Magazine article USA TODAY

Being a Good Boss in Bad Times. (Management)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Being a Good Boss in Bad Times. (Management)

Article excerpt

Push can come to shove for good managers when orders drop 50% or the economy slides into a recession, and downsizing becomes unavoidable. "There's a difference between being a good boss and being popular," argues John E. Lillich, professor emeritus of organizational leadership and supervision, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. "In fact, managers who do things to be popular are likely to find reduced efficiency, and it doesn't make them popular, either."

The key to being a good boss in bad times begins early. "You always want to hire doers and starters, the best people you can--even if they're so good that they're probably not going to stay for a long period. The best people will have a beneficial effect in the company or organization, even in a short time on the job, by raising the level of performance of those around them."

A good boss builds a foundation of trust in the good times that will stand the organization in good stead when bad times inevitably come, notes Lillich. "Understand that management's primary job is to establish standards for individual jobs, measure performance against those standards, and take corrective action. Good managers train their subordinates; retrain them, if necessary; transfer people who aren't performing well; and, as a last resort, dismiss those who can't or don't measure up. The good manager should, in his daily interchanges, be considerate, cheerful, and optimistic; provide positive support; and make it a point to know and get along well with the support staff."

A good manager keeps his or her employees informed about the big picture--the company's place in its industry and about both opportunities and potential problems ahead. It is important that he or she doesn't put down or lay blame on upper-management, even with friends in the organization. Doing this undermines the credibility of the entire management structure. …

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