I owe a lot to this man, whom we shall refer to as His Royal Pettiness. He had the misfortune of being my boss once upon a time, and from his conduct I picked up a few points on how not to manage staff.
- Abhor the pettiness. Do not sweat the little stuff. Be the big man in staff interactions. Don’t bring up past slights in a staff discussion, it always makes you look smaller.
- Avoid (petty) threats. A petty manager may resort to any number of implied threats, such as denying a raise in salary or even what appears to be a wildly implausible threat like summary dismissal. The weaker the manager, the harsher these threats. Having to threaten staff implies that one has failed as a manager.
- Never compare. Odious comparisons usually do not work, and almost always demotivate staff.
- Lead from the front. This one is a gem. His Royal Pettiness often had no idea what his staff were up to, clearly because he had not done his homework. He was therefore often reduced to sulking it out while we had long technical discussions.
- Avoid the almighty sulk. While we understand that you are upset, it is a lot more productive if you express your frustration verbally – and direct your staff in finding a solution.
- Don’t claim minor perks and deny your staff the same privilege. This is outrageous, yet it is amazing how a weak boss may find it fulfilling to assert his power by withholding a subsistence allowance from staff.
- Don’t burn bridges. His Royal Pettiness never networks with his (former) staff. This may be due to performance anxiety with having to engage with each other on a level playing field, minus the power relationship. A man who does this, I would say, is a poor, emasculated excuse for a man.
- Never assume. Ask for clarity. It is a given that a petty person always jumps to the worst possible conclusion. If an email is ambiguous, don’t let it stay that way; request additional information.
- Don’t bring the missus to work. A boss that brings his spousal issues to work has to be one of the worst possible experiences. Bad bosses tend to have pretty bad relationships, generally.
- And in conclusion, avoid the pettiness. There is no greater rule to being a boss than truly being the larger person, a true leader.