Weatherford Democrat


September 2, 2008

Dealing with a boss with bad behavior

When U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski came in second place to Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva at the Olympics, many coaches would have praised her for coming in second only to a world champion who won 14 consecutive major competitions since 2003. But instead her coach Rick Suhr blasted her by dismissing her accomplishment with the words: “It’s the same old, same old,” and even NBC commentators were shocked by his accusatory words, asking: “Didn’t she just win the silver medal? Where’s the joy?”

Well, Suhr is an example of the bad boss who uses negative put-downs and withdrawing approval to get an employee — or an athlete in this case — to do better. But using destructive criticism is definitely not the most effective way to motivate anyone to achieve, according to workplace relationships expert Gini Graham Scott, author of the best-selling book “A Survival Guide to Wroking with Bad Bosses,” published by AMACOM. In fact, Scott points out, “Disparaging someone who has done well may have a negative effect in the future, causing the person to become discouraged or resentful, as well as undermining their self-esteem, thereby contributing to a subsequent poor performance. Such a coach is like the abusive parent who is continually belittling his or her offspring for not measuring up, and even dog trainers know that you don’t get the best performance out of the dog with angry shouts and kicks. And when an athlete doesn’t perform as well as hoped in the future, the critical coach is apt to blame the athlete, rather than his or her own non-supportive behavior.”

Unfortunately, there are many bad bosses, as well as coaches like that, as Scott describes in Working with Bad Bosses. Such bosses are only too quick to criticize employees, emphasizing what they have done wrong, rather than showing them how to improve in the future. And even good dog trainers know that this positive approach is what works well, when they praise a dog for trying its best and provide treats as a reward, motivating the dog to try to do even better.

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