Difficult Bosses

By Melany Hallam

Have you ever worked for someone who always seemed to be hanging over your shoulder telling you what to do and then criticizing how you did it?

People love to complain about their bosses and fantasize about quitting their jobs to get away from a particularly annoying one. But here’s a radical thought: what if your boss’s beef with you is legit?

When your boss owns the business that you’re working for, they have a much greater stake in its success than you do. There are a lot of factors that employees don’t consider or situations that they may be completely unaware of. For example:

• Business reputation. In the Netflix series Girlboss, episode four is about a difficult customer who absolutely needs to receive her eBay dress order before her wedding.

The crazy lengths the business owner went to in order to avoid a bad online review were epic – and would never have been undertaken by a mere employee. When your business is your livelihood and all of your money and time has been invested in it, every customer is important. Your reputation can be destroyed so easily, especially in a small town like Powell River, where word of mouth (or FaceBook) is all!

So if your boss chews you out for being surly or slow with a customer, there’s a good reason for that kind of behaviour.

• The bottom line/productivity. Has your boss ever been after you to get more work done in a day or to do one particular task right away rather than when you’re feeling inspired to do it?

When you own a business, time literally is money. Prioritizing work and finding more efficient ways of getting things done can be the difference between a profit or a loss each month.

A business owner will pay their employees no matter what (if they are ethical), but they won’t pay themselves unless they can afford to take money out of the business.

A business owner can’t survive constant losses, so working on the bottom line is key. Often, however, focusing on production feels more like excessive pressure to perform from an employee’s point of view. If this is happening to you, raise the issue with your boss and work together on a realistic plan.

• Safety regulations. Don’t like wearing a hard hat, or taking the time to hook up a safety line?

Besides leaving yourself open to injury, you can also create a regulatory nightmare for your boss. Surprise inspections from WorkSafeBC are not unheard of and dealing with the paperwork and penalties that come with being written up for safety violations can take valuable time away from doing actual work. It can also damage a company’s reputation significantly.

• Business owners love their work. Sometimes people will start a business because they fell into it by accident, but more often than not a business owner just plain loves their work.

It’s difficult for someone who feels that way to understand an employee who doesn’t care about quality or doing things right. Inevitably, conflict arises. If your boss says things like, “Are you happy with that work you just finished?” or even asks you to re-do something, that’s very likely where he’s coming from (not from a burning need to torture you).

Even if you’re just doing a job for the summer, it’s good manners to treat your employer’s work with respect. It can improve your working relationship and you may even learn something useful – even if it’s just how to get a good reference for your résumé.

Powell River is full of successful small businesses and it’s very likely that you’ll end up working for one of them at some point. If you like a job enough, you may even start your own business someday. So it’s worth taking the time to understand the reasons behind your boss’s “unreasonable” behaviour before condemning him or her. Wouldn’t you want your employee to do the same for you?

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