If you have had several terrible bosses in a row, you might despair of ever working for a great one. Be reassured, though, that great bosses do exist! I searched for people willing to describe what made their great bosses so excellent. Here are their stories.
“My best boss was Craig Duran, Cheese Specialist, HEB. He was fun, diplomatic, patient, encouraging, and fair. He worked with us (the cheese specialists) in getting us to a place where we could run the show on our own. There was no micromanaging. He put trust and faith in our abilities to run the cheese shop and it paid off. We ranked in the top five of the company and often took the number one spot. He gave us the credit and rewarded us. He allowed us to be our best and encouraged us to do what we thought was best for our department and backed us up when there were questions. He was supportive and understanding. The cheese specialists were all moms. So we each had to work around each other’s schedule to make sure we had coverage and he let us do that without stepping in and forcing us to work what he thought was fit. He knew we knew the business. He believed in us. We were a team. He was a leader and a supportive one. He also has a fantastic sense of humor and it made work something to look forward to. I only stuck around the company for about a year after he changed stores. The dynamic in the department changed drastically when he left. I miss working for him and if I could have followed him to his new store when he transferred, I would have done so.”
Leticia Sanchez, Former Cheese Specialist, HEB
“My boss is Luis Salinas. He is a big advocate for taking care of yourself. I had to miss six hours a week for two months for iron infusions. My boss allowed me to make up the time instead of using up all my sick and vacation hours by a combination of coming in early when possible and taking shorter lunches. The same for appointments for my kids or times when someone is feeling yucky or anything else that is less than a half-day off.”
Liz Baker, Program Specialist, Texas Education Agency
“My boss is Andrew Jarvis, AIA, LEED AP. Andy is a true pleasure to work with. He is always open to good ideas, no matter where they come from, and he is always appreciative of his staff’s efforts. He is supremely even-tempered, even under pressure. When my mother was battling cancer, he had no problem with me working remotely or utilizing flextime. His attitude enabled me to support both my professional and family responsibilities 100%. When job seekers are evaluating employers, they should ask:
- Tell me about a specific way this company helps employees attain work-life balance?
- Is there a program that supports professional development, and are there clear pathways to advancement?
- What is your favorite thing about this company?”
Shani Ferguson, Senior Proposal Coordinator, Healthcare Practice, EwingCole
“My best boss was Mary Ann Grillo. She was a mentor, a boss, and a friend who took the time to get to know each person on her staff (over 50!), what motivated them and where they wanted to go. When things were not going as well as they could be, she would sit down with the person or team and find ways to work together to achieve individual and company goals. She was firm, fair, funny and truly one of the most inspiring women I have ever known. When I landed my dream job and called to tell her, she was not the least bit upset, but truly thrilled for me and worked very closely with me to assist a quick move to meet the needs of my company. She chose to pay me out my vacation, though she didn’t have to, and she threw me a goodbye celebration. She was and is an incredible woman. Perhaps that is why we are still very close. So close, in fact, that I call her mom.”
Brenda Della Casa, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, BadAss + Living
“The boss that I will remember forever was my boss at my first corporate job. What I liked about my boss was that he did not micromanage and would actually take my insight on ideas for improvements. I would feel like I was being valued rather than ignored simply because I was not the boss.
In my experience, the best way for someone to see if their boss would be a nightmare would be to offer them a suggestion about something and see their reaction. If the boss seems reluctant or ignores your suggestion, then you know that your boss is potentially more close minded.”
AJ Saleem, Academic Director, Suprex Tutors Houston
“During my 31 year stint at IBM, I worked for some excellent managers. Brent Reuss always gave me credit when I did something well but he protected me and took the blame when I messed up. Paul Jones went out of his way to give me meaty important assignments where I could prove myself. Christine Colucci treated me like a mature professional, gave me plenty of responsibility, and didn’t over-manage me. There are many good managers out there. If you are in a large company with lots of movement, you can perhaps outlast a bad manager or move to a new department. In a small company with engrained management, you may need to change jobs. To find a good manager, during interviews, talk to people who work with that boss or used to do so. Ask the boss about their management style. Ask what is important to them. If a manager only talks about themselves, they may care little about employees. Ask about their goals. Listen to hear if they talk about developing and empowering others.”
Stan C. Kimer, President, Total Engagement Consulting
“I work at Insureon and report to Brenna Lemieux, the content director of our marketing team. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve had the privilege to know, and her ability to communicate and realize her vision is pretty unmatched in my job experience so far. But what makes Brenna an exceptional boss is that she makes space for everyone on her team. She validates our ideas and concerns, and even when she disagrees, she listens first. And I think that’s the groundwork for a truly collaborative work environment. While I don’t think any single question will necessarily reveal what a potential boss will be like in practice, you might ask them how they encourage collaboration. Brenna has an open door policy – we can come to her any time with ideas and suggestions. I trust that she respects and relies on our input. And even if it’s not a good idea, a good boss will ask questions to better understand your position and create a dialogue instead of giving a knee-jerk or dismissive response.”
Ruth Awad, Content Strategist and Editor, Insureon
“My boss is Erika Taylor Montgomery, founder of Three Girls Media. She started the company 11 years ago to achieve work/life balance, and she makes it a reality for her employees! As a mother of two young children, I love that she makes it possible for me to work a less traditional schedule so I can avoid paying for childcare and be home with my kids during the day. Plus, if something comes up (such as a holiday performance for my daughter), she allows me to change my schedule around or take time off so I can be there for my family, too.
I also love that she really cares about her employees as individuals and wants to do everything she can to help us succeed. Of our current staff, more than half of us (myself included) began as interns and were promoted from within after learning the ropes and thriving in our various roles. Erika stresses that we can always keep learning, and provides opportunities for employees to develop new skills and grow based on our different abilities and interests. She also created a company culture that emphasizes team work as a top priority. I recommend these questions for job seekers:
- What opportunities are there for advancement and growth?
- What kind of atmosphere can I expect in this department?
- What sort of team building events or exercises does your company employ?
- Who will be my direct supervisor? How often will I work directly with them?
- Who on the staff would I be working with and how often?
- How often will I receive feedback on my work?
- How do you recognize employees that achieve your business’ goals?”
Emily Sidley, Senior Director of Publicity, Three Girls Media, Inc.