The Importance of Working for a Boss That Supports You
Your boss has a lot of influence on your performance at work. Imagine working for a boss who terrifies you, or one who is too demanding.
They only care about the bottom line and do not give two hoots about you as a person.
They do not encourage you, give you any recognition for a job well done, or even provide any guidance when the job is not satisfactory.
You are never quite sure whether this boss is pleased with your performance when you have done good work.
When you provide unsatisfactory results, instead of guiding you or explaining what you can do better, all they do is get angry and reprimand or punish you in some way.
How would you feel working for such a person? Would you enjoy your work? Would you be loyal to such a boss?
Now, once again imagine working for a supportive boss who appreciates your work, encourages you and takes the time to give you guidance on how to get even better at your job.
With such a boss, you are more likely to enjoy your work and become even more productive at work.
In today’s article, we are going to shine a spotlight on the critical issue of bosses at work and explain exactly why having a supportive boss is key for you to thrive at your job.
1. LONGEVITY AT YOUR JOB
People in HR circles have long known that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.
This is of course not a totally accurate representation of why people leave their jobs – people do leave companies which have toxic cultures, are unethical, or which don’t pay their employees well.
A Gallup study found that 32% of people who voluntarily change their jobs do it for career advancement opportunities, 22% for better pay and benefits, 20% because they feel they are not a good fit for the job, 17% because of the management or general work environment, 8% due to scheduling, and 2% due to job security.
While management, in this case, only accounts for 17%, one could also argue that most of the other factors are actually things the boss could have altered.
Your boss in most cases has the power to make decisions on matters like salaries and benefits, promotions, job security, and flexible scheduling.
When a boss is supportive, employees are less likely to feel like they don’t fit in their position.
If an employee is experiencing feelings of impostor syndrome, a supportive boss will help them see exactly what value they bring to the company.
Sometimes, that is all employees need to be motivated and give their all at their jobs. When people feel valued, they develop intrinsic motivation.
They no longer work for prizes such as promotions and bonuses. Instead, the motivation turns inward and they start to work for the sheer pleasure and pride of doing an outstanding job.
They feel as if they are doing something meaningful and impactful. They feel as internally motivated as artists are when making their creations.
This is exactly what people should feel when doing their jobs. It draws out the best from them. They see themselves as consummate professionals doing their job the best way it can be done.
The harder they work, the better they get at their jobs.
The more skillful they get, the more they enjoy their work.
Cal Newport explores this concept in his book So Good That They Can’t Ignore You, where he explains that a high level of skillfulness is a better predictor of job satisfaction than passion.
This is a snowball effect that resulted from one management trait – supportiveness.
The more supportive a boss is, the more you as an employee are going to enjoy your job, and the more you enjoy your job, the better you get at doing your job, and that makes you enjoy your job even more.
It’s a virtuous cycle that has one big benefit for both you and the company – you are less likely to quit your job.
This is especially true of millennials who are highly likely to quit their jobs, even ones that they like. If your boss creates an environment where you are able to thrive, and makes you feel that you belong, that you provide value, you will be more likely to show loyalty to the company.
Nobody likes quitting, but sometimes bad bosses leave us with no option.
2. DIALOGUE OPENS UP OPPORTUNITIES
When the boss is unsupportive, most employees shut off.
They only talk with their colleagues, but avoid talking in the presence of the boss or interacting with the boss unless it is absolutely necessary.
As a result, such employees fail to shine in the work place.
Their self-induced introversion keeps them from sharing their ideas, even when their unique views may save the company money or prevent certain problems from occurring.
Since they rarely speak up, their brilliance goes unnoticed and their strengths remain undiscovered, their incredible potential untapped.
The result is that such employees’ careers stagnate.
They don’t get promoted as often as they should, and not because they are undeserving, but only because of their reticence.
The reason for their inability to speak up is their unsupportive boss who does not encourage dialogue and communication.
Employees tend to follow their boss’s lead. If the boss was supportive, that would open up lines of communications between him/her and the employees.
Frequent dialogue with our boss enables us to reveal ourselves. The more we speak up and ask questions and share our ideas, the more we reveal our strengths, the best parts of ourselves.
Some of those strengths may be beneficial to the organization, and our superiors will notice this and sooner or later promote us.
Unsupportive bosses, on the other hand, prevent us from advancing because they stifle our desire to share our ideas.
They lead us to believe that anything we say will be shut down or ignored, so why bother?
If you want to have a swift career progression, a supportive boss is your best bet, because they encourage dialogue that opens up opportunities for you to shine and show your brilliance.
3. SUPPORTIVE FEEDBACK HELPS YOU IMPROVE
The purpose of a boss is not merely to watch over you.
You are a full grown adult person, not a school kid. If those two sentences sound a bit confrontational and aggressive, it’s because that is exactly the kind of resentful sentiments that employees bear towards their unsupportive boss.
People want to feel like they are making progress. They want to know that they are improving, that they are getting better and better at their jobs.
Absent of such feedback, employees start doing their jobs halfheartedly. They don’t give their all. They don’t care about doing their job right, only getting done.
A supportive boss creates a highly productive work culture.
When you are excelling, such a boss does not hesitate in letting you know, and not just to praise you, but also to let you know what good work is supposed to look like so that you can replicate the steps you took and achieve similar results again.
Such a boss will be sure to tell you exactly what you did right and how or why that led to good results.
Without this kind of feedback, new employees will usually have a really long learning curve. Employees with supportive bosses learn faster.
As a result, companies that have supportive bosses are more likely to attract and retain great talent. Furthermore, such companies have a competitive advantage due to the faster learning rate.
Nowadays, with technology growing so rapidly and skills becoming obsolete so fast, the ability to learn new skills fast is more important than ever.
If you want to learn fast and quickly reach your highest levels of skill and productivity, you are better off with a boss who will give you honest and incisive feedback that will let you know what to maintain or change in your approach.
Life is unpredictable. Sometimes things in our private lives do spill over into our work life.
I’m talking about things such as illness, trouble with your children, or any other life problems that intrude into your work time and pull you away.
Without an understanding and supportive boss, it can be really hard for us to cope with such situations or make things work.
When you are ill, does your boss willingly give you sick leave or does he/she feel like you are stealing from the company?
Sick leave is the right of every employee, but there are some bosses who will react with passive-aggressive behavior that indirectly informs you getting sick on company time is not an option.
This can be very demoralizing even for the most dedicated employees, since falling sick is not something we choose, but rather something out of our control.
If you have children and are required to see their teachers for something important, does your boss understand, or have they created an environment where that is not an option?
Such inflexibility can be stifling and frustrating.
In contrast, a supportive boss is flexible and understanding.
When life throws unexpected and unavoidable circumstances at you, the supportive boss will sit down with you and devise a plan on how you are going to recover the lost time.
5. JOB SECURITY
No one likes uncertainty, especially prolonged uncertainty. It’s impossible for most people to function well under conditions where they are highly uncertain about their future.
Unfortunately, this is what every day working for an unsupportive boss feels like.
Every day, you are asking yourself questions like “What am I doing here? What is my future here? Is my work acceptable? Am I a good fit for this organization? Is the boss going to promote me or pass me over again?”
For some, job security is so important that they will quit a high-paying but insecure job for one that pays less but where they feel safe about their future.
A supportive boss provides a feeling of safety.
You don’t have to constantly worry about losing your job so long as you are pulling your weight.
Since a supportive boss has opened up lines of communication with his/her employees, you are more confident talking to such a boss and can ask them questions which give you a good indication of your future at the company.
6. A LISTENER
Most of the problems that cause employees to quit their jobs could be easily solved if employers, managers, and supervisors only learned how to listen.
Most bosses don’t listen to what their employees have to say. If they do, they ignore it.
However, it is not listening exactly that is the greatest problem.
The greatest problem is the fact that opportunities for speaking up and being listened to are not available in the first place.
Unsupportive bosses create an environment that makes their employees wary of speaking up.
These are the bosses who treat the workplace like a military base. They worship the chain of command and authoritativeness. They hate to be questioned, or as they usually phrase it, to be “ambushed”.
In such an environment, employees keep their grievances to themselves and let them fester, resulting in a hostile, toxic environment.
A good metaphor of this is a room where the windows are never opened. All manner of odors accumulate in the room, poisoning the air, slowly making everyone in the room sick.
That is what happens in a workplace where people are not allowed to air out their grievances. The environment becomes poisonous and warps the spirits of everyone working there.
This is hardly an environment you want to work in.
The inability to speak up at work inevitably leads to a toxic work environment because employees’ feelings are suppressed.
When people can’t express themselves verbally, they find other ways of doing it. For some, this manifests itself in shoddy work. Some start coming to work late.
Others start bullying their subordinates. Some take up unproductive habits during work times. The culture of the whole team or organization becomes compromised.
Every employee deserves a boss who will listen to what they have to say, even if some of their suggestions or complaints might not addressed.
Sometimes, just being given the opportunity to express yourself is enough and can contribute to a better working environment.
7. MISTAKES ARE UNDERSTOOD TO BE MISTAKES
We all make mistakes. It’s natural part of being human.
Nobody is perfect, and in the course of your work, it is inevitable that you will make a mistake here or there.
Expecting a person to never make any mistakes in their job is unrealistic. Yet it often feels like this is what some bosses expect from their employees – perfection.
Unfortunately, perfection is impossible. While there are some mistakes that might be too costly, bosses should generally not create an environment where people are afraid to own up to their mistakes.
In such an environment, employees become less willing to take initiative or take risks.
They play it safe and stick to tried and tested ways of doing things, even when there are other ways of doing things that could potentially make processes more efficient or effective.
The strengths and brilliance of talented individuals remain obscure and there are no creative breakthroughs. Remember, mistakes are a part of the creative process.
Furthermore, in a workplace that demonizes mistakes, people will refuse to own up to their mistakes and try to pass on the blame to others.
This creates an environment of mistrust and disharmony, which is bad for the organization. It creates a toxic working environment.
A supportive boss understands that mistakes are an inevitable part of learning and takes them to be just that – mistakes. They don’t hold mistakes against you or berate you endlessly. They create an environment where employees do not cower in fear when they make a mistake. They are not afraid to come directly to the boss and report the mistake.
This way, the error is fixed in time, before the repercussions compound and become too costly.
An environment where employees are able to take responsibility for their actions is rare, and people who work in such spaces are very reluctant to leave.
Sometimes they may even be willing to stay on, in spite of being offered better pay and position in another organization.
8. LEADS BY EXAMPLE
A supportive boss understands a fundamental truth of human psychology: that people are more likely to follow a leader who leads.
Leading implies being ahead while others follow.
In other words, a leader is one who provides an example for others to copy.
Ancient, medieval, and tribal societies understood this wisdom perfectly. Kings and leaders of the communities were always warriors.
Those who could not lead in war were not deemed worthy to rule. This is a concept known as having “skin in the game” and is adequately discussed in Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s book Skin In The Game.
Skin in the game in leadership means putting yourself in a position of vulnerability in order to show your followers that you are willing to put in the work and take risks for the greater good.
This inspires them to in turn take risks and work hard at their tasks, mirroring your courage and industry.
Therefore, a supportive boss will endeavor to lead by example, not merely by lecturing. Such a boss will arrive on time, maybe even earlier than the rest of the staff.
This boss will work longer hours, take a pay cut when employees are taking a pay cut, join in the general fun when the company goes out for teambuilding activities, obey the same workplace rules that employees have to obey…
Such a boss inspires tremendous loyalty and respect in his/her employees, the same way the troops in a medieval king’s army were ready to die for a king who risked his life and showed courage in a battle, fighting side by side with his men.
Who wouldn’t want to work for a boss like that?
At the Oscars, when actors are receiving their awards, it is almost a given that they will present a list of people who they wish to thank, people who they feel were instrumental in their win.
This is the spirit of teamwork.
No one achieves greatness on their own, but helpers tend to get lost in the footnotes of history.
This is a common problem even in the workplace.
Take for instance when you have a project in your department or unit and you have been working on it for several months, a select team of talented members each bringing value to the enterprise.
All team members were critical for the victory, but your boss takes all the credit – how does that make you feel?
Bad bosses hog all the credit, where they can, as if they did all the work by themselves. They are egotistical and do not view employees as people who have their own hopes and dreams. They do not realize or ignore the fact that we are all desirous of recognition, that no one likes to work hard and watch as someone else gets all the accolades.
Supportive bosses understand that people need that clap on the back after they have done a good job. They are not afraid to share credit with their team.
In fact, such bosses relish it because they know this is the way to build a resilient and loyal team.
It is the best way to retain great talent in the organization.
Great talent is ambitious and proud – such employees refuse to settle where their contributions are not appreciated.
Supportive bosses give them the recognition they desire and that helps ensure they stay loyal to the organization.
Having a supportive boss is good for your mental wellbeing. You get to enjoy peace of mind, the workplace environment is not toxic, and you are not afraid to speak up.
You are not afraid to make mistakes. You are not afraid to share your ideas. You are not afraid to air your grievances. You are not afraid to ask for sick leave or to close for the day earlier because of something urgent and unexpected that came up.
When working for a supportive boss, you are more likely to get better at your job and become more productive. You are more likely to enjoy your job.
In fact, employees working for a supportive boss are more likely to advance in their careers compared to those working for unsupportive bosses.
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