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Good Boss In Bad Economy Essay

5852 words - 24 pages

Boss Good
in a Bad Economy
By RoBeRt I. Sutton
■ ■ ■ ■

How to Be a

130 Harvard Business Review

|

June 2009

|

hbr.org

Serge Bloch

T

hese are tough times for every boss I know. Fear and paranoia are running wild, not just in financial markets but in workplaces, too. A few weeks back a weary executive at a professional services firm told me how painful it had been to lay off 10% of his people and how he was struggling to comfort and inspire those who remained. When I asked a mutual friend, the CEO of a manufacturing firm, to “show some love” to this distressed executive, he jumped in to help – but admitted that he was wrestling with his own demons, having just ...view middle of the document...

One techhave long suspected: People who gain clues to their fate. nology sector CEO I’ve worked with for authority over others tend to become » You need to rethink your responyears felt compelled to inform his peomore self-centered and less mindful sibilities in terms of what your ple in writing that not only were no layof what others need, do, and say. That people may lack most in unsettling offs planned but the company would be would be bad enough, but the problem times: predictability, understandhiring a lot more people in the coming is compounded because a boss’s self-abing, control, and compassion. year. Yet, he said, “no matter how much I sorbed words and deeds are scrutinized » By making tough times less traushare about how safe we are, people still so closely by his or her followers. Commatic, you’ll equip your organizaask, When are the layoffs coming?” Even bined, these tendencies make for a toxic tion to thrive when conditions where jobs are demonstrably safe, lesser tandem that deserves closer study. improve – and earn the loyalty of but real disappointments occur: Salaries To appreciate the first half of the dyindividuals who will remain in your network for years to come. are cut, budgets are pared, projects are namic – that bosses tend to be oblivious back-burnered. to their followers’ perspectives – conAs a result, most bosses – like you, sider the “cookie experiment” reported perhaps – are operating in difficult by the psychologists Dacher Keltner, and sometimes unfamiliar territory. Deborah H. Gruenfeld, and Cameron Equipped with skills and approaches Anderson in 2003. In this study, teams honed over long years of business growth, they now find their of three students each were instructed to produce a short roles defined by an unexpected question: How should people policy paper. Two members of each team were randomly asbe managed when fear is in the air, confidence is slipping, and signed to write the paper. The third member evaluated it and it looks as if the road ahead will remain rough for many miles? determined how much the other two would be paid, in effect This isn’t the job most executives and managers signed on for, making them subordinates. About 30 minutes into the meetand not everyone will rise to the occasion. This article is deing, the experimenter brought in a plate of five cookies – a signed to help those who want to do so – first by clarifying why welcome break that was in fact the focus of the experiment. it’s so hard to be a good boss, and then by sharing the essence No one was expected to reach for the last cookie on the plate, of what the best bosses do during tough times. and no one did. Basic manners dictate such restraint. But what of the fourth cookie – the extra one that could be taken without negotiation or an awkward moment? It turns out that a little taste of power has a substantial effect. The “bosses” not only tended to take the fourth cookie but also displayed signs of “disinhibited” eating, chewing...

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