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Five Things a Boss Should Never Do

by Brenda Morris, CPA 

Managing people is not a science.  Not everything can be learned from a book, and sometimes, you just have to find what works for you and your staff. I have managed a large number of people over the years and I have learned—mostly through trial and error―what not to do as a supervisor. Below are five things I’ve learned you should never do when managing.. I hope they can serve as guidance to help you become a better supervisor.

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  1. Micro-manage. You hired your employees because you felt they were competent enough to do their job, so let them do it. Do not tell your team how to do their work over and over again. Trust them, and only step in when you see the task or project is in jeopardy.
  2. Constantly re-prioritize. Assigning different priority levels to projects too often can make you look as if you can’t manage what is important. Doing this can also cause lots of frustration among staff. Be sure you and your team are managing projects using a status report. Every item on the report should be discussed and well thought out before being prioritized.
  3. Lose your temper. No matter how angry or frustrated you are, do not lose your temper. It demonstrates immature behavior and can cost you your staff’s respect. Instead, take some deep breaths―remove yourself from the situation if needed—until you can regain your composure. Then, sit down and discuss the problem. If your frustration stemmed from the behavior of a member of your team, when possible, take the opportunity to create a teaching moment. Don’t put yourself in a position to look back with regret because you lost your temper.
  4. Set unreasonable expectations. I tend to forget the effort it used to take me to do certain projects or tasks that I haven’t performed in years. To make sure I don’t set unrealistic expectations, I meet with my team routinely. We set priorities and discuss project timelines, so everyone understands and agrees on the milestones. Good communication upfront will help everyone manage expectations.
  5. Avoid making decisions. Addressing a performance issue, reevaluating a project that has become unnecessary, or has lost its luster, making an important decision or admitting you were wrong; all of these situations require a decision.  You’re the boss, but you’re not perfect. You will make mistakes and you will make poor decisions, but you need to make them.

Written for the AICPA Tips Column

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Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

Using a performance based scorecard to establish a line of sight from the top of the organization to the individual contributor desk level is a great way to clarify expectations, confirm progress towards goals and make mid-period corrections. I recommend looking into performance based leadership. I trained with Aubrey Daniels and Ned Morse years ago. Their teachings are still applicable and work not only with staff, but children too.

Title: Executive & Business Coach, Career Trans..
Company: Howard B. Schwedel, MBA / Schwedel Busin..
(Executive & Business Coach, Career Transition, Franchise Selection, Howard B. Schwedel, MBA / Schwedel Business Svc.) |

In regards to No. 4 "Setting Unreasonable Expectations" - I agree that hiring great people is key and my practice has always been to let them build, replace and improve systems and processes beyond my personal capabilities. The important thing is to always be a student, as well as, a leader. Make the time to learn from your direct reports. When they improve or change something, make the time to learn what they have done. It will keep you in touch and your direct report will get your well deserved recognition for their work.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

These hints are really worth repeating, thanks! I've always felt that the role of a boss is to create an environment in which staff can perform their work as expected. Too many bosses today fall into a "command and control" mindset that can really stifle performance. Your words are sage indeed.


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

How about "Assume as the owner you know everything and that your judgement is always best". Ego is fine, but an overblown ego is dangerous!

Sheila Saffold
Title: Manager of Accounting
Company: Hospital
(Manager of Accounting, Hospital) |

When a boss receives a complaint about one of their people from another department, they should show some respect by using some judgment about handling the complaint. If the complaint is petty, just drop it. If it's something notable, meet with the employee to find out their side. Sift through the information and judge whether some counselling is in order.

The last thing a boss should do is agree with the complaint, no matter how baseless or petty. Don't ask your person what happened, just counsel them to do something different. Especially when applied to petty and very minor issues, this last course of action almost guarantees staff paralysis.

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