who was your best boss?

We hear about bad managers all the time here — the mean, the crazy, the incompetent, and the rude. But I’m curious to know about the good managers you’ve had. Specifically: What made them so good? What was the impact on your work?

(And this isn’t just someone you liked personally; in fact, it’s even more interesting if you didn’t really like them. Let’s define “good boss” as someone who was good at the job of managing.)

{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. Scott*

    When I was working at the desk at my residence hall complex a few years ago, I had the chance to work for Mike. He was always about getting things done the right way – but he also focused on having solid relationships with all of us. He was strict when needed, but easygoing the rest of the time. He handled stress way better than I could – which was more important than you might expect in that job!

  2. MJH*

    My best bosses have been Gen-X women who were laid back, competent , thoughtful, and hard-working. They advocate for their team members, are reasonable, and generally don’t care how you get your work done, as long as it is done. They have good work boundaries and treat their employees as grownups. The result? They were well-liked by their direct reports and respected by the rest of the office.

      1. Amy*

        I think (I hope) that’s me! I’m not sure this style is always appreciated by more senior management though.

    1. Cristina in England*

      My best boss fits this description exactly! This crosses international boundaries too since she is Scottish and I worked for her in Scotland. She made us feel like she was fighting for us, and she helped us jump through whatever new hoops the higher-ups imposed.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      This describes my best boss to an almost-T, excepting that he was a guy.

    3. Anna*

      I work for that person now! I don’t agree with 100% of her decisions, but at no point do I feel stressed out about them, either.

    4. AB Normal*

      Same here – 2 awesome women were my best bosses and both fit your description :-).

    5. Blue Anne*

      This is a perfect description of my current boss, too, and she’s usually great.

    6. Kacie*

      As a GenX manager who usually manages people older than me, I so hope this is how I’m described in private.

    7. Julie*

      I didn’t realize it but that’s exactly my current boss. I love her so much. She’s brilliant, she challenges those of us who need it and she is not afraid of discipline for those in need of that.

      My boss had one report, chronically absent and not working. She found out the why, set up an improvement plan, and once that employee got it together she backed off and just let her excel. I could not have done that at this stage in my career.

      My boss was also the one who advocated for a promotion for me and when my employer overlooked me, she helped me to grow and understand that it might be time to move on. When I put in my 2 weeks, her exact words were “I am so incredibly proud of you” which was just the right response.

    8. Bee*

      Yes, this! I’m a Millennial and my current boss is very Gen-X and you just described our relationship exactly. It’s interesting to consider how the environment Gen-X grew up in might have influenced how they manage today.

    9. Aiya*

      So great to actually read a well written description of my personal management style and to have it reinforced positively. Agree with the other comment as it not being as popular with the older generation/senior leadership but I feel like my direct reports are happier, work harder, trust my judgement/guidance and feel appreciated that they have someone in their corner.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting. I don’t think of this as being a thing specific to Gen-X managers at all; I think of it as a description of good management in general. Then again, I am Gen X.

  3. Samantha*

    My boss at the last organization I worked for was truly the best boss ever! She supported me without being a micromanager, was easy for me to come to with problems or issues, advocated for me within the organization, and supported my professional development. She was also such a hard worker and so good at her job that she inspired me to want to be the same. I knew when I worked for her that she was a great boss, but now that I’ve moved on and had other supervisors, I realize how awesome she really was.

      1. Kelly O*

        Amen to that. Or having a truly bad boss to make you see the good in what you thought was bad before.

        1. Jen RO*

          Haha, very true. It took a boss who lied and twisted everyone’s words to realize that the previous boss, who was sometimes clueless, but honest, was better.

    1. S from CO*

      You just described the best boss I worked for…I worked with him for 2.5 years and I learned a lot from him. When he was promoted, I was sad to see him leave (he moved to another office far away) yet I was happy for him because it was a well deserved promotion!

      1. Rosie F*

        The best boss works side by side with you and fosters a team environment. My mother was my boss at a restaurant when I was young. She was never afraid to get her hands dirty. She never asked anyone to do anything she would not do herself. Her style left her with loyal employees who would do anything. This was 17 years ago and the group that worked at that restaurant still keeps in touch…that speaks volumes. I have tried to model my management style after hers. This has left me with loyal employees willing to work hard for the cause.

  4. BRR*

    I had an awesome boss at my first full-time job. She didn’t even realize she was awesome because most of the time she just exercised common sense. If I had a suggestion on how to do something differently she had three responses: that won’t work because x,y, and z (and she was always right when giving her reasons), that’s a great idea let’s start doing it, or that might work let’s discuss it further. Being my first job she also had solid expectations of what training I would need and she provided it.

  5. A Teacher*

    My current principal is actually pretty good–not my favorite and she inserts foot in mouth more times than she realizes but what makes her “good” are:

    1. She goes to bat for her employees, especially if you work hard and do your best for our clients–the students at the high school
    2. She values work life balance for her employees
    3. She’s great if a family emergency comes up–I’m single with no human kids but when my dog got sick she was really understanding about needing to miss a meeting for a trip to the vet; she made it possible for me to leave early to get to a funeral; and she will ask about family members she knows are ill.
    4. We have very limited resources but she always tries to find more so that our students and staff can benefit.
    5. She knows who does and doesn’t contribute to the work environment and she knows the strengths of our staff.

    My boss isn’t perfect but she’s got some great characteristics.

    1. AGirlCalledFriday*

      This. My last boss was just this way. She was an Indian woman with a PhD in Computer Software and founded a school in Japan. Both countries are not ones that praise female leadership. Especially in Japan, where women are expected to quit their jobs as soon as they get married. She very confidently managed the school. She was classy, intelligent, knew how talk to employees in a way that showed she trusted and appreciated them, provided regular feedback, was mindful of work/life balance, and was a very strong support for all of us. If I ever become half the woman she is, I’ll be extremely satisfied.

  6. ClaireS*

    My best boss is my current boss. She challenges me and supports me and makes me feel valued. She gives me enough rope to maneuver on my own but creates a comfortable environment where I can approach her for help and guidance if I’m stuck. I think she accomplishes this by being open to discussion and being very steady in times of challenge. She always asks me, “how do you think we should move forward,” but doesn’t criticize me when I don’t know. She also doesn’t freak out when things go wrong but focuses on how they can be fixed.

    She sets clear deliverables and works with you to achieve them – helping me maneuver office politics, connecting me to the right people, etc.
    She’s a very private person but works hard to be personable but still maintains good boss-employee boundaries. I am learning so much in this role and I know that I’m very lucky.

    1. lachevious*

      “She challenges me and supports me and makes me feel valued. She gives me enough rope to maneuver on my own but creates a comfortable environment where I can approach her for help and guidance if I’m stuck.”

      I long for this. Congratulations!

      1. Cass in Canada*

        Oh man, sounds like a great boss. I wish my current boss was the same way. I went to my current boss with some major problems last week that I was looking for guidance and he told me that he didn’t care about my issue and closed his door in my face. Now looking for a new job.

  7. lachevious*

    My best boss was an attorney at a non-profit legal services firm in San Antonio. I’ll call him “D”.

    My second day on the job I made some random mistake, like printed the wrong agreement or something minor like that, and when I gave it to him I realized that it was not what he was looking for so I apologized profusely.

    I wish I could remember his response verbatim, but it was something like how he believes mistakes are made because of poor instructions, not poor employees, thereby taking the guilt I had for messing up and instead turning it onto himself, that his instructions were not clear enough. I really respected him, not just for that, there are a million other little things that made him a great manager, and a great person. I have worked for many other attorneys since then, and none have earned my respect the way he did. Even the ones that were perfectly pleasant still never made me feel like what I did mattered. D always made me feel like an integral part of the team, not just by saying “good job”, but by actually laying out what made me a great paralegal. I have never had that confidence again like I had when I was working for him.

    I’m not saying that all attorneys should be like him, but when I was so nervous and worried about a new job and making a mistake, for him to say the exact right thing to calm my nerves and make sure to give him my very best effort from that day forward, gladly, I think I’d be less burned out on the law and lawyers if there were more people like him managing.

    1. Camellia*

      “Even the ones that were perfectly pleasant still never made me feel like what I did mattered. D always made me feel like an integral part of the team…”

      Reminds me of a quote from Maya Angelou in an article this week: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

      Many of the comments in this post go to this point.

      R.I.P. Maya.

    2. cuppa*

      I really wish I had a manager like yours when I worked at a law firm. That is great.

  8. Enjay*

    Tom was fantastic. We work in a very politically sensitive organization which can be high stress and uncertain most of the time. Most supervisors here are afraid to make hard decisions and when they do they take the easiest, most protective of themselves stances they can.

    When Tom was here you knew he’d do the right thing even if it was hard and you didn’t have to worry about him exposing the organization to more turmoil. I miss him.

  9. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I really appreciate both of my current bosses (my supervisor and the woman above her) because of how they handle making decisions that don’t make everyone happy. There are times in any organization where, no matter what you decide, some people will wish you’d decided differently. But these two women are both good at

    * getting input from all the relevant contingents before making big decisions
    * being candid and open about the decision process when possible, and upfront about not being open when it’s not possible (e.g. confidentiality issues)
    * communicating the decision clearly, acknowledging that people might disagree but still being firm that this IS the decision
    * being open to feedback and revisiting decisions down the line if something changes
    * not taking things personally or trying to prove their authority

    It creates a culture where it’s safe to voice dissenting opinions, but where decisions do get made and things get done.

  10. W RM*

    My best supervisor/boss I am working for right now. After working for 30 years I am finally working for a great supervisor. What makes her such a great supervisor are many things. First and foremost she is a Christian and has that mind set in the forefront of her mind before she says or does anything. She is thoughtful in the way she says things. She is very honest. She leads by example. She does not judge people. She is a leader. She is a great project manager and keeps on top of everyone’s work. If someone makes a mistake she does not dwell on it. She learns peoples strengths and weaknesses and puts you in a position you will excel in. She pays extra attention to the introverts or people that keep to themselves. She tries to give everyone what they ask for. She wants people to be happy at work and happy with their environment.

    1. Curious*

      Interesting that you mention that the best thing about your boss is first and foremost she is a Christian. Do you think that plays a factor in how she manages? My boss is also Christian. As a non-Christian I sometimes worry that this is going to have a negative effect on me (so far it hasn’t at all). Do you think it could?

      1. jmkenrick*

        I’m also not religious, but I find that many people use Christian as almost synonymous with compassionate.

        I think this simply has to do with how some people may view religion as the cause of/motivator of kind and thoughtful behavior.

    2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I also think its interesting to point out the religion… While I am non-religious, I think many religions have wonderful attributes that can play a role in someone being a good manager or employee….. but I think you should keep in mind that SHE possesses these qualities, not the religion. I know many Christians who are none of these things, and vice versa, many non Christians who are all of these things. Just some food for thought!

      1. Dan*

        Yeah… I grew up in a small town. Met many wonderful kids at church on Sunday. And then I had to go to school with them the rest of the week… some forgot their manners at home, that’s for sure.

      2. RA*

        Yes, I’m very religious but not Christian and I find it mildly disturbing when people equate Christianity with the personality traits mentioned above. Honestly, I’ve met more counterexamples than examples. As well as many people who don’t disclose their religion (or lack thereof) at all, but display the traits mentioned above. I think the boss would be like that with or without the Christianity — and that would apply to most of the great people I’ve met. It’s not their religion, it’s just them.

    3. chrl268*

      Does she mention before speaking that she’s Christian? Did you know she was Christian before you starting working for her? Or did you just decide when she revealed her religion that Ah, she’s christian, no wonder she’s a great boss?

      To me, if she’s a great boss she’d be a great boss no matter why she’s decided to be kind and compassionate etc. I’m one of those silly atheists that dislike bring religion up in a business sense, and want to know whether she’s using it as a manipulation tool to start with or if you’ve decided that it is important.

  11. Mallorie, the recruiter*

    I feel fortunate to have had a lot of good bosses at my current company… I would work with 4 out of 7 again with no reservations. The one that pushed me the most professionally though, was the boss I had in my very first salary-exempt level position as a recruiter. She taught me a lot about building relationships (perception is reality) and also asked me tough questions (something as simple as “Why is this person’s reaction to such-and-such upsetting you so much?” made me look at myself more honestly than ever before). She was there for me personally and professionally, constantly shared her experience and insights, gave feedback – both positive and negative – and helped me to grow. But more than that, she believed in me and my abilities and allowed me to do what I needed to – this helped me to get the job done and make my own mistakes at the same time. Now that I am a manager too, I have tried to bring these best practices to my own team.

  12. Ash (the other one!)*

    My best boss didn’t care about how old you were, your “experience” or any of that bureaucratic bs. Instead he cared if you were smart, sharp, and could get the job done well. He was always willing to give someone a shot, do anything he could to advance their careers, and refused to play by the unofficial rule book. He pushed hard but was incredibly supportive and though he is 30 years my senior, joked around and built a team of not only colleagues, but friends.

    I truly miss working for him.

  13. Barney Stinson*

    The best boss I ever had is the one I work for now. He’s crazy smart, very well-spoken, and has pushed me along to learn. He’s very demanding, too, and I’ve had to push back on him as well. He consults with me, likes to teach (my Access skills have tripled working for him), and is well-regarded in our company.

    I would not be the professional I am today without his influence.

  14. Purr purr purr*

    My best boss was at my second-to-last job. If someone made a mistake, he would tell them where they went wrong, what he expected of them and then gave them a chance to fix it. With me, I made a big mistake at work that cost the company thousands of dollars; my boss acknowledged that I was in a new job (and new field) and they should have been supervising me more closely and together we did our best to fix it. In addition, I was working away from home and staying in staff housing and he checked in with me frequently about whether or not I was comfortable. His consideration, including ordering me a very expensive memory foam mattress, was really appreciated. Everything about his professional demeanor made me want to work even harder than I already was and I knew that if I had any issues, I could go to him and he would do his best to fix it. He was very honest and was quick to stamp out any staff problems, i.e. behaviour or performance issues, that might have impacted on everybody else in the department. We had a colleague who was fond of sending emails either telling outright lies, like denying he had done some messed-up work and blaming someone else for it, or sending emails that implied someone else had a poor attitude (they didn’t) and our colleague was ‘concerned’ and wanted to bring it to the manager’s attention. Under him the department ran smoothly. After he left, it was totally different…

    1. Purr purr purr*

      Oh, I should also add that this job was my first as a newly arrived immigrant in a certain country. He could easily have taken advantage of me, i.e. not paying me what my experience was worth, but he didn’t. He made sure I was treated equally.

    2. ClaireS*

      I made a mistake that resulted in losing a lot of money too. I remember calling my boss in near tears expecting to be close to getting fired. Her response was a very calm, “well, this isn’t good. It was a careless mistake but this is how you can fix it.” We still had to eat a huge additional unplanned for expense but she recognized that this wasn’t a pattern of errors and didn’t freak out about it. She also didn’t let me off the hook completely and pretend it was no big deal, because it was a big deal. But, she helped me identify how to avoid it in the future.

  15. Adam*

    I don’t think I’ve ever had someone who would qualify as an amazing boss. I think the best I can offer is that I’ve had several who weren’t jerks and were competent managers in the sense that work consistently got done, but there was very little to none of the personal interaction/opportunity provided that elevated them to the level of a boss who truly supported and engaged with you to help you develop into an even better employee than you were before.

    Fantastic managers, just like fantastic anything-you-can-put-heres are just rare I guess.

  16. CTO*

    My best boss (and I’ve been fortunate to have several good ones) was at my previous job. She really, really cared about her employees and their well-being. This showed in a lot of ways: encouraging work-life balance, being able to have open conversations about future plans, giving her time to help employees’ initiatives succeed, and knowing each employee as a unique person with a unique style. She knew I liked new challenges, so she made sure to push me to take on new projects I wouldn’t have undertaken otherwise. Overall, I felt like she was extremely dedicated, compassionate, and wise.

    At the same time, she had a very clear direction for the program and was strategic about continuing to grow and improve our department without losing sight of our best traits. The work we did got better and better because she had a bold but attainable vision. She put in long hours to make that happen and didn’t mind doing the “low level” dirty work with the rest of us when needed–but was never a micromanager. We could all be really proud of what we were accomplishing together. And speaking of together, she built a strong team-oriented atmosphere. It definitely made all of us better employees to have each others’ support and wisdom.

    She also created a safe environment to learn, grow, and fail… but while still holding us to high standards. Even better, she wasn’t afraid to (kindly) get rid of people who weren’t a good fit and were dragging everyone else down. Performance issues were addressed, not swept under a rug, and we felt safe bringing concerns about other employees to her.

    There were many great things that made it hard to leave that job, but she was definitely at the top of the list. She earned a lot of loyalty from her team, and returned it in kind. I hope I’ll be lucky to have a boss like her again.

  17. Woodward*

    When I was 18, I worked for a miniature golf fun center that hosted birthday parties. The owner’s brother’s 3 year old daughter was having a birthday and we were under strict instructions to “treat them like royalty”. The day before the party, the child’s mother brought in a fancy multi-layered pink and black cake that did not fit in our regular fridge due to size. I knew that cake could go in the freezer (like how people freeze wedding cake), so that’s where I put it; assuming I could thaw it before the party the next afternoon. We didn’t have a regular freezer though; I put it in the Dippin’ Dot’s freezer that’s below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. By morning, that cake was a ROCK and by afternoon, it was a rock with melted black frosting dripping down the pink sides. I called the bakery on the box and it turned out to be a specialty bakery that is only open for appointments and according to their website, this was a $350 cake!

    I was new and terrified that I was about to be fired for my incompetence. I went to my boss’s office (not the owner, the General Manager) and told him what happened. I stood, cringing inside, while he just looked at me with an odd expression. Then he laughed! “That’s so bad that it’s funny! You put the cake in the Dippin’ Dots freezer!!” We both had a good chuckle, he went out and purchased 2 dozen red roses, apologized profusely to the family, gave them a ton of extras, and didn’t fire me. I went on to work there for 2 more years, he was a great manager, and gave me an excellent reference when I moved on.

  18. Sascha*

    My best boss was my former manager, I’ll call him Steve. Steve cared about people. He showed us that it was safe to talk to him. He advocated for us. But he also gave us criticism when we needed it – and we knew that he did it to help us improve, not just as employees, but as people – so he didn’t shy away from the hard talks. He fired people who didn’t do their jobs after giving them a chance to do better. He developed people who already did a good job and helped them grow in their careers. He struck a good balance between good for the company vs. good for the employees, with the understanding that happy employees made for a happy business.

    He helped me find a new job in my last job search, even when I was still employed with him, because he knew it was time for me to move on, and our current company had no room to grow. He offered me an awesome position in a start-up but it never got off the ground, however I would work for him again in a heartbeat.

  19. ali*

    I have been very lucky in that I’ve had really great bosses in most of my jobs, and only one that was truly awful (and I honestly think it was because she was undiagnosed bipolar).

    My first boss, who I worked for for 8 years, managed to keep my group isolated from the overall politics of the program we worked for. She acted as a layer of protection between us and what was going on, and she fought hard for us. Some people would have like more transparency into what was going on at the higher level, but once I found out about all the politics, I was glad I didn’t know until after the fact, because it just would have stressed me out. She ended up sacrificing herself during a round of layoffs so that everyone on her team could keep their jobs. The person who took over for her was promoted from within our team, and he was good and really cared about us, but didn’t have the clout she’d had so wasn’t able to make things run as smooth.

    My most recent boss, who surprised me because he was only 29, left only a few weeks ago because he wanted new challenges (he’d been at this company his entire career). The thing about him was respect. He respected my abilities, my disability, and most importantly, he respected me. And that showed in just about every conversation he had with me and had about me. He also just had a sixth sense for knowing when I needed help and when to leave me alone. I can only hope his replacement does the job half as well as he did.

  20. Annie O*

    Great managers seem to be few and far between in my field. Managers either come up from the technical side and receive little management training, or they come up from the business side and have zero technical experience. Either way, there are a lot of bad consequences.

    The best manager I’ve had was a technical superstar himself. (I do not use the superstar description lightly.) He knew the work backwards and forwards, so I learned an incredible amount from him. He was almost ruthless about protecting his people, so we were free from internal politics and drama. He was also great about letting people focus on their strengths. He put a lot of trust in us to be experts, so we often worked autonomously. I always felt that the goals were a bit of a stretch, but never so much that they were demotivating.

    To this day, the best work I’ve ever done was when he was my manager. If he hadn’t retired, I would have followed him anywhere.

  21. kdizzle*

    My best boss was my first boss. I was obviously fresh out of school and had a lot to learn about professional behavior (I cringe at some of the things I did). He really stepped up and mentored me…showing me how to run meetings, network, and to ultimately be an authentic and candid professional. He was the Program Manager for a $100M project and had 75 employees under him. He absolutely didn’t have to take the time to help out a newbie like me. I’ll never be able to thank him enough for those lessons.

    Also, he made cupcakes themed to our individual jobs (e.g. mine had a mini laminated spreadsheet as a decoration) and served each one on a velvet pillow. That was awesome, but the time he took to be a mentor was even better.

  22. AVP*

    My immediate boss right now is the best I’ve ever had – I didn’t really know that you could have great managers before I met him.

    He is really smart, a good thinker, and a clear expert in his field. When I first started here as a receptionist, I was a little out of sorts because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life or how to get there. But once I saw him do his thing I figured it out, and he eventually got me onto his team and became a mentor. His standards are very high, but he inspires people to work up to them and to do things well. He’s very responsible, does what he says he’s going to do, and doesn’t play games with anyone. I think it’s important that he respects everyone’s individual talents – if someone on our team is better at a project than he is, or more knowledgable on a subject, he’s happy to defer to them and let them do what they’re good at. But he facilitates it all, makes sure we have the resources we need, and advocates when he needs to. And he really, really cares and wants the best for everyone.

    One thing I’ve really learned here is that the A-level people really want to work with other A-level people, and you can’t be worrying about whether someone else is making you look bad or not – the better the people you surround yourself with, ultimately the more you learn and the more you can do. As my boss said, “I do want you to get better at my job than I am, so you can take it one day – and I can go do something else!”

    1. AVP*

      I forgot to mention – the CEO of our company is literally a mess – diagnosed mental illness, off his meds for two years so far, ugh. My boss has been amazing about acknowledging the problems with him and moving around them, without being unkind to him or being dismissive about our experiences and issues. It’s a minefield and watching him navigate it with grace and humor has been such a learning experience.

  23. Julie*

    My best boss was the biggest jerk I’ve ever met but he taught me some lessons that I am still benefiting from 10+ years later. A former state rep, he thought “Hail to the Chief” should be played when he entered the room and was miserable doing administrative duties. About 6 weeks after his anointment as our new ED, I couldn’t take it anymore. I mouthed off (as one does when one is a filled with righteous indignation, far too much chutzpah and not nearly enough self control). I blasted him for not knowing X, Y and Z and for seriously pissing off a major funder in a meeting the day before.

    To his credit, his listened calmly and when I ran out of steam, he said “feel better”? I nodded and he told me that he knew I was going to be the one he had to win over in our office “filled with average and adequate” and that he needed me to be the one to argue with him in private so that he could be the best advocate for our organization. I walked out of his office with about 10 hours a week of admin tasks that he “delegated” to me and we argued daily (in private) until I left the organization to head to my next gig with his blessing.

    I gave the eulogy at his funeral a few years ago and in doing so, I referred to him as “the most insightful, crusty, self-aware, ornery old coot” I’d ever had the chance to work with. I miss him to this day and use some of the lessons I learned from him before going into battle for the issues I now advocate for as a nonprofit ED.

  24. Trixie*

    I’ll always remember Gary for encouraging me to think about what this job for him could lead me to in the future. I think I was placed as a contract/temp position that when permanent, at which time he said this.

  25. dawbs*

    My current boss is pretty awesome. Not perfect, but all around, Boss is one of the reasons I’m still at this job–because it’s a working relationship that I’m glad to have. The things that Boss does well (and that I try to emulate in my relationships with those I manage) are:

    -Understanding work life balance. That doesn’t mean I have unlimited time off or anything awesome like that. It doesn’t even mean I have time off without consequences. But it means that if I have to be gone because things more important than work come up, I won’t get pressure to return to work at all costs.

    -Trust. Granted, some of this is earned (I doubt I had a huge amount of trust from Boss on day 1), but we’re treated as if the default is for us to be reasonable, trustworthy employees. So Boss isn’t sneaking in to make sure that I am *really* closing the office at close time instead of 10 minutes early–it means everyone assumes I am doing what I”m supposed to unless I have a history of doing otherwise–so it means not micro-managing on these things.

    -Having my back. There is more than one occasion where I’ve screwed up badly at work. My boss, however, does a pretty awesome job of praise publicly, reprimand privately. So if someone comes in with a problem, I don’t have to wonder if Boss is saying “Wow, Dawbs is such a screw up, I will make sure she gets a written reprimand for this”–I’m confident Boss is saying something much more like “I am sorry that our office caused this problem. I take personal responsibility for what my employees do, and we will fix it.” (Chances are, once that person is gone, I’m going to be called in to deal w/ whatever fallout there is–but I’m not shoved under the bus to the general public)
    (and in that vein, there’s also ‘bad cop’. There are rules and regs that are in place that it is my job to enforce. I know that if one of the regulations causes problems, when I run out of other options, I can say “I’m sorry, I’m afraid Boss and Big Boss have put those rules in place and I’m unable to waive them. If you get an exemption from Boss, I’d be happy to Waive it”–and I don’t have to worry about that person just being rubber-stamped an exemption)

    -Small perks. This is just the little stuff that makes us feel valued. My boss can’t give me a raise or change my lousy hours or anything like that. What Boss CAN do is make sure that we are properly fed at staff meetings and that we don’t run out of office supplies and that there’s always $2 in the emergency candy bar fund’ (honor system we pay it back) for the vending machine on crappy days.
    (I have no idea how much of this stuff Boss pays for out of pocket–probably much to much)

  26. Rachel*

    My current boss is amazing. This is only my second “professional” job, and the first was totally dysfunctional. When I first started, she spent a lot of time sitting with me to chat about professionalism, about how things should go in a functional workplace, etc. She pushes me to do better, but forgives my mistakes when they happen. She’s willing to find money in the budget for professional development opportunities – but expects me to find them myself and bring them to her, which works well for me. She knows where my long-term goals are and makes a point of giving me greater responsibility on the projects that relate to those goals. And she really and truly values the input of our whole team, which is great.

  27. Malissa*

    Todd was my best boss. I was under Todd back in my college days. He loved college students. When I worked for Todd I worked at a national retail auto parts chain.
    Todd specialty was taking snot nosed kids and turning them into productive and respectful workers. He did this by leading by example and quietly talking to us when something wasn’t right.

  28. E.R*

    My best boss was a man I worked for for 5 years, finishing about 7 years ago. He was his employees’ biggest advocate to upper management, he was quick to tell a joke or share a story if you were interested, he was laid-back in stressful situations and just got down to what needed to be done without worrying too much about assigning blame or re-hashing the problems. If you showed up on time and worked consistently hard, and showed that you were trying, he would always lend a hand to help, give you a raise when he could, and be understanding about sick days and vacation, etc. If you were a slacker, he fired you. I remember one time an employee who was on the verge of being fired for said slacking was complaining about him and everyone else just stuck up for our manager. He commanded respect by being hard-working, knowledgeable, and kind.

  29. Chinook*

    My best boss was Jon. He was a tech guy who created a wide spread code and sold his company to a Silicon Valley one with the condition that he be VP of R and D and his office is in Ottawa, Canada. He knew his weaknesses, admin detail, and Sold so he wouldn’t have to deal with as much. He hired me to take care of his Ottawa office and gave me full rein and faith to deal with as I saw fit. He believed me when I said the CA accountant was an idiot (I had proof) and even had me deal with anything solely Canada based (I even filed our GST tax returns).

    He was great because he cared about the business and the people enough to do what we needed but he also made the hard decisions and understood the consequences. When he had to fire 2 people in 2 weeks (one was performance, the other for trying to sell drugs to a coworker), he later held a meeting and said that, while personnel issues are confidential, he would be willing to answer privately any concerns about job security. He outright asked me what I thought and I said that I saw the paperwork , so I had complete confidence in him.

    Lastly, he never abused my time as an AA. I once offered to shop for his daughter’s birthday party because it was the same day as a vital deadline. Once I pointed out that the best use of his time was in the office until the party and then the party, so sending me to buy cupcakes meant he could focus on what was important. He agreed and used me like that in the future but always very humbly.

    1. Chinook*

      I want toa dd another example of Jon as a good boss. He was the first and only supervisor/manager to call me out for being too “teacher-like” (read: bossy). Since this was my first office job after teaching, I was not even aware that I was like this or what actions were coming across as such. He said his mom was a teacher and he knew it wasn’t intended in a bad way but that I needed to remember that my colleagues were not my students. It couldn’t have been an easy topic to bring up, but he did it in such an honest and kind way that I wanted to change just to show him that I could.

      Unfortunately, I still slip into my old ways, but there are times now when those tactics work well, especially when trying to track down homew…paperwork from the guys in the field. ;)

  30. Anon 1*

    I had a really great boss a few years back. He was a great boss because: 1) He trusted our team: He supported the staff in taking ownership and more control over their work. He gave help when needed and when it was appropriate, but otherwise stepped aside.
    2) He gave feedback and took feedback: Every year during performance reviews he asked the staff to review him as a manager in order to give the opportunity to improve the whole team.
    3) He supported our department: He was willing to go to bat for initiatives our department wanted to try, even if there was resistance from upper management. If things weren’t great, he supported the team without throwing us under the bus and helped us to correct where things went wrong.
    4) He didn’t lose his cool: If things went wrong, we talked about it. There wasn’t yelling or tension. It was open and honest without being heated or mean.
    5) He hired great people: The reason our boss was able to put so much trust in our team was that he hired good people who were dependable and self sufficient.
    6) He promoted people: When the staff on our team started taking out more work he argued for promotions in title to appropriately reflect the level of work.

    The only thing he wasn’t great about–time. He was constantly over committed, putting off meetings, and could be hard to pin down. But you could openly tell him that this was a problem and he understood and tried to fix it.

  31. Boo*

    My boss Jim from my third job, when I was in my early 20s. He was brilliant. I’d come from quite a dysfunctional workplace as a receptionist where it turned out half my team were related to the boss (who was incredibly moody and could be a bit of a bully) and I’d also been dealing with clinical depression so I was very quiet and shy and had practically zero self confidence. Jim worked for a different company in the same building and when there was an admin position there, he told me to go for it. I’m grateful for that first of all – when everyone else assumed I was miserable and dull, he gave me a chance. He advocated for me to start on a higher salary, he encouraged me to speak up for myself, not be afraid of making mistakes (he always said it’s proof I tried to do something) and not be afraid of approaching him with a problem as long as I also had a solution. He always backed me up, and he arranged for me to go on some courses on company time and paid for by the company to build up my confidence and skills. I still miss that job.

    We’re still in touch and really he’s become a bit of a surrogate dad since my own passed away. I still go to him for advice and I still miss him every time I get a new boss.

  32. Sarah*

    I had one great boss in the past who let me do the work that needed to get done; checked in occasionally, and was always available if I needed input or feedback. Unfortunately it was a job as a legislative assistant (he was the elected official), and I was bored out of my skull. He was sad to see me go but understood. I thought I’d never have such a great boss again, until I found my current job.

    My boss now is absolutely fantastic. He knows what he doesn’t know and is comfortable asking questions to get clarification if he needs it, instead of saying a blanket No because something makes him uncomfortable. He’s supportive, encouraging, and highlights my accomplishments (and everyone else’s) publicly to my peers. He gives meaningful feedback and always has open lines of communication. Even with all this, I probably am biased to love him even more because we have really similar communication styles and we settled in to a tight, extremely effective working relationship almost immediately. No matter how good the manager is on paper, sometimes it’s that “click” that makes them really the best.

  33. Darcy*

    I’ve not had many good bosses, but the best boss I’ve ever had was a CFO who I reported to for a time when we didn’t have an HR leader. Many people didn’t like him because he was so motivated by money. But I was very successful working for him because once I’d figured that out, I always knew how to present projects and ideas to him so he’d be on board. Once he was on board, it was basically just a rubber stamp to get the rest of the Executive Team to sign off. I was able to accomplish so much reporting to him. It was when I felt the most successful in my career.

  34. Anonie*

    My best boss was my first boss out of college. I have had 5 bosses since then and none compared to her. She hired me and another new grad. We were not even in the same building as her. On our first day she met with us and said “Don’t expect me to be running over here everyday to check if you got here on time or are leaving early because I am too busy for that. I hired you because I think you are intelligent and have the skills needed for this position. If you are not getting your work done I will know it because it won’t be done.” That was all we needed to hear. She didn’t micromanage us at all. We had our projects to work on and we did them. We met every other week to give her updates. She was very supportive and open to our ideas to make changes to our projects. Even when I decided to leave for another opportunity she was generally happy for me and even wrote me a letter of recommendation because she knew I needed to take the next step in my career.

    My current boss is horrible!! Because of her I have a greater appreciation for my first boss and my previous bosses. I have always had good bosses until my current boss. I didn’t understand the term horrible boss until I actually got one because the other one’s were good.

  35. Cruciatus*

    I haven’t had too many supervisors yet–about 4. But my current one is probably the best (and this position is the one with the most responsibility). He compliments me to my face and to my coworkers (which can actually get slightly embarrassing). I’m an AA for the department he leads and he always tells me how important my work is and how good I am at it (I’m “irreplaceable” he once told me. Though that actually freaks me out because I am looking elsewhere (but not because of him!). He trusts me enough to work independently, but I can go to him any time when I have a question about something. When I first started, I spotted some errors on something and I was worried about telling him, but when I did he was like “Oh, great!” and was genuinely pleased that I had noticed so the document could be better the next time. There’s a big project I have to work on over the summer and I told him I was having difficulty with it (it is something new that has come up and has nothing to do with why I was hired). Anyway, he knows it won’t be very easy and told me that even if I can’t do any of it he won’t think 1 negative thought about me. Obviously I will try to get it done, but it takes the pressure off knowing he’s not fretting about it every 2 seconds. He even remembers Administrative Professional’s Day and my birthday!

  36. Who are you??*

    I am a rule follower and don’t very often venture into the “gray area” of life. As a result I’ve always enjoyed working for organizations and managers who are clear with rules, expecations and follow through.
    Last year I worked at a theme park that had very clear guidelines for just about everything. It always surprised me how many people would sign up for the job knowing the rules well before the first day and then proceed to break them all on day two. As a rule follower, it drove me nuts! :)
    My favorite manager was the least liked by the people I worked with. Why? Because she called people out on rule breaking, clearly outlined how their actions impacted the company, and when necessary she handled the the write up’s and disciplinary actions required. She did all this while being personable and professional. (Due to an illness I had an attendance issue that I was spoken to over and I can assure you she was fair and rational the whole time, even though it wasn’t how I would have liked that scene to have play out) I loved working with her and was sad when she left the company to pursue a different career path.

    **side story: she and I connected on Facebook a few months later and OMG, there is a snarky, funny side to her that she never let loose while working that I have been able to get to know and I love her even more!!! :)

  37. Sharm*

    I have been really fortunate to have had two really great bosses, no terrible ones, and all of them kind, reasonable, and decent.

    My current manager is possibly the best I’ve ever had. This is her first time managing, but you’d never know — she’s such a pro. She is excellent about onboarding new hires, and giving them the right amount of work to get settled in without feeling overwhelmed. As our team has grown, she has started delegating more to all of us so we can become specialized, and also so she can get out of the weeds and serve as a more strategic lead. I am not a huge fan of how much we need to track our work in multiple places, but she always explains why we’re doing it (resource-planning, priority ranking, etc), and it’s never really unnecessary. She’s very open to feedback, and actually follows up on people’s suggestions. She is good about documenting our work so we know how to do it the next time. On top of this, she’s really smart and has tons of historical knowledge.

    I was a manager myself before I got to this job, and hated it. But I have learned so much from my current boss already that I feel so much better prepared for when I DO get a manager role. What makes me feel even better is, my manager is like me in temperament — we’re not the shoutiest people in the room. But, when she talks, people listen. And, she says I have that quality too, and that there’s power in it. I’ve never really believe it until now (some days I still don’t, I’ll be honest), but she is awesome and so well-respected, and it gives me hope for my future too.

    MY MANAGER IS AWESOME! I feel so lucky.

  38. Tinker*

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of good bosses, but one in particular stands out as being good at a critical time — that being my first boss.

    When I started out, I was both afraid of making decisions and had the fiscal perspective of a college student — which is to say, I’d agonize endlessly over spending $75 of the company’s money over the wrong pipe fitting. My boss did a lot of work to teach me a more realistic perspective over this sort of thing, particularly as it related to cost of labor — that is to say, my time and his time.

    He also was very up-front about the concept that if I ran into something I didn’t know yet, then the next step was that I was going to learn that something and apply it. Even over little things, like learning to drive stick on the company trucks. This was something that I was already on-board with as a matter of personal preference, but as far as being in an environment that unquestionably supported me in the process of pushing those boundaries to go from “a person who does not X” to “a person who does X”… not necessarily so. That experience actually gave me some really important tools for my professional and personal life.

    (It’s also down to him that I don’t own an automatic transmission vehicle anymore.)

    Looking back on it, also, the way he talked to me about his own job introduced me to the concept of servant leadership — he’s a retired Air Force officer, and has a very typical military perspective on the subject. So far that’s not something I’ve pursued in my career thus far, but I suspect it is something I will get involved in at some point, and the fact that I have a framework that permits considering this is something that I substantially credit to him. In the meantime, it’s been very useful as far as defining my role — as fellow adults with different spheres of responsibility — with respect to my own managers.

    I suspect many of my managers would have done as well — some of them wouldn’t have — but one of them both could be and was there to get me over the gap between “has a shiny diploma and a shiny ring” and “actually is an engineer”, and I’m grateful to him for it.

  39. JMegan*

    My best boss – two of them, in fact – were actually in retail. They were the manager and the assistant manager of the bookstore I worked in.

    ~They liked and respected the staff, and didn’t play favourites between full-timers and part-timers.

    ~They made sure we got as much training as they could give us, and lots of opportunity to ask questions if there wasn’t time for a full sit-down “this is how we do X” session.

    ~They trusted us to do our jobs, and left us alone to do them, but were always, always available for questions if needed.

    ~When we did something right, they told us. When we did something wrong, they told us how to fix it.

    ~They fully had our backs with the micromanaging owner. “Yes, I told her to do it that way.” “Yes, I said it was fine.” (and “Yes, she had that tattoo when I hired her, and no, I don’t think it has impacted her ability to do her job.” *ahem*)

    I think it all comes back to that first point – they liked and respected us, and behaved in a way that made it easy for us to like and respect them. I would have worked for those two forever if I could have afforded it!

  40. Laura*

    One of my best bosses shares traits with a couple that were bad – it’s all about the balance.

    The one who kept the company’s interests in mind but defended us from inappropriate blame and from overload, as much as possible, was awesome to work for!

    The one who just dumped everything on us and didn’t manage expectations was a nightmare – overload, stress, etc.

    The one who over defended us? Also a nightmare – we would keep getting blindsided by stuff he should have seen coming, but that he’d tried to reject as overload (despite being necessary).

    All three were in the same company, over the same general role.

    So I’d most like to stick with a boss who values, develops, and stands by their people *within* the context of what the business needs and expects.

  41. Susan*

    My best boss is my current boss. He’s pretty damn amazing; I’ve heard from multiple people that he is the only competent person at our company at his level (he’s a VP). He’s a technical VP and understands every decision that needs to be made by the people below him, and will ask about those decisions with his view made clear. But – he listens to your view and doesn’t try to override it. He’s super smart and surprisingly well adapted to his role; a lot of people who are technical and promoted don’t do half as well. He knows that his role is not to do dev work anymore (we have a VP who does, and that’s just wrong). He knows when to push and when to trust. He’s someone that wants to hear what you have to say if you work directly for him or not. I feel lucky every day that I ended up working for him.

  42. TrainerGirl*

    My manager encouraged and allowed me to take on a variety of projects that expanded my knowledge and allowed me opportunities to learn and become a better employee. She was responsible for me getting into the training field.

    I did a job swap and left a Manager From Hell, who I think assumed that the one I was getting was worse. It turned out to be a great working relationship. She wasn’t the perfect boss…there was some favoritism towards those employees that she really liked. Some of it was just rewarding the people who worked hard and took on challenges, and some of it was truly playing favorites, but since I had just left a team composed of the Haves and the Have Nots (I was decidedly a Have Not), it felt like a dream to me.

    One person on the team would complain that she wasn’t given the “exciting” projects, but in the next breath would always say she couldn’t stay late or couldn’t do certain things because she had kids, and then accuse the manager of liking certain people more when they agreed to take on work this person wouldn’t/couldn’t. I learned a lot under her, and even went back to school to expand my technical skills. I think she was a big part in me being where I am today.

  43. anon attorney*

    Great thread, enjoying reading about successes rather than problems!

    Best boss was 10-12 years ago. Protected and supported me and my team, approachable, super smart and a good conversationalist over a beer. I was still a bit of a snarky smart ass back then and he had a great way of calling me out so that I could learn and adjust my behavior without making me feel small.

    Current boss has been very supportive during a recent family health crisis and treats us all like adults in terms of working hours, etc. I’m very fortunate to have had more good bosses than bad, although the worst one was really, really bad!

  44. RobM*

    One of my best bosses was a shift leaders when I was working in a IT mainframe operations team for an oil exploration company. These shift leaders were rotated throughout each shift to keep things interesting, so I only worked directly with him twice. These shift managers had a few ‘team leaders’ under them, with about 30 people on each shift in total.

    He had something of a reputation as being ‘difficult’ because he wasn’t very ‘warm and fuzzy’ but on the first day he took over the shift, he called all us team leaders into the shift manager’s office and clearly set out exactly what he expected of us, and said that as long as we delivered what he asked he would do the best to back us and to help us back up our team members, but that if we let him down for no good reason he would not be happy.

    He absolutely was as good as his word. As long as you did your best and acted in good faith he would back you 100% to the hilt. If you let him down you could expect to be called out on that, too.

    He expected us to exceed our targets but other than that he gave us team leaders all the room in the world to experiment and learn, to allow the people in our teams to do the same.

    He did more for my career development (and salary) and that of almost everyone else on that shift in the 1 year he was working with us than anyone else did throughout all the 6 years I worked there. He also asked for me to be promoted to more senior role within a shift he was leading after he rotated off the shift I _was_ on, and he was just as consistent with everyone throughout the levels on that shift too.

    Not a ‘friendly’ person (though equally, not actually unfriendly), not a “warm and fuzzy” type of manager, but someone I learned a lot from and respected 100%.

  45. Joie de Vivre*

    After a string of dysfunctional bosses, I transferred to a boss that I really got along with and I was so happy. After only 6 months working on that team, our department was reassigned to another Director and I was devastated. After a bit of a rocky start (mostly due to my having issues letting go of the previous manager), she became by best boss and mentor.

    So very many reasons, but just to list a few:
    – An outstanding coach; really got to the bottom of issues and helped me see how to resolve them. Pushed me way harder than I would have ever pushed myself.
    – Saw skills in her team members and helped them to develop, even if that meant they would ultimately be promoted out of the team.
    – As a new manager, she gave me enough authority and latitude to run by business while still offering direction when needed.
    – ALWAYS supported her team members with customers – internal and external.
    – Positive yet realistic attitude.
    – Genuinely welcomed different viewpoints and feedback.
    – Excellent communicator.

    The skills I developed under her leadership completely changed the trajectory of my career and long after she left the organization her impact is still seen here every day.

  46. manybellsdown*

    I worked for a YMCA preschool program. The director, “Joanne”, was my best boss ever. Despite my not being any flavor of Christian (I was raised in a non-religious home) she hired me because she felt I’d be a good fit with the team anyway.

    Joanne was always about what was best for the kids in our program. When a parent complained about an autistic girl who’d started in my classroom, saying “There are PLACES for kids like THAT”, Joanne said “Yes, there are. This is one of them.” When he complained further, she pulled out her three-year-long wait list and suggested he might be happier in another program so she could give his spot to one of these other kids. (I put my own kid on the wait list as soon as I knew I was pregnant. I was not the only parent to do that.)

    We did self-evaluations before our reviews, but they weren’t in any way a cop-out. She’d go through each point of the eval with you and ask you to explain, specifically, why you’d rated yourself that way and discuss what you were going to do to improve. They were grueling and incredibly educational.

    When you were wrong, she would tell you without pulling any punches. When you were right, she would stand up against the forces of hell for you.

    One day, after I’d been working there about 3 years, she let slip in a director’s meeting that I was not only not Christian, but a Neo-Pagan. I knew nothing about it until she called me into her office to apologize for discussing my personal beliefs. Word got around, and a couple of employees wrote me a long letter about my need to get saved and asked her to give it to me. Joanne, a staunch Catholic, flatly refused and told them it was incredibly inappropriate. They tried to have me fired, all the way up to the executive director, but Joanne wouldn’t let them.

    Joanne is the standard by which, even 20 years later, I measure all other bosses. She still asks if I’m going to come back and teach for her again whenever I manage a visit.

  47. MaryMary*

    My managers at OldJob were universally fantastic. I learned so much from them. I won’t say that I’m always a great boss myself, but I know how to become one thanks to them. So, cheers to: Laverne, LaQuila, Janice, Mayron, Rob, Chuck, Amy, Jen, Erin, and Dave (yes, ten managers in ten years).

    – Great bosses help their associates grow and develop. They take time to teach and encourage their team members to take advantage of classes and other opportunities.

    – When someone on their team is ready to move on (to a new role, a new company, a new experience in life), great bosses help them go. Keeping someone back will only hurt them, and ultimately the work and the team. As much as it might be a temporary inconvenience, it’s better in the long run. So they tell their superstar when a promotion opens up, offer to be a reference for their square peg when she decides to leave, and help their assistant transfer to another office when he needs to move closer to family.

    – They know you have a life outside of the office and never give you grief when you need to go deal with it. They’re supportive but let you know when you may need to make some difficult decisions about life and work.

    – Great bosses are in the trenches with you. If you’re drowning in a project, they want to know how they can help. Maybe they can give advice, maybe they can take something off your plate, or maybe they can listen to you vent.

    – But they make you differentiate between when you want help, and when you want someone to listen. When do you want advice on how to fix a problem yourself, and when do you need someone else to come in and fix it?

    – Mistakes are fixable. It may be difficult, it may be time consuming, it may be embarrassing, but short of major felonies, almost everything can be fixed.

    – They have their team’s back, without insisting that the team is perfect. “That doesn’t sound like Wakeen, but thank you for letting me know. I’ll talk to him and get back to you.” If Wakeen is wrong, they address it. If the feedback was off, they set the story straight.

    – They fight for their people. Good people rarely get the recognition (financial or otherwise) they deserve unless someone fights for them.

    – Great bosses have the difficult conversations when they need to. They don’t put off the conversation or sugar coat the message.

    – Great bosses know feedback is a gift. Even the office superstar has areas in which they can improve, but they need to hear the feedback. And they give positive feedback. Great bosses recognize their team’s hard work and celebrate their successes.

  48. ClaireS*

    A few people have mentioned bosses that respect work-life balance. I have an excellent example. It was the end of the day and I was talking about a project with my boss as she was headed out the door. She started to say something and then stopped herself. She then said, “if you’re going to be working on this tonight, I’ll send you the file when I get home and logged in again. But, by no means should you work on this unless that was already your plan.” She was being completely sincere. I was working on it that evening and needed that file. But, it made me realize that although she sometimes works in the evenings, she legitimately doesn’t expect us to and makes an effort not to pressure us into doing it by waiting on sending requests and emails until the next morning during office hours.

    She also is a great buffer when we go on vacation. She ensures you don’t get urgent requests while your away and sets expectations with others that vacation is vacation. She follows her own rules when she’s away so it makes you feel safe to follow them too.

    1. dawbs*

      Being able to *communicate* those expectations is so good.

      My boss keeps incredibly awful hours–or at least incredibly awful to me. But Boss doesn’t expect me to respond to the 2 AM emails that get sent out, and doesn’t call me during kid’s bedtime or on weekends except in case of emergency–and understands the difference between an inconvenience and an emergency.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      I, too, had a boss who worked late into the nights and on weekends, but she saved the messages in her outbox so we wouldn’t feel obligated to read/respond/act late at night. So at 8:00 every morning, and especially so on Mondays, a bunch of us would get a slew of e-mails from her. It was obvious that she’d been working beyond normal hours, but that she didn’t expect us to, which was appreciated.

  49. Amelia*

    This is a great post and makes me want my staff to describe ME in as one of the “best” as well. Will definitely strive to provide some of the experiences mentioned in this thread. V. motivating.

  50. K.C.*

    I’ve actually been lucky enough to have several excellent bosses.

    One was the store manager at a part-time retail job I worked around the time I was in grad school. I was a woman employee in a heavily male-dominated field (video game stores) and he would consistently and regularly go to the bat for me as an adult who knew what she was doing when hostile customers tried to undermine me, call me names, ignore me, asked to see a man instead, etc. He also took the “umbrella” approach to management, trying really hard to be fair with hours and so on and protecting us from the… matter… that metaphorically rained down from Corporate.

    My best best-boss though was one I had for four years inside a major media corporation. She was seriously the platonic ideal of good management. Every textbook “good manager” behavior, she had. And she *meant* it, was the amazing part. She ran the training and organizational development division of the company and she ran it by fully mastering and modeling every listening skill, management skill, and team-organization and motivation skill that she coached managers and executives to apply to their own teams.

    I started as her assistant and after four years had grown into a much larger role with the company that she helped me build, before I left to switch fields. I still think about her sometimes and hope that if I ever manage a team (which I don’t want to do, really, but acknowledge may happen eventually) I can do it just like her.

  51. Jen*

    I have had one great boss and one very good boss:

    -Great boss: She was the executive producer at a news room I worked at. She knew how to produce and could fill in if you were going crazy with things. She managed up beautifully and somehow managed to be well-liked and respected by those above and below. She was patient with everyone and was a very positive person without being naive. She knew when people were upset and if there were problems but she had a brilliant way of speaking to people to let them know that it is OK to be upset about something but you can’t just complain, you have to come up with solutions.

    Good boss: I worked at a non-profit and I had a boss there for about 3 years who was a great trainer. She did a fantastic job of being friendly and maintaining a professional distance with employees. She was very meticulous and had a fantastic attention to detail. She also did a great job of managing up and down. Bosses loved her and for the most part, her employees loved her. Starting out she did a great job of making sure I knew exactly what was going on and I have never had a better on-boarding experience in all of my years since then. Her only downfall was that her attention to detail and ability to train made it challenging for her to let go of things and give a worker freedom. I ended up leaving because I wasn’t getting much of a chance to stretch my wings.

  52. KM*

    I can think of people I liked who were not great managers, but it would be pretty difficult for me to think someone was a good boss but whom I didn’t like.

    Anyway, the best one was someone I liked. He was a pretty hands-off supervisor. He was always available if you needed something, but he didn’t try to micromanage or hover while we were working. He had reasonable expectations about what we could do, and he (and the other supervisors) also pitched in from time to time if there was a heavier workload than unusual or a backlog that needed to get processed.

    But, I think what impressed me the most was that he had really good social skills. He was a kind person — I never heard him say anything nasty to or about anyone in the entire time I worked there — and he honestly cared about our well-being. He stood up for us over health and safety issues, and he stood between us and the other departments when it was time to play the blame game. He also had a way of telling you what you needed to hear exactly when you needed to hear it — I had one really bad day where I felt like it was a horrible mistake to be there because I didn’t belong, and, almost as soon as I had that thought, he sat down beside me and told me he was so happy to have me as part of the team.

    I honestly do think that companies make a mistake sometimes when they promote someone to a supervisory position — that they pick someone who’s good at doing the job they’re supervising rather than someone who has good people skills. This boss had no idea how to do my job, but he was gifted at dealing with people in ways that I will never be, and I appreciated him because of that.

  53. Colette*

    My first boss and I did not have the same sense of humor at all. We were a fairly close group (had lunch together every day, etc.) and joked around – but if I made a joke, he wouldn’t get it (and vice versa, probably).

    He was a true believer when it came to the company – he had just become a manager, and he made sure we had regular performance reviews (which I agree in theory are important, but in practice I’d rather go to the dentist). He firmly believed that the company would look after its people, and he did his best to do the same.

    This was my first post-university job, and my first job as a software developer, and he did a lot to help me learn how to plan a project, develop software, and write the appropriate documentation. He also helped me learn how to fill out exception requests, since I always managed to come up with a project plan that ended one week after the deadline.

    And then there were layoffs, and our work moved to a new team. Even though he was very disillusioned by the layoffs, he put a lot of effort into finding all of us new jobs. Most of us ended up moving to a new product, and I ended up working for him for another couple of years.

  54. summercamper*

    When I told my Best Boss Ever that I was looking for a job, he not only let me have a smooth transition, he took it upon himself to help me job hunt!

    The Best Boss Ever was the manager of a used bookstore where I worked post-college. It was no secret that I wanted to find work within my field of interest instead of retail, and after 4 months of working for him I let him know that I was actively job searching.

    The next week he was having lunch with a friend who happened to manage a company in my field of interest. This friend’s assistant had resigned that morning. “I have the perfect replacement for you!” Best Boss Ever said. “Let me tell you about how awesome my employee is.” He then proceeded to give me a glowing recommendation. His friend called me that afternoon, we had a brief interview in his office, and he hired me the next business day.

    Best Boss Ever said he was selfishly sad that I was leaving his business but knew he wouldn’t be keeping me forever. Even though he didn’t have anyone to immediately fill my position, he offered to let me skip out on my notice period altogether so that I could begin work at my new job right away.

    The new job was an excellent fit, and I’ve remained in contact with the Best Boss Ever – he saw me as a person, not just an employee, and looked out for my best interests instead of his own.

  55. Jessica*

    I had an amazing boss at a previous job. When he gave me a project, he would give me the big picture of why this work mattered and instructions on anything that needed to be done a specific way. Then he would get out of my way and trust me to get my work done, but was open to helping me brainstorm or talk things through if I was struggling. When he provided feedback, it never came across as criticism. He might say, “Tell me about why you chose this way of doing it” and then say, “Here’s something I’ve had success with” or “Here’s how some people might perceive this” or “Here’s what I’ve read about this.” He shared appreciation for my work frequently, both to me and to others. He was open to hearing my goals and tried wherever possible to provide resources for the specific professional development I wanted. He fought for a position to be created for me in the midst of a hiring/promotion freeze.

    He also served as a mentor to me, which I realize a boss doesn’t need to do but for which I was grateful since I was only a few years out of college. He would fill me in on institutional and office politics, never in a gossipy way, but when he thought that understanding the nuances of a situation could help me avoid making a misstep. He pushed me to consider publishing my work and presenting at conferences. He lent me books on areas of our field I was interested in. I’m incredibly grateful for having him as one of my first supervisors after college, although I fear I’ll be comparing all future bosses to him now!

  56. SubwayFan*

    My best boss is my current one. I’ve had three people ask me to come work for them in the 2 years I’ve been here and I wouldn’t trade for a minute. My boss is honestly interested in helping me succeed, and treats me like an intelligent person. He sees his role as finding the best people to do a job, and then let them do it, but he is also very available when you have questions. He is the only boss I’ve ever had that I felt comfortable telling that I have a recurring medical condition, and the only boss I’ve ever been able to go to to complain about toxic coworkers.

    He’s built a wonderful team of people that I enjoy working on–no one ever says “that’s not my job,” and we all work together. We are definitely the most productive group in my division, and a lot of that comes from his ability to help us where we need it, but trust us to do the job he hired us for on our own.

  57. LQ*

    I’m impressed and it is kind of interesting how many people are mentioning their best boss was their first boss. Mine was my first in a professional job also. (My current boss is good, but not great and amazing like my Best Boss.)

    She was amazing, she would often say, “Hey come in here and listen to this phone call.” Then she’d explain the politics of what happened and I’d be expected to handle the next one. Each situation and project she gave me she prepped me for but expected me to handle on my own as well. She supported me but demanded that I produce results.
    The job had moments that were extremely frustrating (I couldn’t give away chocolate teapots!) and she gave me resources to help understand what I was doing wrong and alter my strategies.

    She also recognized my strengths and weaknesses and we were able to shift the work so I was doing more work that was something I’d excel at while still working to improve those weaknesses without any of the long term problems that could have come up.

    She and I have kept in touch and she’s been a mentor for me about career paths and difficult work environments. Best boss ever.

  58. Ann Furthermore*

    My current boss is awesome, for many reasons:

    – She gets work/life balance. If I need to duck out early for a doctor’s appointment, or flex my schedule to do something with my daughter, it’s never a problem. She’s also good with everyone on the team working from home one day a week. She treats us like adults, and expects us to get our work done, and we do.

    – She is a great buffer between us and upper management, and also the rampant politics. Our team supports/develops the ERP instance, and she fields all the complaints about how our system is responsible for everything bad that happens in the world, and it only trickles down to us when it’s either something that affects us, or is something we can help with.

    – She is a very straightforward, zero-percent BS kind of person. If you’re screwing up, or if she’s concerned about something you are or are not doing, she addresses it right away and doesn’t save it for an ambush during your performance evaluation. A couple years ago she called me out for something I was doing (and it was due to quite a bit of personal turmoil in my life at the time) that was raising some concerns. I thanked her for bringing it to my attention, addressed the issue, and that was the end of it.

    – She’s great about providing opportunities for professional growth. Twice now, she’s assigned me to projects where I had no prior exposure to or experience with the subject matter, and told me she thought I was the right person to be on that team. Both times have ended up being tremendous learning experiences and have greatly expanded my skill set.

    – She’s not afraid to push back, either on you if she thinks you’re not handling something as well as you could, or not approaching something in the best way, and also to upper management when someone makes demands that she feels are unrealistic or unreasonable. This is awesome — I’ve had bosses that just nod and say, “Yes, we can do that,” no matter how outlandish something was, which just created angst, drama, and stress when it rolled downhill to the rest of us.

    A couple years ago there was a big reorg in our group, and all I cared about was still having her as my boss when it was all said and done. Thankfully, that’s how it all worked out.

  59. Marie*

    My best boss was far more driven than I am, could be quite snappy if annoyed, and had very different personality and interests to me. In fact, she had a reputation at the firm as being difficult, though generally from people who had worked WITH, not FOR her. I remember people used to give me pitying looks when they heard who I worked for.

    What was so good about her?

    For one thing, she was willing to form her own opinion of me. I had had a very bad start at the firm, coming as a new grad to work directly with a very senior director who had forgotten what it was like to be inexperienced, so would be shocked when I didn’t know things that came with practice, but also didn’t want to have to train me. The angrier he got, the more I panicked and made stupid mistakes, and I never got a chance to show any of the research strengths the firm had hired me for, because he decided I must be stupid and only gave me the most menial things to do. So when I got to the good boss, I was arriving with low confidence and a bad reputation internally from the only person who’d ever worked with me. The good boss let me start with a clean slate, tested my skills by giving me simple things to do, and each time I managed a task, increased my responsibility until she was relying on me for all sorts of things. I got to rebuild confidence and prove myself, and she got good work and massive loyalty.

    Second, she trained me. She would never assume I knew something just because she did, and she made her expectations clear. She gave me copious feedback on my work, with the result that I had plenty to work on and rapidly improved as well as learning her personal work style quickly. In my 6-month review I mentioned that I enjoyed research and would like to do more of it. Her own practice didn’t involve a lot of research, so she emailed the other directors to ask them to please use me if they need any research done.

    Third, she had my back. From early on, she told every colleague who asked how happy she was with my work, and basically saved my reputation. When I passed my board exams (necessary, but really pretty routine), she emailed the whole department to tell them, and then bought me a massive bunch of flowers. Even if a client was unhappy, she would never throw me under the bus, but would explain why we had (together) chosen to do whatever the client was complaining about. The result was that colleagues and clients were happy to deal with me in her absence and I was confident that I knew how she wanted me to handle things.

    It’s funny – even though the work we did together was one of the most boring areas of law, I would have followed that boss anywhere.

  60. Jeanne*

    My best boss ever was one of my early jobs at Kentucky Fried Chicken. He expected us to work hard but he knew the hard workers and made sure we knew he appreciated us. His best managing was about mistakes. He always said if you make a mistake, tell me about it. I’ll help you fix it. If you lie about your mistakes, then you’re in trouble.

    I always appreciated him. It’s hard managing a bunch of teenagers in fast food. He made us feel that things would go well with him in charge. And he was willing to work alongside us when things get tough.

  61. Windchime*

    My best boss is my current boss, for these reasons:

    1. He is an expert in his field, so he knows what it takes for our team to accomplish the tasks. He is technically skilled, so he is the type of supervisor who can actually help when I need an idea on a SQL query. On the flip side, he’s humble and frequently asks us to review his code.

    2. He is people smart. He listens, is engaged, and takes concerns seriously (but also knows when to just listen and not take action). He is a great communicator.

    3. He is tactful. He waits for a private moment to give uncomfortable feedback, and then he delivers it with kindness. I’ve never seen him overtly angry (ticked off maybe, but not angry).

    4. He is supportive. He believes in using all of our training budget and isn’t stingy regarding travel when necessary. Our team is fairly new, and he has spent significant time and effort into trying to find the best combination of duties for each person on the team.

    Nobody is perfect, of course. He is notoriously late on things like reviews (because it’s more fun to write code!). He is a bit of an absent-minded professor type.

    All in all, he’s definitely the best boss I’ve ever had.

  62. Briggs*

    While I was waiting tables between 9-5 jobs, I had a great manager named Sam. He was always very approachable about any concern, was very responsive to his individual employees needs without making those who needed more help feel inferior, and it always felt like he was on your side and ready to help you out. Even when things were going really badly (busy night, running out of things, upset customers) he kept a calm attitude and only occasionally let his exasperation show.

    This is even more impressive because we’re talking about a restaurant manager. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and it’s pretty easy to get stressed out. Emergencies happen all the time, and often they’re in the form of upset people whom you have to deal with immediately and face to face. Keeping your cool under those situations is a zen-like skill I aspire to myself.

  63. anon-2*

    My best manager? A guy who was a retired Merchant Marine officer – he treated us with the same respect he would treat officers on an MM crew.

    Quite a contrast for a misfit who was nearly fired from a job, and walked into his group. He put together a “Black Sheep Squadron”. He would ask people’s opinions for direction – and may not accept or execute yours, but he respectfully heard you out.

    He also made sure we were paid fair salaries; he respected the work-family balance; and he advised us to work hard, work seriously but above all – relax, have fun, and don’t fear if you make a mistake once in awhile.

    That was probably the happiest three-year stretch in my 40-year career.

  64. Email Campaign Marketing Manager*

    There are too many items to list about the best boss I ever had. He was a great person who treated all the staff fairly – whether that be our successes or our failures. He made it a point to treat us as people/peers first and “workers” second. He definitely maintained the work relationship and the importance of our roles, but understood family and life came first.

    There are two major life lessons he taught me that I still live by today. 1. As a manager, you need to create an environment where you and your staff want to come to work. 2. “What” is the question. Avoid asking questions that start with “why,” especially in difficult conversations. “What” sounds much less accusatory than “why.” (Challenge yourself to do this – it is sometimes quite difficult, but is very helpful!)

  65. On My Phone*

    My best were:

    The Boss that was black and white with me – no sugar coating and told me like it was. I grew some thick skin.

    The boss that gave me opportunities to stretch – delighted tasks that were a little above my rank (let me see just enough to be ready for the next level)

    The last two bosses that started prepping me with opportunities for upper management. They also were supportive of me moving to New teams to gain exposure.

  66. GrumpyBoss*

    I had a boss who was an angry little man and had the most foul mouth. The first time I upset him he almost reduced me to tears. He was so mean. He used cuss words that I had to research what they meant. Yet he was the best boss ever.

    1. I always knew where I stood with him. No BS. No trying to decipher the message. If I screwed up, I knew it loud and clear.

    2. If you messed with me or one of his other reports, you got an even meaner version of him. Nobody was allowed to be mean to us except him.

    3. We all wanted to genuinely make him proud. I don’t know if it was avoidance or what, but I always went the extra mile for him. We were always so happy when we did something that exceeded is extremely high expectations. He once gave me kudos in a town hall for a project that I had led. It still ranks as one of my proudest professional achievements. And not because I got recognized in front of peers. But because I had left such a positive impression on him.

    4. Come bonus time, he fought tooth and nail and got his team some of the highest percentages in the firm. I will put up with a whole lot of abuse if the money is there.

  67. Cath in Canada*

    My PhD supervisor was awesome. He drove me nuts at the time, but the further I go in my career, the more I appreciate what he taught me.

    I joined the lab incredibly green, with good background knowledge, OK technical skills, but no concept of how to manage time in a lab, run several experiments/projects at once, etc. He spent a LOT of time with me in the first six months or so, at the bench and in his office, teaching me how to design and interpret experiments correctly, etc.

    Over time, as I grew more confident, he always seemed to know just when to back off a step, and how far to back away. I was still subjected to 45 minute grilling sessions on every single aspect of what I was doing when I’d just stepped into his office for a quick answer to a yes-no question, though (so was everyone else! We all independently started setting a lab experiment timer for a few minutes and keeping it in our pockets at all times, so we could discreetly hit “start” if he looked like he was building up a good head of steam).

    He also taught me a lot about writing and editing – the red ink and nit-picking drove me crazy at the time, but did it ever pay off! The next boss I had said I was the first postdoctoral fellow she’d ever had whose draft papers didn’t need editing before being submitted for publication. And he gave me experience reviewing other people’s papers and grants.

    Whenever I get together with old friends from that lab, we always talk about what a great boss he was, and how we wish we’d appreciated that more at the time.

    He retired recently, and the lab has completely shut down. It feels how I imagine it’s going to feel when my parents sell the house I grew up in…

  68. Lora*

    My best boss was Howie, 4 jobs ago. Howie had been a medic in Vietnam and went to medical school for an MD/PhD afterwards on the GI Bill. Howie was insanely smart, and the most laid back dude ever. He was the Voice of Reason in a line management full of stupid. He treated me like an adult: He asked politely if I could get my interns and temps together and work out a schedule to do X, Y and Z by (date). He did not give orders. He just asked if I could do something, and if I said, “Howie, I am really sorry, I cannot, I am swamped with Project ABC,” he said well, I’ll talk to management about getting some more people on board or pushing the deadline. And he did. Sometimes he could get us more time, sometimes not, but he always went to bat for us and injected a welcome amount of sanity into every meeting and group project. He didn’t schedule meetings to talk to me, he merely dropped by the lab and chatted with me a few times a week. We never needed to have awkward one-on-one meetings, because when he wasn’t traveling to a client site, he dropped by once in a while to say hi and ask how things were going, and the rest of the time he trusted me to have it together. Howie was anti-meeting–in fact, I can’t recall a single official meeting with him that wasn’t specifically to meet with a client. The rest of the time, it was pretty informal. He always knew what I was working on and how it was going, because he poked his head in the lab and sometimes tried to do lab work with me while we talked. I never got yelled at or punished for saying something less than 100% positive, it was just considered feedback that he would do something about if he could, with the understanding that I might have to suck it up and deal. He never EVER surprised me with extra work or last-minute projects or slide decks that I had to present to clients without even seeing them first. He trusted me to be able to handle all kinds of sticky situations–lawyers, regulatory authorities, clients, the works. As long as I did good work, he had my back.

    God, I adored him. And then I hit the ceiling with job titles sans grad school, so I went to grad school. And now he’s retired. Bummer. I’d work for him again in a heartbeat. I try very very hard as a manager to be like him. He was fantastic, everyone loved working with him.

    1. Lora*

      A close second: my boss Mike, two jobs ago. MIT PhD engineer, super-smart, funny, completely without pretension. He was another one who absolutely had my back. Even when other people who worked under him were absolutely in the wrong, he had their back until he really could not any more. He was another one who loved to come down to the lab or out to the job site and do field work with us. I SO admire that, bosses who are willing to get their hands dirty. Can’t stand the kind who delegate everything but sitting in boring meetings all day. Mike was great. Old-timer, knew everyone and everything in the industry, had all kinds of stories. He considered appropriate work attire to be frayed khakis, an MIT sweatshirt and the most broken-down, dirty, beat-up sneakers you have ever seen in your life, and his hair all sticking out Einstein-style. He did victory dances when experiments went right, after making sure there were no video cameras in the vicinity. He was always so proud of us for working out solutions.

      And again, with the respect–he asked my team if we might be able to take on a project and explained what it would mean, what it might lead to if it worked out. He didn’t TELL you to do something, he asked if you might be able to. I love that, it’s so thoughtful. It gives you the opportunity to bring up priority shuffling and time commitments and all that, instead of “here is project #23948475842658, it is your new #1 priority, along with all your other #1 priorities.” When we were overbooked, he said so to his line management. He never made you feel dumb for not knowing something, it was just not necessarily your particular expertise or something you had seen before, and in this field, there’s always something you’ve never seen before–that’s the point of being innovative, really.

      He moved to the other site for that employer, which is in the middle of nowhere, so no way will I work for him again unless he moves back here. :/

  69. anon*

    My two current bosses are the best ever. They’d both be great on their own, but together they just complement each other perfectly. Where she’s good at providing positive feedback, he’s good at rewarding with increasing responsibility. Where he’s good at motivating and mentoring, she’s good at laying a clear foundation of what’s needed. She’s great at leading him, which makes him that much better at leading us.

  70. MPM*

    I’ve had some awful bosses, a few who were pretty good, and one who was wonderful.

    My wonderful boss was smart, insightful, kind, fair, dedicated, principled, and funny. She trusted people until given a reason not to, and had very good instincts. She modeled responsible behavior, except that she didn’t do quite as well at work-life balance as she expected her staff to do (but she did have a personal life and she did take time off when she needed to). She listened and explained well. She was really understanding about personal issues and mistakes, but she would gently but firmly tell me straight up when I messed up or needed to step up to the plate more.

    She asked a lot of people for advice and had friends across the department at all levels. If she asked what you thought about something, she really wanted to know, and she incorporated input really well. She was good at building bridges, but she wouldn’t put up with crap.

    She believed in me and was a great mentor. She gave way more positive feedback than negative feedback, but she knew when I needed to be pushed or reined in; basically, if I was not being my best self, she would say so. She took me to a seminar with her that was really for higher-level folks, because she thought it would be helpful for me.

    I always wanted to do my best for her, especially if it made her life easier, and she was always expressing gratitude and appreciation. She always made time for me and always knew the right thing to say.

    She spoke truth to power when necessary, and tried to change crappy things going on in the department, but ultimately left because things hadn’t changed enough (though without her they might not have changed at all). I worked for her for less than 3 years, but I was incredibly sad and still am when I think about it, years later, though she totally did the right thing for her.

    I did become pretty close with her and remained in touch after she left (she still gives me great advice), but she was supportive, kind, and fair to everyone. In fact, there were people who (I eventually realized) really annoyed her, but they couldn’t tell and they liked her.

  71. Lamington*

    I had 2 great bossses. The first one was in my first professional job after college. This man was smart, know what he wanted, was demanding but if you worked hard and showed potential he will rewarded you. He made me with 0 experience a lead for a group of 5 people with 3 were senior than me. I always was willing to go the extra mile for him. Also, he liked to reward the team if we were doing well and training not a problem. He will get money in the budget for you even if you wanted to take an obscure class that might help you more in a future role that in a current one. I like that he was WYSIWYG. I never second guessed him or doubt what he will tell us, we took him by his word.

    My other most recent boss it is a cool guy. I think if I had met him outside of work we will be good friends. He is sarcastic and tell you plainly what he expects from you. Everyone that works for him, even senior people, said that he is a great boss. He gave me time to adjust to the new company, a mentor, always available to talk if I have questions and concerns (even 1 time that I had to call him at midnight for an emergency), willing to do our work if we are short staffed and I will always be thankful for him for going to talk to our big cheese so I wouldn’t get laid off by my new boss. Thank you AT!

  72. Kara*

    One of the first bosses I ever had was for a retail job at a shoe store. I was 17, and this boss was a very experience, reasonable manager of about 50. I had a child I needed to place in daycare, which meant I couldn’t work the traditional crazy retail schedule, and he let me argue that the store needed someone to cover the floor during regular business hours, so why not make that my schedule instead of insisting I work some nights and weekends. I ended up with a 9-5 schedule, almost unheard of in retail. While I was there, he allowed me to train for positions that I could be promoted to in the future (assistant store manager, etc), and included me in managerial tasks and decisions such as inventory and hiring. He asked my opinion of applicants who came in to drop of their resume, and was one of the first managers to give me training in how employers look at a resume. The reason I know he was a great manager is that I can say all of these things about him when he was actually the person who ended up firing me (yeah, I was young, had a punctuality problem that I’ve since corrected). That job was a great learning experience for me, and being placed with him as a manager was one of the reasons why.

  73. Barbra*

    My best boss ever was Mr. Last Name (he was a formal guy). I was his paralegal and clerical support. He was my sole attorney so we worked very closely together. He was kind and clear with his instructions. His door was always open to me for any issue or question, even if it was closed to others. He told me what I did right and what I could do better. He coached me on keeping track of my billables (my weak spot). He went to bat for me more than once during issues with other people in the firm. I could almost read his mind about what he needed done. I could walk in his office on a pretty Friday morning and say, “we have this and that to do, if you don’t have anything else let’s cut out of here at 3” and he almost always said yes. The key is that I knew when it would be okay to do that and never abused it. He once told me in his 25 years of practice I was the best assistant he ever had. I regrettably left after three years because my husband’s job moved across the country. I have had many bosses since then (a couple of good ones and several terrible ones) but no one compares to Mr. Last Name.

  74. A Non*

    My best boss was the one who almost fired me. I’d accepted what I thought was a business analysis type job, which abruptly turned into a phone tech support job when the lady who hired me got fired. The woman who replaced her was competent, fearless, and the most effective manager I’ve ever worked with.

    I was not (and am not) cut out for phone-based tech support. Within a few months I was miserable and performing poorly, and spiraling further down the drain. Tanya was clear and kind with me about not meeting expectations, first in a casual way, then more seriously as I wasn’t able to turn it around. She made expectations really clear – we could see metrics of calls answered, average call times, and more for everyone in the group. She finally warned me that she was about to fire me, at which point I resigned.

    I’m sure I’m not the first employee she managed who could not survive call center work. She was kind and never judgmental of me throughout, and even said that she’d give me a positive reference as long as I was applying for different kinds of work. She was also rigorously fair to the company and to my coworkers – I was a drain on the group, and needed to be dealt with, so she did.

    I have huge respect for her. She remains my inner model of what a manager should be. I’d be thrilled to work under her again, as long as it’s not call center work!

  75. MLHD*

    When I was 15 I was looking really hard for a job, but of course most places hire at 16 if you’re lucky, but mostly 18. A new mall had opened in my area so I went around to all the stores and got applications. I went into a small shoe store and the manager spoke to me. She was very sweet and ended up hiring me for my very first job. I ended up learning a lot about retail and working there for several years, even coming back to work during summer and holiday break when I was in college. Well a few years into working there I happened to look at my personnel file and noticed the year was one year off on my birthday. That manager had fudged by birthday on my paperwork so that it looked like I was 16 so she could hire me. I don’t know why she went out on a limb for me, being a kid with no experience and probably loads of people coming in looking for jobs just like I was, but for whatever reason she saw something in me and knowing that now means so much to me.

  76. Julie M.*

    I work at a big box store with a policy coming down from HQ that executive store team leads can’t stay at any location for more than about 18 months. Because of this policy I’ve worked under a whole mess of store managers and hands down my favorite was this young guy named Ian. In the 7+ years I’ve been there he is the only STL who never hesitated to get down and dirty with all the craziness that is retail. He always took the time to genuinely talk with and get to know his team members and he got excellent results because of it.

    But what really hit it home for me was his absolute interest in the well being of his team. A few months after I graduated college and a few weeks before he left our store he called me into his office asking what my plans were for the future. I assumed he was trying to feel me out for a team lead position as the company prefers to promote from within. He said he knew how long I had been there but that I went to school for something completely different and thought I should be doing bigger and better things than a management position at that company. He offered to sit down with me to look over my resume and run mock interviews. It caught me completely off guard that he had not only paid attention when we had spoken previously, but that he was willing to go out of his way to help me out. There have been other STLs since that can’t even be bothered to remember names, even with the help of name tags. Unfortunately he was transferred to a different store almost immediately after our talk and I never got to take him up on his offer, but I’ll never forget him.

  77. J-nonymous*

    The best boss I have ever had was my boss two positions ago. I wouldn’t say we hit it off right away (he came in in the midst of a project that was quickly going off the rails and in which I had a difficult role). We butted head sometimes.

    He gave me important feedback about my skills, and where I needed to focus and grow. And he was very supportive while I grew in my first management/lead role.

    He was also probably the *most* empathetic person I have worked with, and he really passed that on to me – and for that I’m thankful. We keep in touch frequently since I left (about a year ago). I leaned on him for advice heavily when the position I left for turned out to be a horrible fit (complete with a bullying boss).

    I remember when he was hired (and became my boss), he scheduled one-on-one meetings with me every week, for an hour each week. I bristled at that (in prior roles, I’d maybe have a one-on-one monthly!). 2 years later, I found myself feeling grumpier and more stressed out if I didn’t have the opportunity to sit down and talk to him for an hour or so per week just to talk through what was going on!

    If anyone I ever manage(d) feels the same way about my one-on-ones with them, I will count that as a Very High Achievement.

  78. Cassie*

    My best boss was the person who was my supervisor when I was a work-study student and as a part-time employee, and later on when I became a full-time career employee. What I liked about her management style is that she would pass tasks on to me and let me take care of them. She wasn’t a micromanager and (if I remember correctly) she didn’t care “how” I got things done, as long as they were done. She was also customer-service oriented and would always look for ways to help faculty out – this stands out because so many staffers put up roadblocks and obstacles when faculty have requests.

    She was a great boss for me because she trusted me to get the job done, and although she was personable and friendly, she didn’t badger me to chat with her all the time. I was probably a little too quiet for her taste (especially back when I was a student) but she never brought it up – it didn’t affect our work so it didn’t matter.

    The thing about bosses is that it’s not going to be the same for everyone. I thought she was great for being hands-off, but other subordinates of hers could probably have used more guidance.

  79. abankyteller*

    My best boss was the manager in a hospital kitchen. He worked his way up to his position and was trained in every aspect of the job, from managing patient diets to actually putting trays together to kitchen cleanup. Because he knew every part of the job he could and DID jump right in wherever he was needed if we got behind, he could offer some tips and tricks for new hires, and he didn’t expect too much or too little from people in each position. He was the most hands-on and most helpful manager I’ve ever had.

  80. Jennifer M.*

    My current boss is probably one of the best bosses that I have ever had. However, before working with him, I was extremely nervous about the situation. We are a company with project offices all over the world. I was in the HQ for many years and heard plenty of stories about him. Confluence of events put us on the same project in a foreign country with him as the lead and me as the head admin officer. One month in and I was completely won over. If he has confidence in you, he lets you do your job and doesn’t micromanage. He gives international and locals equal opportunities to advance. If you have a different opinion on how something should be done, he will listen to your argument, and is often (though not always!) willing to change his mind.

    Six months in, I was completely drowning in the start-up workload. All of the slots for my admin team had been reassigned to technical slots (typical!) and my one admin team member (who wasn’t a secretary or receptionist) was about to go on maternity leave. He saw this and said let’s get someone from HQ out here for 3 months to help out. Bringing out short term admin staff is not something that the majority of project leads in my industry would consider doing. It saved my health and my sanity. Plus it resulted in an ultimate expansion of my team with local talent so what I was once doing by myself is now being handled by me plus 2 people working full time (just to get an idea of the work load).

    He still treats the HQ terribly on conference calls and is dismissive of the corporate aspects of the job so his reputation of being “difficult” is well-earned, but he is still the best boss I’ve ever had.

  81. BritCred*

    My last boss:
    – Had the view that if you had good reason not to want to be at work then you shouldn’t be. (Since this is the UK “mental health days” are frowned upon mostly).
    – Didn’t harangue you for reports or information, gave you clear defined times of when stuff was needed. If he asked for something urgently you knew it wouldn’t be chucked on a pile and ignored.
    – Always there to listen and be a friend but could still be a manager without picking favorites or letting a friends slip go when a non-friends wouldn’t.
    – When something was being done wrong or in a way that didn’t help others just said it. No recriminations or blame. Just a pointer to the correct way of helping everyone reach their goals
    – Worked with his juniors to develop them and feel that they were valued. Even if it was outside of the direct bounds of their job.
    – Worked hard with employees over illness, didn’t stop valuing them because they caused an attendance problem. Seriously, this guy was still “we want you back – when YOU are ready” around six months of illness later! Most employers have been “well you might be super human when you are well but you are ill so now you are dirt….”
    – Allowed his juniors to see more of the ramifications of their roles. If we needed a HR meeting due to illness (since we still had basic ‘quotas’ for “this must generate a talk”) it wasn’t the junior cowering in the corner and him looming over. We had a chat. And often that meant I would put forward the company point of view and we’d find a solution rather than the employee feeling victimized.
    – Learnt what his employees were like – I tend to cry when emotional due to a body trigger. I only had to explain that once – the rest of the time he knew if I reached for a chewy sweet that I was ok and gave me time to get my voice back.

    1. bee*

      You should let this guy know you gave him such a great tribute- heck, everyone should who posted about a superstar boss. They are rare.
      And someone should make a list of these attributes (all on this page) they read vastly different than anything else I have read re: good managers.

  82. Fhyl*

    My best bosses were, ironically, when I held a part-time cook job in a fast food joint. Despite the fact that I was toiling away in heat and went home smelling of oil, it didn’t matter so much because everyone agreed that the two managers were awesome at their job.
    Not only were they solid leaders with excellent understanding of everyone’s job and the whole workflow of the place (their experience in the foods industry really showed), they were always quick to join the fray during rush hours. They were also extremely positive in their feedback, making every single criticism they had sting JUST the right way (in a “Damn, I FAILED them. I HAVE to get better at that.” way)
    Their managing skill also showed in that, from what I heard, they had turned an failing restaurant into a total cash cow for the head office. Unfortunately, that ultimately made them both leave in a huff, when the head office refused to sell them the franchise of the place they had just saved. If I’m not mistaken, they now operate another successful restaurant in the same city.

  83. JustMe*

    My best bosses possessed these qualities:
    1 – Didn’t play favorites.
    2 – Got to know me on a more personal level. They took interest in my outside work life.
    3 – They allowed me to do complete tasks and assignments my way.
    4 – They inspired me to volunteer to work on my off days…because I wanted them to look good.
    5 – They truly cared about people first. If someone was ill (child, myself, etc.) they took interest.
    6 – They never made assumptions on what I was thinking.
    7 – They handled performance issues of other employees respectfully and with tack. (This is very big to me, because how you treat someone else when things aren’t good is exactly how you would treat me)
    8. They never gossiped, whispered to others in their work area, nor made anyone feel uncomfortable.
    9. They advocated for me.
    10. They understood you cannot have ‘friends’ in business. Your employees should come first.

  84. Amanda*

    My best boss had the following characteristics:

    *Strong vision for what our school should look and function like (and the ability to get others on board)

    *Inspired others to perform at their best – staff wanted to meet his expectations

    *Understood the importance of smart hiring decisions

    *At the forefront of current educational theory and practice. He brought true innovation to our school and expected all staff to use the most current instructional practices

    *Provided high-quality professional development and believed in the importance of investing in teacher training and learning

    *Treated teachers as capable, intelligent professionals. He never provided “dumbed-down” or childish professional development or training as many principals do. Some principals seem to believe that because you work with children, you should also be treated like a child.

    This boss wasn’t perfect – he tended to cultivate a small “inner circle” around him (of which I wasn’t a part) which felt unequal and inaccessible, didn’t value a work-life balance, and could be too focused on work.

    But, I would jump at the opportunity to work for him again!

  85. CynW*

    Oh I was so lucky early in my career to stumble on the best boss ever. At first, when I reported to him, I did not know what to make of him – he was distant and standoffish and just handed out directions without any emotional engagement. Then I made a colossal mistake on one of his customer accounts, he brought it to my attention in a rather calm manner and I lost it – crying silently but he caught it. Later that day, he came by my desk and asked me to accompany him, a sure sign of the end in my world. Yet he took me to coffee, sat and talked with me and said:
    ‘Cindy, this is a job, you are going to make mistakes and the great thing about this business is that all of them can be corrected; we are not solving world peace here.’
    I was hooked – hook, line and sinker and to this day, still use the phrase ‘we’re not solving world peace here’ to remind myself it’s all about perspective. Worked with him for about 8 years and loved every single minute of this gold standard bearer.

  86. KC*

    My best boss was one I didn’t like very much. He came into the job from another industry with no experience in ours. His vibe was Corporate America and our company was striving for Googlesque. Because of these factors, he wasn’t a great fit, and he left the company for more buttoned-up pastures after only 8 months.

    However, during those 8 months, he had to do reviews for his team. It is the ONLY review I’d ever had that contained constructive or critical feedback. He was my second boss at my first job out of college and it was really hard hearing the criticism. At first, I was angry. After more thought, though, I realized that some of his feedback was VERY relevant. He was trying to groom me for leadership on the team; he needed me to be less of a peer to my teammates and more of a leader. Some of my habits at the time had him concerned.

    There were things in the review I still didn’t agree with (and it had to do with his disconnect with the company’s culture), and I was able to have a frank conversation about the parts of the review I didn’t agree with and why. He actually adjusted some of the scores he gave me based on our conversation.

    I feel like that review cycle I had with him, and the time I spent working under him, went a long way in helping me build myself up as a professional and a leader on my teams–even if I really didn’t like the guy personally.

  87. Jake*

    Clay was my best manager.

    He was the manager for a team of 6 field engineers, and he provided guidance to two other departments totaling roughly 8 more office engineers and technicians.

    Clay is a baby boomer that has spent the last 20 years as a project manager, and took this position as a lowly engineering manager to lower his stress level. He understands how to run a construction project better than anybody I’ve ever met, which made him grossly over-qualified for his position, but he would NEVER have said that.

    What made Clay so great is that he utilized everybody to their full potential. A coworker and I were hired directly out of college at the same time to work for Clay. I am very analytical, detail oriented, and I am very thorough. I was good at tasks with a lot of depth, but I could only handle a couple at a time. My coworker was none of those, but he could handle a lot of shallow without dropping the ball on any of them. As a result my coworker was assigned to parts of the project that had already been “figured out” but needed somebody there to make sure everything was done properly while I was assigned to new parts of the project, and my job was to figure out how to get it done. Clay assessed our strengths and put us in places where we could both excel. He did this for everybody on his team. His team consisted of me, the coworker I just mentioned, a team lead and the rest were all cast-offs from other departments. Clay turned those cast-offs into some of the most productive members of the entire project!

    More importantly than all of that though, I always knew Clay had my back personally and professionally. He trusted me to do my job, and when I did it, he made sure to give me plenty of both positive and negative feedback. I never once thought that he was micromanaging me. When there was a conflict between me and anybody in another department (which was very common on this project due to a lack of integrity with key personnel), he would talk to me about it and I knew that he would go fight that battle with upper management for me.

    Additionally, in 3 years working for Clay, I saw him compromise his integrity exactly zero times, which is less than any other person I’ve worked with in my life.

    To be fair, he had his faults. He provided almost no direction, so oftentimes it was hard to figure out what our job even was, let alone how to do it. He kept us well informed on the “inside information” regarding the project, but maybe a little too informed. Sure it helped us navigate the politically charged issues when we knew that manager XYZ was looking for somebody to beat on this week, but it often caused the team to look at the project in a negative light.

    They say that people quit their managers, not their jobs. Clay and I are the exception to that rule. I quit to escape managers in another department that made everybody on the project miserable, but if Clay called me next year about a new project he was assigned to, I’d have a hard time turning him down.

  88. KnitWorthy*

    My best boss was the technician in the lab I worked for in college. The PI was also great, and probably by definition my “real boss,” but the lab tech trained me for the day-to-day duties. What I appreciated most was that she trusted me, thanked me, and asked me to help out more and more as she saw what I could be capable of. She was also very personable, but I also realize that university labs can be more “cozy” than other work environments.

    And today is also the last day with my current boss, so I’ll give him a shout out. I’m moving onto a permanent position (woo hoo!), but my internship mentor has been quite good. What I really appreciated was how he would tell me occasionally how great my work was on X project, and that I could do what needs to be done on my own schedule.

    Overall, I think what I appreciate most in a boss is positive feedback. Even if we don’t interact daily, when I give them a product I like to hear that it was done well, and not think I just sent it out into a vacuum.

  89. Janis*

    David R, wherever you are, you were the best boss EVAH. Great business and great people skills. Someone else wrote “feedback is a gift,” and he knew how to give the bad stuff without making you feel like flinging yourself off the roof. And such business savvy, too. And funny, nice and a long distance runner (must have helped with stress). Alas, he knew it was time for him to move on and the person I worked for after him was quite probably the *worst* boss I have ever had in the whole of my life (and that’s saying something). The differences were so glaring. I fled soon after.

    I’ve had my present boss for over 6 years, and while I like and respect him a lot, he’s still no David R.

  90. KAZ2Y5*

    Bob was my best boss ever! When I started working for him, my family and I had just moved to where I live now. One month after starting work my husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Bob was so kind and gracious at a time when I really needed it.
    Some people from work came to the funeral–which was over an hour’s drive for them. So basically they were gone from work for at least 1/2 a day–just to support a very new co-worker.
    I appreciate that Bob was such a caring person and gave me time to get back on my feet. It was a very scary time for me and it helped so much that Bob supported me at work .
    Man, I’m crying as I write this and this all happened 10 years ago! Our company was bought out by another company–I got to work with Bob as a co-worker for a few years and then moved on to another place but I will always remember how much I enjoyed that job (even with everything that happened) and working for Bob.

  91. Anonymous*

    My best boss was my summer camp director. I had worked with him before his promotion, and he was great at balancing “this should be fun all around” and “we have children’s lives in our hands.” As a camp director, when I was leading camps, he was good at encouraging me to be tougher. I would complain about my staff, and he always said things to guide me to manage them myself “have you told him this?” “You’re in charge. Tell them” Which I needed to hear all the time. And when on my very first week leading a camp, I needed to call 911 for a kid (who was fine afterwards btw), when I got back to the HQ, he gave me a hug and asked if I was okay. He was very good at reading people and managing in individualized ways.
    I cried when he left

    (Decided to delete my user name for extra anonymity)

  92. mads*

    My best boss was someone who recognized what I did, advocated for me and stood up for me, even when I screwed up majorly. (Thankfully the one and only time!) Also, emphasized work life balance: work will always be here, friends and family wont. Work can go on without you.
    If he hadnt left, I would still be working there.

  93. KGP*

    I started working at a small, family owned landscape supply about four years ago, and it has been absolutely amazing. I lived in City A when I was first hired and the company is located in City D, 2.5 hours bus commute away. Even though I wound up being late at least once a week by 15 minutes or so because of public transportation issues, the owner/my boss was more than understanding and good about it. When he found out that I was struggling each month to buy a bus pass, he increased my pay by a couple of dollars an hour and gave me a midsummer bonus (another coworker who was having financial difficulties received a bonus and a “thank you” card with $100 inside three weeks later to help her out). Everyone in the company is on equal footing with him and he genuinely cares about each of us and our needs. It is fantastic, especially as my other job is with a corporate company that tends to go in the complete opposite direction when employees are facing difficulties and we are left to fend for ourselves.

  94. Vicki*

    My best managers weren’t managers, they were team leads. (Jobs in science / pharma companies). We had a collegial relationship with a lot of mutual respect.

    I also had two very good managers in engineering/development jobs. Both were good because they weren’t Bossy. They asked for input. They Listened. They didn’t play “I’m Telling YouWhat To Do and I’m The Boss.”

    Good managers back me when I have an idea. They give me authority as well as responsibility. They don’t assume they know everything because they’re “the boss”. In fact, they assume they _don’t_ know everything. They delegate not just work but intelligence.

  95. LucyVP*

    This is going to sound strange but my best boss didnt know she was my boss.

    We had a bit of a staff re-organization that was awkward and horrible (lots of people laid off, some very unflattering press, upper level management being very uncommunicative, etc.)
    After almost 2 years in limbo where the department head was my supervisor by default (my previous supervisor was laid off), a colleague was promoted to replace some job duties of the previous supervisor. YAY!

    Things go great, I think she is a fabulous boss, super collaborative, not micromanaging, fair, wonderful to bounce ideas off of.

    Then about 6 months later it is annual review time and it comes to light that department head thinks that new boss is my boss, but new boss doesn’t think she is supervising me. Apparently there was some miscommunication in the interview process combined with a vague job description . No one told her that she was supposed to supervise me and she assumed the dept. head was still doing it.

    She and I both left the organization in that next year, it was just way too much of a disaster.

  96. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For all of you commenting here: Have you told these great bosses how great they were/are? If not, now is a good opportunity to do it! I can promise you that they’d be thrilled to hear it.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      I did! As I mentioned in my comment, my best boss recently retired. When he emailed me to let me know and to give me his new non-work email address, I thanked him and told him how much I’d learned from him that I still put into practice today.

      Being a gruff Glaswegian, he never replied… I think I probably embarrassed the poor bloke into silence… but that’s OK :)

  97. E.T.*

    I think my best boss was C. I had just graduated, and my previous work experiences had all been school related (TA, RA, and a part time job at the college bookstore). I’ve never worked at a conservative office environment like that financial company before, so I had no idea how to do anything; I didn’t even know how to write a business letter when I started! And I wore my old college clothes to work at the beginning, including a pair of jeans with holes at the knee. I thought I knew everything with my fancy college degree, but C had to teach me from ground up, as well as discretely tell me that jeans with holes were not okay for our office.

    If he was horrified by my cluelessness in the workplace, he never let it on. He was a great teacher and mentor, and he was very patient. He would often suggest a few projects for me to work on; the projects were normally supposed to go to people with much more experience. He would then teach me behind the scenes, so I learned a lot from these projects and from him. The office was wonderful too and offered great benefits to the employees. The only reason I left was because my husband found a job in another city.

    I often think that I owe my success at my subsequent jobs to having him as my first boss. We still keep in touch from time to time even though we are in different cities now.

  98. NearlyKay*

    I have been fortunate to have several good bosses in my life, but there is one who always sticks out when I think of “best.”

    I was a management consultant at a big firm. I worked day-to-day at the client site under the direct supervision of the team lead. Awesome Boss was the manager on the project; she was not there day-to-day, but she was the one who did our performance reviews and was ultimately responsible for the work.

    The team lead in question was… not great. She played favorites, and she was prone to just… being gone in the middle of the day without telling anyone where. It had gotten to the point where clients would come to us looking for Team Lead, and we’d have to cover for her. Cliques had formed. Resentment was high and morale was low.

    Awesome Boss became aware of the situation and pulled the entire team into a meeting. She noted that she had become aware that there were issues with morale, etc. Then she did something amazing; she took responsibility for not having been more present and available, and then led a very productive discussion in which we all were able to express our frustrations and then come together as a group to find solutions. The solutions were then implemented. One of them was that Awesome Boss committed to being on-site more, and more available to us.

    Another time, we had all worked very hard preparing for a meeting where we were proposing a solution to our client. We were very excited about our work and were sure that it would be well received. However, the client was not in a receptive mood and the meeting did not go well. We were all deflated, worried, and taken by surprise. Awesome Boss began our post-mortem meeting by saying, “Obviously, that did not go the way we had hoped. I misjudged how [our client] would want this information to be presented, and the best timing for this meeting, and I apologize to the team.” After that, we brainstormed action steps. In the end, we were able to address our client’s concerns and the system was implemented with great success.

    Awesome Boss gave us credit for the team’s successes and took responsibility for the team’s failures. She would always hear and acknowledge problems, but was also deft at turning the conversation to solutions. If you went into a meeting with her to discuss a problem, you left it feeling heard, empowered, and optimistic for a solution. Additionally, she always gave us clear, unambiguous feedback. You never had to worry over whether she liked your work or not; you knew, and if there was something wrong, you knew what you had to do to fix it. (She was also one of the most skilled meeting facilitators it has ever been my pleasure to watch in action.)

    I moved into my first team lead position last year, and she is very much a role model to me.

  99. Rosy*

    My best kind of boss is one who lets me get on with the job. I am good at my job and don’t like being micromanaged as I can achieve a good outcome without folks looking over my shoulder. I am so happy to have a great boss right now who can develop my skills by signposting and not interfering.

  100. Kassy*

    I had a supervisor in college who was phenomenal. I think what made her stand out is that she really went to bat for us when she was able to (time off for school projects, letting us all go out to lunch together occasionally and covering while we were gone). It created loyalty in us, so that when she couldn’t give us those sorts of perks and needed us to work long hours (it got REALLY busy a few times a year), we all brought our A-game.

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