Have you ever worked for a bad boss? If you have, how’s your heart doing?

A recent report in the McKinsey Quarterly showed:

“For more than 75 percent of employees, dealing with their immediate boss is the most stressful part of the job. … Those with bad bosses suffered 20 to 40 percent more heart attacks than those with good bosses.”

The good news is, the report goes on to say, the bosses at the top matter the most because their subordinates monitor and replicate how they behave:

“The ripple effects of this CEO’s style are consistent with findings from peer-reviewed studies showing that senior executives’ actions can reverberate throughout organizations, ultimately undermining or bolstering their cultures and performance levels.”

This is a concept we discuss in detail in our new book

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

– that the CEO support of and direct involvement with a strategic recognition program is critical for adoption and success.

What do the best bosses do? They

remove obstacles

for employees (returning to the McKinsey report):

“The best bosses also boost performance by watching their people’s backs: making it safe for them to learn, act, and take intelligent risks; shielding them from unnecessary distractions and external idiocy of every stripe; and doing hundreds more little things that help them achieve one small win after another—and feel pride and dignity along the way.”

“Feel pride and dignity” – what a powerful phrase. That goes for projects that fail as well as those that succeed. Because unless you’re willing to fail on occasion, you’re not willing to try. And if you’re not willing to try, you’ll never succeed.

So, how do good bosses ensure employees “feel pride and dignity?”

“The late Robert Townsend, CEO of Avis and author of the masterpiece Up the Organization, called the phrase ‘thank you’ a ‘really neglected form of compensation.’ … Conveying this attitude is especially crucial when the stench of failure fills the air—precisely the time when people most need support from the boss and one another. Bosses with the will and the skill to provide that kind of support set the stage for learning from fiascos. Unfortunately, too many bosses have the opposite response and use such occasions to conduct ‘blamestorms’ or ‘circular fire squads,’ where the goal is to point fingers, humiliate the guilty, and throw a few overboard.”

What’s your management style? Express appreciation whether the project succeeds or fails? Or initiate “blamestorms?” Beware: your subordinates are watching


emulating everything you do.