Exactly how important is having a good boss?

29 Mar

Ever noticed how some bosses can make Michael Scott look like Mahatma Gandhi?

Some people say the most valuable job is where a person can pursue her passion and gifts.  Others say that a job’s greatest value is in its benefits and “security.”  But recently I’ve learned a whole new appreciation for the value of a company’s human resources.

Unfortunately, most of us can say we know what it’s like to work with and for people who are lacking in character.  Character is highly underrated in most corporate HR practices, particularly in times of recession where stress to meet a bottom line can adversely influence hiring decisions.

Though I’m hardly an HR expert, my life experience has taught me that those with excellent character can become better producers, but those without excellent character rot the productivity around and below them.  Character cannot be taught to employees the same way that production skills can be, and it’s an utterly invaluable asset that no company can do without if it wants so desperately to succeed in difficult times.

Character brings wealth, manages stress, and empowers others.  For example, an employee with integrity does not steal and will go the extra mile for customers.  An employee who is honest will earn both internal and external corporate respect.  Employers with character attract employees with character.  And the reverse of these is true as well.  An employee who belittles those below them diminishes confidence — and therefore numbers.  An employee who does not see the value in the human resources around them costs the company money in staff turnover and uninspired customer service.

I know I’m preaching to the choir.  Hiring good character is just common sense, and there’s just no such thing in this insane world we live in.  Common sense?  What’s that?  Nothing’s perfect, and we employees must accept much and say little or be prepared to lose our jobs.  I rest my case.

But this is where I have discovered a newfound appreciation.  For the last seven years, I’ve been doing work on the side for a particular boss.  She’s been the epitome of excellent character, and as a result has been an amazing leader to her employees without even trying.  On the way home from work today, I realized after all the crummy experiences I’ve had, and with my ongoing search for permanent employment, that having a good work environment — that is, working for and with people of good character — is just about the best benefit a company could offer.

As a single woman whose livelihood is dependant on the whims of an employer, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I have to make a choice between working for someone who values me and good pay/benefits, I’ll take a good boss.  The dividends paid to me in peace are worth it.

Besides, like Michael Scott, being single and spending a minimum of 40 hours a week at the office means that my co-workers are practically family.  I will spend more time with them than anyone else.  If that isn’t motivation to find the best work environment, I don’t know what is.  Maybe that’s also part of why job loss as a result of a boss without character can feel strangely similar to a divorce.

This little revelation couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’m officially adopting it as my new job hunt strategy.  Now I just have to figure out how to “interview” potential bosses for character…

“Only bosses with character need apply.”

(Cross-posted at Examiner.com on June 11, 2009.)

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