curious. One of the best ways to get and stay calm is to get curious about what the other person (or yourself) is thinking and feeling. When you’re genuinely curious, you engage higher brain functions that get you out of your emotional state.

2. You Micromanage.

Leaders often find it difficult to draw the line between micromanaging and normal oversight and support. It’s tempting to blame micromanaging on other people’s failings, but leaders who micromanage do so because of these three gaps in themselves:

  • Skill & Knowledge Gaps: Many leaders have no formal training in people skills like delegation, giving feedback and recognition, or training and coaching their people, so they get mixed results.
  • Systems & Habits Gaps: The best bosses understand that creating the right systems and habits for organizing work in their teams provides better optics, more autonomy, greater efficiency, and better results than having the boss looking over your shoulder at every turn.
  • Mindset Gaps: Leaders who excuse micromanaging because they don’t have time to train, coach and develop their people are being shortsighted. They’re failing to see that it takes significantly more time and causes way more stress to micromanage. When you adopt a “slow down to speed up” mindset, and invest time to develop yourself and the capacity of your people and systems to do the work, you create a virtuous cycle of increasing performance, fulfillment and results.

If you’re guilty of micromanaging, decide which of the above areas you need to work on and take action.

3. You “Fake It ‘til You Make It.”

People expect leaders to have answers – so leaders come by this next scary boss habit naturally. The responsibility to lead your team in finding solutions and achieving goals strays into “scary boss” territory when you feel the need to pretend to know everything. It’s even scarier when you start believing you know everything, or the worst sin of all — when you start taking credit for other people’s knowledge, ideas, and results.

So how do you avoid this bad boss behavior? Great leaders know that acknowledging the limits of their expertise increases how much people trust and respect them. By taking ownership of your own mistakes, you create psychological safety for others to do the same (assuming you don’t then come down on them like a hammer!).

4. You Don’t Listen.

Most leaders think they are great listeners and communicators, but research proves otherwise. According to “The Heard and Heard-Nots report”  by The Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence, 86% of employees feel people at their organization aren’t truly heard. The bottom line? If you think you’re great at listening, you’re probably kidding yourself – at least some of the time.

To truly listen to others, you need to press the pause button on your own opinions, ideas, and judgements. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gives a great mantra for this, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” My mantra for building my own listening skills is to “listen past your comfort zone.”

5. You Focus on Results Over Relationships.

Today’s employees  (yourself included) – are not machines. We’re living beings that need more than Fooz ball tables and Red Bull or having our financial needs met. We need opportunities for learning and growing and acknowledgment that our work matters. More importantly, we need to know that someone at work cares about us as a human being – not just as a human “doing.”

Historically, we’ve been taught that we should leave our personal lives – and our humanity – at the door when we come to work. Not only is that not possible, it’s not healthy or profitable for businesses who wish to retain staff. So much so, that the U.S. Surgeon General was compelled to release a framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being to help leaders understand where to begin and why it matters. If your organization isn’t investing in this area, you’re going to be fighting the war for talent with one arm tied behind your back while other companies take your brightest and best — and deservedly so.

By taking action to address your scary boss behaviors you’ll not only get better performance from your people, you’ll experience greater fulfillment for yourself and end the nightmare of quiet quitting.

If you’d like to learn more about how Kyosei training helps leaders build workplaces that foster higher performance, engagement, well-being and impact, visit: kyoseiconsulting.com.

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