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Firm Management

Bad Bosses vs. Good Leaders: A Millennial Approach

Unless you are an organization of one, you cannot have complete control over all aspects inside the organization, nor should you want to. Similarly, the statement, “I can just do it better myself,” is a sign of a controlling mindset.

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Image a bad boss you have had in your career, and think about who comes to mind. When you think of this boss, what are some of the common complaints and issues you and other employees had? Did they not listen to suggestions, did they treat their employees poorly, were they micromanagers, or did they just refuse to listen to anyone’s idea but their own?

Unfortunately, the problem of bad bosses is spreading and impacting all generations in the workforce. A recently study by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of Americans say their “boss is the most stressful part of their workday.” Stop and think about that for a moment. These bad bosses impact 75% of Americans. Really think about that statistic for a minute as that means that 75% of the people reading this article have a bad boss. Can 75% of organizations in America afford to have a bad boss and therefore, under perform? Can your organization afford to have a bad boss? Can your organization afford to have these bad boss traits make it harder to attract, retain, and engage top talent? 

Before we can fix the issue, we need to have a deeper understanding of one of the root causes. When we look at common traits of ineffective leaders (the politically correct way to say bad boss) and the negative impact they have on organizations, their unwillingness or inability to give up control is at the top of the list of traits.

In turn, we often hear the stereotype that millennials don’t stick around long enough at an organization where they work, but we need to look deeper at why millennials don’t stay and how this is directly related to our bad boss problem. Millennials, as a generation, are less likely to put up with bad boss behaviors long term and choose to seek new employment. It should not come as a surprise that when we look at the top reasons millennials leave their current job, having a boss who won’t give up control is at the top of the list. This is due to the fact that millennials are looking for not just work life balance, but a balance where they enjoy and take pride in their work. Millennials have a higher need to be engaged at work, and engaged employees drive organizational success.

What if you could get millennials to stay longer at your organization and at the same time have a better organization as well? That is, an organization that provided more value and return to all the stakeholders.Let’s kill two birds with one stone, and reduce the number of bad bosses in America to get millennials to stick around longer.

Let’s start with these bad bosses and the trait of being too controlling. Being a boss means more than just being in charge. Anyone can be a boss, but we need to encourage more leaders than bosses inside organizations. These leaders need to guide people on this journey and not control them along the way. So, let’s look at how can you get bosses to give up this idea of control, and shift from boss to leader, in order to attract, retain, and engage the millennial generations.

Control is an illusion

Unless you are an organization of one, you cannot have complete control over all aspects inside the organization, nor should you want to. Similarly, the statement, “I can just do it better myself,” is a sign of a controlling mindset. That type of rigid control only works with robot assembly plants and unless you have stopped employing people and switched to a fully robotic step, you need to rethink this approach.

When it comes to preparing personal tax returns inside an accounting firm, you want to employ a consistent process and procedures, but having rigid control over each person and every step will erode the quality of the work performed. Millennials have a strong desire to do more than just complete steps in a checklist. They want to understand their role in the process and the bigger picture. This level of understanding and engagement can only be achieved when you connect not just their current step, but a focus on the bigger picture.

Encourage creativity

In today’s business climate in the accounting landscape, we hear a lot of talk focused on innovation and change taking place. As a leader, you need to realize that you cannot be the sole person responsible for dealing with this change. When we look at great innovation across time and industries, these innovative ideas and creativity do not frequently come from the bosses inside an organization. They come from below and when we look inside today’s organizations, the millennial generation makes up a large chunk of those below the boss level. Look for ways you can give up on this idea of control and encourage millennials to provide suggestions on how to solve problems, implement change, and better serve your customers. 

No one wants to work in an organization where the boss is the most stressful part of their workday, and this includes the millennial generation. Take steps in the new year to curb these bad boss habits and focus on empowering leaders inside your organization to drive its success. If you can make this pivot, you can avoid being part of the bad boss statistic.

Millennials want to be connected to the vision of the company, have a voice, and take part in helping the organization to reach that vision. This cannot be understated, as millennials have a huge drive to want to be a contributing part of an organization reaching their vision. In order to correct this problem, we first need to better understand and define these controlling bad bosses. Take away the main reason millennials change jobs and take a step in 2019 to better attract, retain, and engage this generation.


Garrett Wagner, CPA.CITP is CEO and Founder of C3 Evolution Group.



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