Full disclaimer…this is not a scientific bias but I believe it should be.
“if I was the boss bias”
I have said this myself. I have heard countless number of people say variations of this. I have listened to other people share stories of this sentiment. The basic pattern is that something happens in the organization that one or more people dislike (for whatever reason) and then a judgmental comment that implies if they were the boss, this thing would never happen.
I’ll use my own example (one of many) of this journey and the dangers of this bias. I remember one of the first re-organizations that I had to endure. I was pissed. The new department I would be reporting up to didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t really respect the leader of this department, I was losing the team that I enjoyed and wouldn’t see as much now, and on and on. I can promise you that I made some statement, probably directly to my manager and their boss and maybe even this new leader along the lines of “this is stupid and doesn’t solve the problems. You are just creating additional ones.” Now, I do still believe to this day that no organizational structure causes all problems nor will fix all problems. But I cringe at the thought of saying this to someone. Because fast forward many years and I was part of the team deciding a re-organization. I still believe this about structures but the reality of what a “boss” deals with smacked me right in the face. Turns out, as a boss, I don’t get to make all the decisions. I know, shocking. Turns out, as a boss, I have to take additional considerations into the solution that I can’t always be transparent about (there might be a performance plan, etc). I know, shocking. Turns out, as a boss, I have to attempt to optimize for the entire system not any one team or individual. I know, shocking. Turns out, as a boss, I don’t always agree with the decisions/rollout/etc and am doing my best to make the most out of the situation at hand. I know, shocking.
So I apologize to every leader that I insulted with a quick judgement. I apologize to every leader that I implied ill-intent because I didn’t agree. And here’s why I am apologizing because I think we lose too many good leaders due to this bias. The judgement from others sucks but the internal judgment is even worse. Being the “boss” didn’t make me all powerful. Being the “boss” didn’t make all the problems that I swore I would fix go away. So suddenly, I was the person that I said I wouldn’t be. That narrative keeps growing until you are at a place of “I don’t help at all” and “why bother”… and good leaders quit.
Yes, we need to keep finding better ways to lead. Yes, we need to keep increasing transparency and learning. And yes, we need to realize that systems contribute way more than any one individual…even for bosses.
Is this “bias” impacting you?