Bad Boss…..Great Teacher!
I have had many, many years of experience working with a very, very bad boss. He has no people skills. He can not communicate with his employees without ending up in a fight with them. He lied, cheated, and ran all of our good customers off, both big spenders and smaller ones. One would think that this kind of behavior would be a bad influence on people. Sometimes it is easier to lie and cheat in business to get a big payoff. Instead I decided that I would learn from his behavior. I would take his example and in turn learn how not to be!
My position in the company was one that was pretty much directly under him. This enabled me to have some authority in the company. When he would yell an employee I could usually talk to them after and make them feel better. I would have to convince them to stay or simply calm them down. This gave me good people skills. I learned how to treat employees. I learned that if you treat your employees with respect and compassion they will be loyal, hard-working allies. It’s not a difficult concept. Even if they do mess up you can still get your point across without making them want to throw things at the wall, like I have before after fighting with my boss (and I am not a violent person). His extreme inability to handle his employees made me better at managing and communicating with them. It forced me to learn how to handle situations and fix problems, not cause them.
I also learned this same concept with customer relationships. I have seen my boss lie to customers and cheat them just to make a sale. Then, surprise, the customer got mad when they found out and stopped doing business with us. From that, I learned that honesty is always the best policy! He taught me… indirectly… that if you are honest with a customer from the beginning and they still decide to do business you then they will most likely continue to do business with you. I had customers that were his and they actually stopped speaking to him or even answering his emails and would only deal with me. It’s like he couldn’t understand that he was killing our business. It finally got so bad that almost everything he said contained a made up story or a lie. It wasn’t possible to tell the truth for him anymore because he had lied so many times he had got used to it. It was just second nature for him to lie. Again this taught me how I did not want to be. He has ended up almost totally alone, and unhappy because he has finally made everyone mad and want to leave. This was one of the biggest lessons because it showed me how through the years his bad behavior towards his employees and his customers has not only lost him business, but ultimately cost him his business (that he started in 1978). It also showed me the long-term consequences of his actions by seeing what his life is like now and probably always will be. He is 71 years old and has pretty much no hope of starting over. He has no business, no employees, and no customers.
It is always better to do the right thing when it comes to business, and everything really. Honesty and compassion goes a long way. Employees work so much better when they want to, not when they are forced to. Customers come back again and again when they are treated with respect and know they can count on you. All of these are lessons that I have learned because I was shown by my boss what happens if you don’t do these things. It was like seeing my future if I had made the wrong choices. I guess you could say he taught me how to run a successful business in a reverse sort of way. He was definitely a bad boss…. but a great teacher!