Go “back to school” to become a better boss or employee


It’s back to school time again.

Kids will be hitting the classrooms, but they won’t be the only ones. Many adult learners go back to school in September, both in person and online, taking courses ranging from self-improvement to starting a business.

As I have written before, many experts recommend workers go back to school to get ahead and succeed in their careers.

“Managers and employees must continually develop their professional skills and abilities in order to reach their full potential and remain engaged at work,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies.

“Commit to expanding your technical knowledge by learning a new software application or attaining a professional certification,” he said.

“And don’t forget the ‘soft skills’.”

“Being a strong communicator and working well with others are pivotal in team settings,” he added. “Focus on developing your interpersonal skills; if communication is not your strong suit, consider a writing or public speaking course.”

Richard S Deems, PhD, co-author of Make Job Loss Work for You, also says continuing education is “essential” to advance your career. He recommends three kinds of courses:

  • Courses about new trends in your field
  • Courses about related fields that impact your job or company and
  • Courses on how to be a leader or manage people

The latter is especially important for those who want to move into a supervisory position. “A company’s biggest problem is finding managers who know how to manage,” says Deems. Continuing education courses can help you “show your boss that you want to be one of those very good managers that others want to work for.”

The need for managers to develop those skills was highlighted in a survey this year from CareerBuilder.

The survey asked workers to evaluate their bosses’ performance using grades. Almost two-thirds of workers say their manager deserves an “A” or a “B” while 1 in 7 would assign a “D” or “F”.

The largest number of workers give their boss a “B” and about 1 in 4 assign a “C”. Here’s how workers surveyed graded their bosses:

A: 24 percent
B: 39 percent
C: 23 percent
D: 9 percent
F: 5 percent

Grades appear to be aligned with bosses’ communication and management styles. Workers who interact more frequently with their bosses tend to rate their performance better than those who keep their distance. Thirty-one percent of workers who interact several times a day in person with their boss assign them an “A” compared to just 17 percent of workers who interact with their boss once a day or less.

The study also showed a correlation between positive ratings of bosses and open communication even if that communication doesn’t take place in person. Twenty-five percent of workers say their boss typically communicates with them via text or instant message. Of those employees, 30 percent assign an “A” to their boss’s performance.

“Managers who interact frequently and communicate directly are more likely to have the support of their employees,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “The ideal form of that communication will vary from individual to individual, but everyone’s jobs get done better when expectations and roles are clearly defined.”

“That’s Not What I Signed Up For”: The Most Unusual Boss Requests

One way bosses can quickly lose workers’ trust: giving tasks well outside the job description. Twenty-two percent of employees say their current boss asks them do things unrelated to their jobs, and unsurprisingly, 51 percent of those employees give their bosses grades of “C” or worse.

The following are real requests bosses asked of their employees, as shared by survey respondents.

  • Asked employee to coach other employees on how to pass a drug test
  • Asked employee to fire a colleague and then drive them home
  • Asked for employee’s opinions of Tinder profiles
  • Asked employee to order items on personal Amazon account so boss’s spouse wouldn’t know about it
  • Asked employee to pluck a client’s unibrow for a photo shoot
  • Asked that employees “Like” his Facebook videos
  • Asked if employee would be better friends with him
  • Asked employee to find out how to obtain death certificate for her deceased ex-husband
  • Asked employee to climb on roof to see if there were any dead birds

Tag Goulet is co-founder of FabJob.com and Academic Director of the International Business and Management College which offers professional certificates at www.ibmcc.com.