For Boss's Day: Seven traits of a "World's Best Boss"

Happy Boss's Day to all you bosses out there! In honor of the occasion, I reflected on all of the people who have bossed me around throughout my life (very few of whom were my employers, yuk-yuk). Seriously, at every stage of my working life, my best bosses had some or all of these character traits.

No. 1 - He's a mentor-teacher. We learn from good bosses, whether we're a 16-year-old high school student adjusting to the foreign concept of "employment," an associate in a law firm learning how the legal world really works as opposed to the theory taught in law school, a journeyman trying to become a master welder, or a coordinator acquiring the skills and knowledge to move into a management role.

No. 2 - She expects ethical conduct from her staff, and she leads by example. Her priorities are pride in good work and serving customers, clients, or the public honestly and well. She expects the same from her team, who are inspired by her own practice. She feels a moral obligation to do the right thing by her employees.

No. 3 - He respects individual differences and talents. He understands that he doesn't have a team of Tweedledums and Tweedledees. Instead, he realizes that each of his employees is an individual with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses. He encourages his employees to move in the direction of their strengths, and helps them in a constructive way to overcome or at least minimize their weaknesses, which may include drawing on the complementary strengths of others.

No. 4 - She listens. Yes, the buck stops with her, but she seeks, hears, and respects the opinions of her employees. She often adopts their ideas (giving due credit to them, of course).

No. 5 - He shows appreciation. Whenever he has the opportunity, he'll show his employees that he appreciates their contributions, and if he can't do it in a tangible way ("Sorry, guys, Corporate says we can only give 0.5 percent increases this year"), he'll do it in intangible ways, like saying "thank you," and "great job." Needless to say, he gives credit for team accomplishments to the team, not to himself.

No. 6 - She uses mistakes as learning experiences rather than opportunities to cast blame. When a good employee makes a mistake, the good boss won't point fingers but will accept responsibility as the leader of the team and focus on "how can we avoid having this problem occur in the future?" Although she may have her own ideas about how to do that, she'll also seek the advice of the employee who made the mistake, and will respect that employee's suggestions - she may even adopt them.

No. 7 - He doesn't expect to get a present from his employees on Boss's Day.  :-)

For you cynics, here's a not-so-rosy view of Boss's Day.

This was mildly amusing, as well.


If you're a third-party provider of home-care workers, please do read this update that I wrote with Ellen Kearns, co-chair of our Wage and Hour Practice Group. The November 12 enforcement date will be here before we know it!

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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