Establishing a Zero Tolerance Policy for Bad Bosses


The cost of employee turnover is too high. You expend too much time and energy in recruiting, advertising, and training, not to mention the lost productivity, increased stress, and low morale that comes when someone leaves. Triple all of this if the person who leaves has been a top-performing manager, technician, parts expert, salesperson, or any employee who has been a valuable asset to your dealership. Quadruple it if the individual has developed close personal relationships with your best customers.  

There isn’t a single dealer, no matter how profitable they may be, that can afford to lose a great employee. So what would cause a top performer to leave?

Some of the reasons – an offer for a great deal more money than you can afford to pay them, a new career opportunity, family issues, a need to relocate, or personal problems – are beyond your sphere of influence. Most situations, however, are well within your control.

The Number One Reason a Top Performer Leaves a Company

Money is important, but it should be no surprise to any dealer that the number one reason for job dissatisfaction and turnover in America is working for a bad boss. I don’t even like using the word “boss.” In today’s world, it’s all about leadership. But there are still some bosses out there, so I will continue to use the word for now.

If a top performer’s immediate boss demonstrates any of the behaviors below, they start to look elsewhere for employment and leave as soon as they can. It’s that simple.

Behaviors of Bad Bosses

1. Micromanages or has a bureaucratic management style

Top performers need little supervision. They enjoy responsibility and desire to rise to the challenges given to them. They love to work autonomously. (This includes the younger generation!) But some bosses just can’t let go. When they micromanage, those valuable employees feel as if their boss thinks they are incapable of good work. “Let me know if you need help,” is a better way.

A bureaucratic management style? It’s hard to believe any boss would have one these days. Hopefully, no one who is in charge of a team will manage people that way.

2. Is insincere or gives lip service

A boss who seems insincere and merely gives lip service – a promise or guarantee of something that is not seriously meant, or is not totally true, will immediately lose trust. The moment a top-performing super-smart employee thinks they are receiving lip service, respect is lost.

A boss who is a “straight shooter” and tells people what they know and what they don’t know is a better boss to have!

3. Does not set an example for others to follow

All bosses demand that employees treat customers exceptionally well. But if they don’t treat their employees that way and demonstrate that they truly care about them, those employees will go through the motions of doing their job and never put their heart and soul into their work.

A top performer will always do their best because of their work ethic and desire to excel – but they just might do so while seeking a new employer.

4. Is incompetent

Nothing can frustrate top performers more (except maybe number 5 below) than a boss who is inept. This includes parts and service managers who know the nuts and bolts of selling parts and servicing equipment but do not possess leadership and communication skills. In a case like this, a top performer may consider them incompetent.

5. Tolerates underperformers

How would you feel if you were working with someone who slacked off, was incompetent, or had any type of behavior or performance issue, and your boss did nothing about it? You’d feel frustrated every day and wonder why your boss didn’t take action.

Here’s something else to consider: Top performers often pick up the slack for those not pulling their load – but they aren’t happy about it. They just do it. If the situation is not addressed, it’s not the underperformer who will leave, but the top performer.

6. Brushes employees off or is inaccessible

“Don’t you think I wish I had more time to talk to my employees?” This is the common cry of numerous bosses who are on overload. But whether they intentionally ignore employees’ concerns or are simply too busy to talk to them, the message is the same: their boss doesn’t care enough about them to give them their attention. Big mistake.

7. Is unappreciative

“I’ve worked here for five years and never once has my boss thanked me for delivering a part on a holiday weekend or for anything else I do for him or our customers.” There isn’t a soul who doesn’t want to hear “thank you” and be appreciated by their boss.

8. Does not equally distribute the workload

Bosses are responsible for getting things done. But bad bosses have a tendency to “punish” top performers for their good performance. Often you will see a top performer who always does an excellent job suddenly being assigned to do a great deal more than others. Many good people leave because they know they will experience burnout if they don’t.

9. Doesn’t listen to the people on their team

Top performers usually have great ideas for the company, ways to improve productivity, performance, customer service and sales. But if they come forth with their ideas and their boss doesn’t listen and take action on them, the top performer will stop sharing. Soon, they might come forth with those ideas to another boss in another company.

10. Takes credit for the work of others

Taking credit – for a great month in sales, for fixing a complex problem on a machine, for a good idea, for finding a part that is practically obsolete, or even for cleaning up the warehouse – is tacky. It’s also unethical. Individuals and teams should be recognized for good work.

What’s a Dealer to Do?

First of all, find out if you do, in fact, have a bad boss in your

dealership. How? Check all of your branches and departments. Send a spy, or just ask. Be cautious, but do find out. Many dealer principals are unaware, because bad bosses do not display these negative

behaviors when the owners come around.

Progressive companies use employee satisfaction surveys where employees evaluate their bosses.

Another way to learn is to call the top performer who has left, and ask them why they left. An exit interview usually doesn’t cut it, because they won’t tell you how bad their boss is. They wouldn’t want their immediate boss to give them a bad referral. No brainer.

Provide leadership training through The AED Foundation.

Immediately. Enough said.

Establish guiding principles for how you will treat and lead your people. This takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Remember the cost of hiring and turnover, and that you can’t afford to lose a top performer.

Establish a Zero Tolerance for Bad Bosses policy in your business. Better yet, eliminate the word “boss” entirely.

How About You?

Last, take a good hard look at your own performance. Are you a boss? Or a dynamic and encouraging leader?

The equipment dealers I have met are amazing, dynamic leaders who treat their employees exceptionally well. They are great businesspeople too. They are not bosses and would never tolerate bad bosses. But once …

A dealer complained that he had three techs who all left on the same day. “They left me to work at another dealership for a lousy dollar an hour more. It’s a real problem!”

I stated, “Perhaps that’s not why all three left at once. Perhaps you’re the problem.”

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