Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


Do you ever lie on your sofa at night and think back to all the bosses you ever had?

If you do, perhaps you should get out more.

Still, if you've done it even once, what did you think is the difference between the good ones and the bad ones?

Were the good ones simply nicer and didn't mind if you took days off to go and find yourself?

Were the bad ones graduates of the School of Snarl, spitting bile and blood because it made them feel powerful?

I ask only because I've just encountered an article in the Harvard Business Review that tries to define the difference between good and bad bosses in blessedly simple terms.

Many bosses, you see, don't get much training. Instead, they get promoted and decide how bossy they're going to be.

Some have no doubt read a few self-help books ("Always manage up." "Never stoop to conquer") or, bless it, "The Art Of War."

Others merely have a rampant self-belief that's only looking for an ever-larger stage -- like Cristiano Ronaldo or any presidential candidate you can think of.

This article, however, insists there's one simple way to be a great boss: Recognize great work.

The author, David Sturt, Executive Vice President of O.C. Tanner explained: "That means calling out excellent accomplishments by your employees right away -- and doing so in consistent and regular increments from the start."

You will be stunned into tossing yourself into a vat of corporate treacle when I tell you that O.C Tanner's raison d'etre is "a powerful new approach to integrating HRIS [Human Resources Information Systems] systems with employee recognition solutions."

Yes, it's all about rewarding your staff's good work with handwritten notes and public expressions for a job well done.

I'd like to agree with every word of Sturt's exposition, while disagreeing with every word of Sturt's exposition.

I believe he's right in saying: "Recognize great work." But I think it's less about pats on the back (although they're lovely) and more about knowing what great work actually is.

Too many bosses (and Lord knows I've had too many) simply haven't a clue what is great work and what is merely doing what the boss expects.

Too many bosses don't know what great work is until one of their bosses -- or some outsider -- tells them it was great.

Too many bosses are, you see, politicians rather than managers or recognizers of greatness. 

Their motivation is to stay in their job for a couple of years and rise without failure or scandal being attached to their persona.

It's charming that Sturt believes that "an award presented in a public setting is most effective in conveying a sense of a good job properly acknowledged."

It may be that this is a wonderful method when employing a generation that, as children, were given trophies even when they lost.

But too many people are wise to the idea of awards being given to favored employees rather than great ones.

The boss who will truly be respected is the one who knows what great work is -- and then, of course, praises and rewards precisely those who have been responsible for it.

There's more than one boss, however, who recognizes great work and immediately takes credit for it.

Those are the worst bosses of all.