Office Inflation: the Boss Who Gives Lots of Praise

It's better to work under a low-feedback manager than for one who gives praise but little direction.

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Michael Wade
Consider two bosses:

Boss A is reserved, rarely gives praise, demands that people meet production and quality standards, has increasingly high expectations, and gets rid of people who cannot do the job. Boss A will tell you in words of one syllable if there is a problem with your performance. Boss A does not suffer fools gladly but, if you are performing well, you'll be left alone.

Boss B is friendly, gives lots of praise, is flexible on production and vague on quality standards, has comfortable expectations, and rarely fires poor performers. Boss B dislikes confrontation and expects you to read the indirect signals of displeasure if there is a problem with your performance. While Boss B will never make you uneasy, there is a lot of management by crisis.

For whom would you rather work?

The advantage of working for Boss A, of course, is you know where you stand. Moreover, you won't have to shoulder the workload of coworkers who aren't performing because Boss A will either turn them around or fire them. You can take pride in working on a team that produces and you may learn a lot about anticipating and heading off problems. You can be sure that any praise you receive has not been devalued through inflation.

Unfortunately, far too many new supervisors slip into Boss B mode. They equate being demanding with being cruel, unpleasant, or uncaring. They seek an arrangement with the employees in which neither side demands too much from the other. In their quest to be kind, they can create a highly demoralizing environment for those who are looking for challenging and meaningful work.

Strive for a blend, but if you have to pick, go with Boss A.

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.