It’s all about fair and just discipline.

Our news media and politicians are making a big fuss about the large number of Americans who must work under a bad boss. This makes employees’ jobs and the rest of their lives unbearable, and they say the government should do something to stop this.

Are you a “bad boss” or would that apply to any of your supervisors? Wouldn’t you like to see how govenment laws would define a bad boss and how it would enforce a solution? We already have the EEOC, NLRB, OSHA, INS and dozens of state and local laws to protect employees. We are still waiting to see how our government will enforce all of its laws dealing with the large number of illegal aliens in this country!

Putting all of that nonsense aside, let’s take a realistic look at being a good boss and having good bosses on your entire management team.

What Is 'Bad'?

In Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate dictionary, there are seven definitions of the word boss, dealing with cows, raised ornamentation, one who exercises control or authority, and one who directs or supervises workers.

It defines supervising as the “action, process or occupation of supervising - a critical watching and directing of activities or a course of action.”

It does not define a good boss or a bad boss, but it does define the word bad -- “failing to reach an acceptable standard. Unfavorable, morally objectionable, mischievous, disobedient, inadequate or unsuited.” I’m sure most readers would agree with my observation that this definition of “bad” applies to far more employees than bosses.

Webster also defines employee - “one employed by another usually for wages or salary.” This is really the key to what signifies a bad boss or a bad employee.

We refer to this as 8 for 8 (eight hours work for eight hours wages). Do we not deserve a full day’s work for the wages we pay? If you bought a dozen eggs and there were only eleven in the carton, would you not demand the other egg? Would that qualify you as a bad shopper?

You are all aware that most jobsite employees start late, take long coffee breaks, turn a half-hour lunch break into a full hour, and quit early at the end of the day. When your foreman disciplines them and demands a full eight-hour work day, does that make him a “bad boss”? If that foreman put only six and a half or seven hours on those employees’ timecards, he would surely be considered a really bad boss!

The Essentials

Your foreman is using your company money to buy productivity from your workers. If he does not get what you are paying for, I would definitely call that being a bad boss. We are profit-making contractors in a very competitive industry and cannot afford that kind of waste.

But that lost-time issue is only the beginning of your bad employees’ accusations of working for a bad boss:

  • OSHA requires you to provide PPE (personal protective equipment) to every employee who may be exposed to danger. This is for each employee’s personal safety. A foreman who disciplines employees for not wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, a dust mask, a harness with an attached langard, etc., is considered to be a bad boss.

    If your foreman does not discipline safety, OSHA will cite and fine the contractor. That is what I would classify as a bad boss.

  • Many companies provide 10 or 15 minutes pick-up time at the end of each day’s work for employees to pick up all of the expensive company tools, equipment and material. Unfortunately, many bad employees assume that pick-up time means get in your pick-up truck and go home early.

  • When your employee produces poor quality workmanship that does not meet the specifications or your standards and your foreman disciplines him, making him tear it out and do it over, is that a bad boss or a bad employee?

  • Union employees have a copy of their local’s work rules. When they do not abide by those roles and their foreman (who is also a union member) disciplines them, is that a bad boss or a bad employee? When their foreman does not even have those rules or doesn’t enforce them, that is definitely a bad boss.

  • The Unforgivables

    I am not saying that we do not have bad bosses. The above-mentioned short list of justifiable discipline is very necessary for your company to survive and prosper. But the following list of detrimental behavior is very costly and unforgivable. These items definitely would qualify one as a bad boss. That doesn’t mean that boss is a bad person, it only shows that he was not trained in proper leadership or good human relations.

    We have millions of proud and qualified good craftsmen of all trades who become foremen, superintendents, project managers and contractors with zero bossing basics. Their twisted version of the Golden Rule becomes, “Do unto others as others have done unto you”!

    Let’s look at some of those unforsivable sins:

  • We can begin at the top with the owner of the company. By not posting a written chain of command to signify who supervises each employee and following it precisely, it is normal to give orders or discipline to one of your employees who does not work for you. They work for their immediate supervisor, both in the office and on your jobsites.

    Naturally, breaking the chain of command also applies to your entire management team. Any disagreement or alternate solution should always be discussed privately to maintain the employee’s pride and prestige.

  • Any boss (or owner of a small company) who plays favorites or holds grudges can be classified as a bad boss. He must discipline and reward each employee in a fair and just manner, regardless of the personal relationship. As the boss, you must fire your best friend when he or she breaks company policy and give your worst enemy a raise or promotion when he or she earns it. This fairness also applies to giving out easy and difficult job task assignments.

  • Any boss who lies and blames others for his mistakes is definitely a bad boss. Quoting from that old school - if your word is no good, neither are you!

  • Of course, any boss who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a bad boss.

    The solution for preventing any of these unintentional mistakes is basic human relations and leadership training. We do not need our media and government agencies to intervene in our profit-making business, but we must do it ourselves. This assures profit as well as a good reputation.

    Construction is one of the largest industries in America and we are the only one which promotes a blue collar worker to white collar supervision without orientation and proper training.

    Today he is welding pipe or installing fixtures and tomorrow he will be the boss - good or bad? These are called desperation promotions.

    You should look at each of your supervisors' managing style (and examine your own, too), then determine if you would call that the style of a good boss or a bad boss. If it isn’t good, it is very easy to change.

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