What Type of Bosses Do Employees Leave?
The answers to that are as varied as the types of horrible bosses, but it’s possible to roll those individual reasons into just a few bigger buckets. By far, the biggest bucket is the one filled with employees who have bosses who belong in intensive treatment for psychopathy. (Kidding. … Sort of.) But the next largest bucket are the employees of bosses who unwittingly create a chaotic, unsettled environment for their team.
Only a very special type of person thrives in constant chaos. The majority of people like to settle into their jobs and do their best work when there aren’t constant fires raging around them.
Which begs the question: How do leaders create an environment as devoid of infernos as possible?
Two words: Time management.
Few managers think they are bad at time management, but if you walk them through a simple exercise, you’ll find far more should be self-identifying as fire starters. This is by no means a new or original exercise, yet it’s one worth the time if you’re seeking to become a better leader.
The Four Quadrants
Make a big square. Then divide it in half each way. Boom. You have four quadrants. Look at you go, you artist you.
Now, label your quadrants.
- The top left quadrant should be “Important & Urgent.”
- The top right quadrant is “Important & Not Urgent.“
- The bottom left quadrant is “Not Important and Urgent.”
- The bottom right quadrant then is … you got this … “Not important and Not Urgent.”
Ready for the Truth Bomb? Here it is:
Those who work for you as a leader? Their lives should be filled with as much stuff in your own personal top right quadrant as possible. This trickles down the organization until the question can be asked: “If it’s in the bottom right quadrant of the entry-level employee, why exactly are we spending any time doing it?” That doesn’t mean there’s a point where all bottom right stuff can be dumped. Some stuff isn’t important or urgent but someone still has to do it. Yet it’s a good thing to at least ask the question.
Where Managers Screw Up
Managers who never become effective leaders mess up this quadrant system in two main ways.
First, their own time management skills are so bad or their lack of forward-thinking is so poor that they fill their own lives with top left quadrant things — the important and urgent.
Employees feel this. Sometimes that’s just in the manager’s lack of availability or visibility to the team. Sometimes it’s in the frazzled vibe they give off. Most often it’s because a full top left quadrant for a manager (not a leader) is likely to overflow and dump all over the team.
That leads to resentful employees who now regularly have to deal with fires of the manager’s creation. Not only does this make their lives unnecessarily chaotic, it chips away at a manager’s authority. Employees don’t respect bosses who can’t manage their own time and fail to have good forward vision and who, in failing to do so, make their team’s lives less good.
Put another way, employees respect leaders who are on top of things and who are good at seeing what’s coming at them as far in advance as possible.
The second way bad managers mess this up is by holding onto far more bottom left and bottom right quadrant stuff — the not important but urgent and the not important and not urgent — than they should.
These are the managers who are bad delegators, and it leads to stuff eventually flowing upward into the dreaded top left quadrant.
Leaders delegate. That’s what their teams are for. What’s urgent but not important for a leader could be the daily work for an effective team member. What’s not important and not urgent to the leader could be the long-term project for the people working for her or it could be the thing that gets cut from everyone’s to-do list.
Managers who hold onto too much create chaos because they aren’t giving themselves enough time for top right quadrant stuff — the important and not urgent — and those things easily turn into top left quadrant stuff.
To Do: This Exercise
The exercise everyone should take, whether they have supervisory responsibilities or not, is to make a list of everything they have to do and are currently doing, and then place those things into one of the four quadrants.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and a graph with a stuffed top left quadrant is a sign of bad time management. That trait in a manager is deadly when it comes to employee morale and turnover. Executives in charge of managers should be focused on those managers’ quadrant management. Here’s why:
Anyone who’s been in any business for any length of time knows that fires happen. Stuff that wasn’t in any quadrant suddenly appears and becomes top left stuff, not just for the leader but for the business. Effective time management — keeping as much stuff away from the top left quadrant as possible — leaves room for that inevitability. Employees whose own work days are not dominated by top left stuff have time and capacity to help a leader deal with the top left stuff that springs up.
This is a great thing. Successfully dealing with a top left fire as a team — with a leader who is able to remain calm under pressure because his or or her own top left quadrant isn’t stuffed — is a great bonding experience and amazing for employee morale. These are the things that lead to “Let’s go grab a beer together!” once it’s done.
Failing at this means you’re likely spending a lot of time interviewing candidates for open positions.
Here’s an abbreviated list of some of my own tasks at my day job right now.
- Weekly internal eNewsletter
- Monthly external eNewsletter
- Social media management
- Helpful Hints video production.
- Script writing for spokesperson video series
- Flyer management for account managers and graphic designers
- Drip campaign for water filters.
- Develop a reward system to encourage university participation.
- Write a review for first quarter objectives
- Develop second quarter objectives.
None of these things are top left things. So were my leader to have a fire fall in his lap today, there’s nothing stopping me from having the time and creative energy to help him out. Everything else on my plate can be put off another day if necessary.
Is that ideal? No. A bunch of those things take one step closer to the top left quadrant. But assuming my leader doesn’t continually have fires fall into his lap — which he shouldn’t if everyone’s following this system — then nothing will migrate over that line.
So for example, the weekly internal newsletter comes out every Thursday. I already know exactly what’s going to be in next Thursday’s (it’s Thursday as I write this) and the Thursday after that. I’ll have a draft for review by Monday morning at the latest.
Bad time management would tell me to do the internal newsletter on Wednesday. What happens if my leader has a fire that day? I’m stressed because I have to help him and still get the newsletter done. Or the newsletter doesn’t happen, and then the guys who depend on it for vital information that allows them to do their job more effectively don’t get that information. Suddenly, my bad time management is affecting a whole lot more people than just me.
Give the quadrant system a try. Talk to your HR department and have them do it for the entire organization. And let me know what your quadrants look like. I’m always interested to hear how other people prioritize their work!
John Agliata is a marketing professional with more than 30 years of communications experience. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 226-5852.
More From ‘That Marketing Guy’
Five Dumb Things About The American Workplace
Welcome to Issue No. 16 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to email@example.com. Very few of us would actually continue at our jobs were we financially able to not. That…
Democracy and Newspapers
The three most influential people in my life as a journalist are, sadly, all part of the Great Newsroom in the Sky now. Professors Michael Perkins and Bob Woodward (AKA Bob Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward) helped educate me at Drake University, and Lisa Warren was the best editor of the Dayton Daily News’ Southwest Ohio papers who ever…
Why Your White-Collar Job Is In Jeopardy
Far be it from me — a guy who struggled to get through high school algebra — to suggest performance on standardized math tests is the barometer by which we should measure a nation’s educational system. Yet it is true that those who do well in math and science move into more white-collar jobs than…
A Big Reason Your Workers Are Cranky About RTO
Here’s a workplace truth: Management often has no clue what the rank-and-file are thinking. This is often because employees suck at communicating directly, though their fear of doing so is often justified because of, shall we say, overzealous HR departments. Too often, however, it’s because managers are so used to being managers that they’re not…
The Biggest Hiring Mistake Managers Make
I received a phone call from the CEO of the company for which I served as marketing director at about 6:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. I was waiting in the parking lot of a nice restaurant for my wife to arrive. “John, our recent hires have been horrible. Why?” he asked. This was the same…
How Data Is Ruining Baseball (And How It Can Fix It, Too)
Smart businesses allow data to guide their marketing. The ability to do this is relatively new and likely not to last too much longer. A firehose stream of information is available on a company’s marketing campaign performance, its customers and its potential customers. That stream is so strong that there’s a movement afoot to create…
Your Car is Selling You Out
On the dashboard of my car is a tiny square, just a little bit bigger than a postage stamp, that is worse than my sister ever was. If I drive too fast, it tattles. If I brake too hard, it tattles. If I accelerate too quickly — though I struggle to think how this would…
Top 5 ‘Thank-Yous’ To The Bad Bosses Out There
Bad bosses shouldn’t be. Of course, I’ve never met anyone who self-identifies as a bad boss, yet we all know they’re out there, and yes, indeed, without a shadow of a doubt, they do suck. I’ve had more than my fair share of bad bosses over the course of my career, from the one who…
Meet Johnny Boy’s Newest Client
There’s some humor to be found in the newest client on the Johnny Boy Marketing roster. Envision Benefits Group is an employee benefits, payroll and HR consulting company based in Buffalo, NY. Started just before the pandemic, it has not only survived by is thriving under owner and president Kristin Devereaux. Now to the humor:…
A Secret Look Inside a Nuthin’ Story
One of my clients is a former newspaper colleague who now runs his own marketing firm and who has more work than he knows what to do with. Truth be told, whereas once I was a mentor to him when he was a young journalist, he’s now a mentor to me as I seek to…
The Most Important Work Lesson I’ve Learned
I’m not quite sure when I went from being the working world’s wide-eyed newbie to the grizzled veteran I see in the rearview mirror when I start the car for my evening commute home, yet here we are. I’ll be 48 years old in a few weeks, and I’ve been doing this marketing/communications thing since…
WFH 4EVER? Not So Fast
It’s good to be the king.” Mel Brooks, History of the World: Part 1 I am currently sitting in an office that no one else wanted to fill. Two weeks ago, I started a new job with a company that had a zero-WFH (Work From Home) policy as one of the conditions of hiring. That,…
The Rise of Horny Marketing
RadioShack is taking a controversial approach to its social media marketing. It’s capturing attention. But will the new approach grow sales? “If you find a squirter, marry her.” RadioShack’s Twitter RadioShack getting horny with its marketing is kind of like walking in on your grandparents having sex, and yet here we are, standing in the…
Gamifying War: Where Are They Now?
Nearly 20 years after the U.S. turned Iraqi’s Most Wanted into playing cards, many of the captured have been released or died while in custody, but several remain at large. A U.S.-led coalition stormed into Iraq on March 20, 2003, ostensibly to seek and destroy the weapons of mass destruction our intelligence showed most definitely,…
Four Steps to Market Your Way Through a Recession (Plus a Bonus Tip!)
THE FOUR STEPSNo Axes 🪓Strengthen 💪Attack 🥷🏿Don’t Stop ⏳BONUS: 🥶🧊❄️ The go-to inevitabilities in American society tend to be death and taxes — and with good reason. After all, death is coming for all of us at some point, and income taxes were supposed to be a temporary fix to help fund the Union effort…
An Ugly Consequence When Abortion and Big Data Collide
Every decision carries a consequence. Economists call it an opportunity cost. Politicians often simply call it an opportunity. Parents sometimes call it grounds for punishment. Whatever it’s called by whomever it’s called, the fact is that every single decision we make sets us down a new path, a new timeline, a new reality wholly separate…
Top 5 Cringeworthy Marketing Mistakes
The Top 55. Solving Racism with Kendall 🏴4. Coke is a Feeling 🥤3. Fish > Death 🐟2. Arab Spring Ignorance 👳1. White Power PSP 🎮 As most people do, I made my first on-the-job mistake in my very first job. I was a blueprint copier for an architect who ate a pile of onions on…
It’s a (Dysfunctional) Family Matter
Top 3 questions to ask yourself before going into business with relatives. My wife, Carla, is an amazing woman. She is exceedingly brilliant, the owner of a whole lot more A’s in school growing up than her future husband had. We’ve known each other for nearly three decades now, the past 25 as spouses. And…
The Inside Story of Johnny Boy Marketing
Big things happen in odd places and at the strangest times. I met my future wife in the basement of a dingy college residence hall. The biggest boost to my career came when I had to cancel an interview with someone who could have been President of the United States. And I realized I could…
Why So Much Marketing Data Analysis is Wrong
Any idiot can gather data. In fact, idiots are gathering data all the time. Smart people are, too. So are ants and mosquitos. Every time I drive a car, I’m constantly gathering data. My brain is doing what human brains do to judge distance, speed and alignment and how each might be influenced by things…
The One Thing That Makes a Coach ‘Good’
What makes a good coach? Interesting question, but it’s the wrong one. Oh, that question has all the right words. They’re just in the wrong order. If you want to talk about what makes a good coach, we can list a bunch of coach-worthy attributes — things such as charisma, assertiveness, fairness, consistency. But again,…
Top 3 Super-Secret Event Planning Tips
I have absolutely zero formal training when it comes to planning events. Before this became part of my job duties, I hadn’t planned so much as a birthday party for my child. Of course, I have zero formal training for a lot of the things I do in my job as a marketer and communicator.…
It’s Not the Technology; It’s Us
It’s easy to say Facebook — sorry, Meta — is evil. They do such a good job of proving the point for us. They routinely violate their own privacy policies, they know what they do is bad for people and bad for society, and they lie when subpoenaed to testify before Congress because they know…
When the Popular Vote Doesn’t Matter in Marketing
⬇️ What’s Below ⬇️Marketing: Science or Art? 🔬🎨The nature of feelings 🤗😭😡How to measure success in marketing 📊 Here’s one thing that doesn’t impress me much as a marketing guy: The popular vote. This might seem crazy, considering the goal of marketing is, at its core, to inspire the most people to buy your product…
The BM Files – Goodwill/St. Louis Aquarium
Welcome to The Bad Marketing Files, the place where we look at marketing efforts ranging from the slightly off-message to the truly horrendous. The SettingA Goodwill/St. Louis Aquarium billboard on Interstate 70 The ProblemThe billboard sends messages neither entity wants associated with its brand. Today’s BM Rating💩 out of a possible💩💩💩💩💩(Translation: It’s not good, but…
Sharing My Story Via Podcast
When it comes to podcasts, I need a 12-step program. I counted this morning, and I regularly or semi-regularly keep up with 16 of them. There are dozen and dozens of more that had a limited run that I plowed through at some point over the last seven or eight years. My addiction is a…
Let Your Storytellers Explore Their Multiple Personalities
One of the best parts of being a professional storyteller is that, if you find the right environments, you can explore the many different facets of your personality. And it’s a storyteller’s obligation to explore them, as well as to find the parts that are hidden in the dark corners or are guarded by the…
The Dark Side of Marketing: Big Brother Really Is Watching
What if I told you… … that when you visited a certain website, every single thing you do is being monitored? I’m not just talking about what you click on or what you buy. Most of us have at least an inkling that companies are doing that. I’m talking about actual recordings being made of…
The Boy Scouts are wrong: Preparation is overrated
Back in college at good old Drake University (JO 92… T-Ders will understand), I had some pretty fantastic journalism professors. There was, of course, the legendary Bob-Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward, who, though he worked in Washington, D.C., during the Watergate era, did not, in fact, do any of the reporting that brought down a president. More important to…
My Most Important Interview
I have interviewed hundreds of people during my career, everyone from professional athletes and presidential candidates to the woman promoting a charity bake sale. This past week, I interviewed my wife. Her dad — my amazing father-in-law — died early Sunday morning after a two-month fight with COVID and other complications. I sit here now,…
Patrick Ewing in a Jock Strap
When I was a wee-little storyteller of 17 years, I had the opportunity to go to the New York Knicks training camp to interview their rookie point guard, Greg Anthony. At 6’0″, I was able to look eye-to-eye with the just-out-of-UNLV star while I talked with him in the weight room. Five feet away, a…
Storytellers vs. Content Writers (and why your business wants the first one)
All storytellers can be content writers. Not all content writers can be storytellers. And if you’re running a business or a marketing department, you most definitely want storytellers. So what’s the difference? There are many, but the key one is the focus. Content writers are fine. The good ones will produce lots of copy that…