Four Ways Bosses Cause Stress in the Workplace

by Michael Haberman on July 17, 2019 · 5 comments

I am currently working with someone that is having a “boss” problem.” I thought it might be appropriate to replay this post from several years ago.

Bosses are most often the causes of employee stress and not the workload.

Bosses are most often the causes of employee stress and not the workload.

We always talk about problem employees and how to solve those issues. We don’t spend as much time talking about problem bosses unless they are violating some law such as sexual harassment. Sometimes, however, the boss can be a problem for themselves and their employees.

Bosses get frustrated with employees

According to writer and professional coach Lindsey Broder, bosses often are the cause of many of the problems for which they blame their employees. She said these occur in four areas, which include:

  1. They don’t identify what is important to them for the employee. Many bosses assume their employee is a mindreader. The assume the employee knows what to do and how to do it and thus never tell them. I ran into this one time. I was calling on a prospect and talking about the high turnover they had in accounting. They had been through four accountants in less than a year. Their complaint was that “they didn’t know the system.” I asked them if they meant the people did not know accounting? They said they knew accounting but didn’t know the accounting system. I asked if they had ever bothered to tell these people what the company system was. Their response was “No, we expect them to know it already.” I was stunned. Unfortunately I was unable to convince them they needed to tell their accountant what they wanted.
  2. They don’t set expectations. In HR we deal with a lot. Many bosses just don’t really tell people what they want them to achieve. There are no measurements for success. As the old saying goes “if you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have gotten there?”
  3. They don’t hold their employess accountable and often themselves either. No accountability means things don’t get done. Accountability needs to be stated and public. If you don’t hold and employee accountable then you should not be surprised with no results. Not telling  employees what they are responsible for always reminds me of the “double secret probation” comment of the dean in the movie Animal House.
  4. They don’t give feedback. Quite often an employee knows when they have done something wrong, but not always. How can they if they have never had any feedback? Without feedback how do you know if you have done anything right either. So a good boss knows the importance of feedback.

Working on these four areas will improve things for the boss and in all likelihood will improve things for employees too.

Bosses cause stress

Many people think that an employee’s workload causes them stress. A recent Danish study however discovered that it is not an employee’s workload but rather their bosses’ behavior that causes them stress. An employee’s lack of a sense of justice, not being treated right by the boss is what causes employees to be stressed. Those things talked about above, lack of expectations and lack of feedback are more likely to cause the stress rather than the work being done.

Better bosses make for better workers

In my consulting and teaching I make it clear how important it is to have well trained supervisors and managers. This goes for owners as well. Without training on how to deal with people effectively they are more likely to be the problem than they are the solution.


See you at #SHRM19?

by Michael Haberman on June 20, 2019 · 1 comment

I am packing my bags and heading to Las Vegas to join approximately 19,000 people with an interest in HR. Once again I am an official blogger and tweeter, though there are so many people tweeting that is almost redundant, or is it?

An invitation

If you see me please connect with me. Stop me and say hello. You will find me at the general sessions, at some concurrent sessions, in the Expo or in the blogger’s lounge (you will have to ask directions to get there.) One session early on Monday where you can find me is at Ira Wolfe’s session, which I wrote about in Are you using your data collected by AI ethically? Probably not! A #SHRM19 interview. It is at 7:15 am in LVCC N201-204.  I know it is early but it is the first day, so you can do it. It will be worth your effort.


The keynote speakers are always good. This year will be no exception. Kicking off on Sunday is Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart you say? What does she offer to HR? Well she runs a very large organization and has been to prison. That should give her a perspective that most executives don’t have.

On Monday the keynote speaker is Brené Brown. I have not heard her speak before but I understand she is outstanding. She is talking on leadership courage, a dearth of which we have in this modern world. I am expecting great things from this presentation.

Speaking of leadership, Vineet Nayar, Founder Chairman of Sampark Foundation, will tell us how he defied the conventional wisdom that companies must put customers first by putting employees first and making it work. This will be a message that will be close to the heart of many in HR.

Closing out the conference will be Blake Mycoskie is the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, and the person behind the idea of One for One®, a business model that helps a person in need with every product purchased. Mycoskie made a major splash as a keynoter in Chicago, as I wrote in this post Giving is good for your soul and your business at SHRM13. I did not know about TOMS at that time, but I am very aware of their business model now. I am looking forward to hearing the update.

See you there.

Hope to see you in Vegas at #SHRM19

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Today’s post is brought to you by my friends at

When you were in school, you probably questioned how a certain subject would ever help you later on in life. “When will I ever even use calculus?” you might have protested at 10 p.m., after spending hours on an impossible homework assignment.

While you might not use calculus at your job in the HR department or when puttering around your home, that ability to stick with and learn tough materials is a solid skill that you gained from that tough math class.

As it turns out, there are a number of leadership skills that students learn when they were in high school or college that can translate into them being a great employee. As someone who works in the HR department, it’s important to be aware of these skills, and how what a job candidate accomplished in school is a good indication that they will succeed in your company. For examples of this phenomenon, please consider the following:

Debate Club Teaches Much More than Arguing Skills

If you were in the debate club in high school, your parents may have questioned why a prone-to-arguing teenager would need assistance honing this skill. However, being in speech and debate clubs helps students to not only explain their own ideas, but those of others. Students who were on the debate team also learn to be comfortable with public speaking and communicating with people they do not know well. If you see that a job candidate took part in this extracurricular activity in school, he or she may excel in positions like sales that involve a lot of clear communication with a touch of persuasion.

Being in Sports Teaches Teamwork

For job candidates who list sports on their resumes, or talk about it during an interview, you can rest assured that you are speaking with someone who has a solid team mentality. People who played sports in school often made personal sacrifices for the good of their teams, and they will probably apply this unselfish approach to their work. Interestingly, a number of successful companies have also adopted a “all for one and one for all†approach to running their businesses. For instance, Amway promotes mentorships, training and team communication despite the fact that it enables people to become Independent Business Owners. To expand upon this point even further, the company has used social media to explain what Amway is, how the business model works and how its partners are part of a larger group that exhibits the power of teamwork.

Student Government Translates into Solid Time Management

If a resume falls on your desk and you notice “Student Body Vice President†as one of the educational achievements, chances are good this potential employee will be exceptionally responsible on the job. In that role, the applicant had to make decisions for the good of a large group of people, which is a lot of responsibility for any one person. Job applicants who were in student government are also typically very good at time management; in addition to managing their homework and other extracurricular activities, they had to attend a number of after school meetings and likely some of the PTO and school board get-togethers.

There’s a Lot of Leadership Potential on Those Resumes

While it may be tempting to look at job experience as the key factor in determining if someone is qualified for a position in your company, certain activities in high school and college are also great indicators. By watching for the aforementioned extracurriculars, chances are good these applicants have learned important leadership skills that will translate into them being great employees.


Ira Wolfe will be speaking on Monday, June 24th at 7:15 am in
LVCC N201-204

Ira Wolfe is well versed in the challenges of collecting data and using it ethically. At SHRM19 in Las Vegas, he will talk about the challenges HR is facing in collecting data and properly using that data. Wolfe is the author of
Recruiting in the Age of Googlization: When The SHIFT Hits Your Plan and I have interviewed him in the past in Future Friday: Redefining how we see this crazy world. His message and the warnings he gives, as well as the advice he offers, is today more important than ever. As more and more companies move forward with the use of artificial intelligence and collection of applicant data we are facing problems that may cause us problems that may result in ethical issues.

Technology is running away from HR

HR and technology are rapidly changing. Unfortunately technology is changing much faster than HR can keep up. The impact of technology on HR is far reaching according to Wolfe. The impact includes:

  • A new definition of work
  • A new organization of work
  • Personalization
  • New/emerging data sources
  • New ways to analyze data
  • Democratization of data
  • Ethics, privacy & trust

The problem is that we don’t ask enough questions about the data we collect, such as:

  • What employee data do we collect?
  • What employee data should we collect?
  • What data should be off limits?
  • Who should collect the data?
  • When should we collect the data?
  • How should we collect the data?

Data has biases

There have been several reports about the bias inherent in data, causing great embarrassment for Google. If a company as data sophisticated as Google gets it wrong who says smaller HR departments can’t. In an article author Ben Dattner says “… used the wrong way, people analytics can be just as blind and biased as human beings have always been.

Wolfe’s message

Ira’s message is just that and many HR departments are totally unaware that they are making this mistake. He talks in his session about how we can use technology to keep the HUMAN in HR and what the future role of HR technology will be.

There will be many speakers and vendors talking about artificial intelligence (AI) at the conference. I would suggest you start off listening to Ira Wolfe so you will be in a better position to evaluate what you hear everyone else saying.

Ira’s session is at 7:15 am on Monday in LVCC N201-204. DON’T MISS IT. I will be there.


Older workers in tech have no chance according to one study!

by Michael Haberman June 13, 2019

Tweet Are you an older worker in tech and have wondered why you are not getting ahead in your job? A recent study, reported on by Valerie Bolden-Barrett in the HR Dive, shows that age discrimination is alive and well in the tech industry. That is probably not earth-shattering news, but the extent is bigger […]

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A Guest Post: Why Should Restaurant Companies Have HR Departments?

by Michael Haberman June 11, 2019

Tweet Today’s guest post focuses on the restaurant industry. Valmira Rashiti is a practical mystic, book worm and very much fond of words, whether written or spoken. She currently writes for Kiwi, which is a restaurant LMS that aims to help restaurant owners train their staff in an easier and more effective way. In addition, they offer […]

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Future Friday: Thought for the day.

by Michael Haberman June 7, 2019

Tweet I came across this statement that I thought was profound enough to stand on its own. “Your first impression isn’t a handshake anymore. It’s your online presence that will decide the fate of your career.” This is a quote by personal branding guru Dan Schawbel. Next time you tweet or post something on Instagram […]

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Democrat Attorneys General Seemed Ready to Challenge the DOL on the Overtime Regulations

by Michael Haberman June 5, 2019

Tweet According to attorney Eric B. Meyer, 15 states seem poised to challenge the recently released proposed overtime rules that had replaced the 2016 proposed overtime rules. The result of this action may further deny overtime opportunities for workers who have long awaited these changes. Let’s review You may recall that in late 2016 the […]

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Future Friday: Research Shows People are Important in Effective Artificial Intelligence

by Michael Haberman May 31, 2019

Tweet It turns out that research has discovered that the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in HR systems is very dependent on the people involved, particularly the quality of the managers involved in delivering performance feedback. In an article by Michael Schrage, published in MIT Sloan Management Review, he quotes McKinsey & Co. partner Bryan […]

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Helping Workers Survive the Heat

by Michael Haberman May 30, 2019

Tweet Here in the Southeast we have now hit a week where temperatures have exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit. As I drive from location to location I watch workers toil in the heat to complete many different outside jobs. Should you be protecting these workers and insuring they don’t wilt or collapse under the intense heat? […]

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