Show me a boss who complains about his or her staff, and I’ll show you a bad boss.

Never Underestimate the Influence of a Bad Boss

Sometimes, I like to tease my wife. I joke that in my marriage, I have a very responsible job. I’m accountable for everything that goes wrong.

For those that know me, this is funny for two reasons. Usually it’s somewhat true, because if mistakes have been made, it’s usually me and not my wife who make them, which makes the joke ironic, while at the exact same time, it can’t possibly be true since I’m not responsible in my house for much of anything, so it also makes the joke a paradox. Don’t dwell on that. It will make your head hurt. There is a larger and simpler point to be made.

As a business owner/manager, you cannot be like me. I’m retired. You’re still working, so you are allowed no such ironies or paradoxes in your business.

I say the following with all empathy for you, and without being strident in any way. Here it is: You are in fact responsible for everything that goes wrong in your business. Full stop. Rewind. And repeat. You are responsible for everything that goes wrong in your business. Not your employees. Not the labor market. Not the times in which we live. It’s you. Share on X

And I don’t mean symbolically or metaphorically. I mean it literally. I mean it personally. I mean you are directly responsible. Every impression that a client has of your business is your direct responsibility. Every client interaction, yours. Every transaction, yours. Every conversation. Yours. And if that isn’t bad enough, there’s more, and it gets worse. You are equally responsible for every communication and interaction between and among yourself, your managers and your staff, as well as all their conversations and interactions with each other.

If you didn’t know this already, please accept my condolences. I’m sorry to be the bearer of such shockingly unwelcome news. You can protest. You can say, and I would agree with you, that this isn’t fair. However, you and I abandoned “fair” in primary school. We live in the real world now, and this is how the real world works.

Even though it isn’t fair, it is useful to think about responsibility in this way for one critical reason; believing it and then acting upon it now can boost your business in ways you can barely imagine, but it might require you to make some changes, always a frightening prospect.

So acquiring (or re-acquiring) this information isn’t so much a crisis as it is an opportunity. If your world is upside down with even the possibility of this being true, the mere possibility demands that you re-examine everything you know and everything you thought about being the owner/manager of your company. Here is how you can start.

If you are in your office reading this, look around. Your office is your professional presentation, particularly to your staff. Are you satisfied with it upon reflection? Is it highly organized? Is it the presentation you really intend to make?

Let’s now walk into your production area. How long would it take to sweep the floor clean, to organize the shelves, to make it entirely presentable for, say, a military type inspection? Look behind your dry-cleaning machine, and at your spotting board. Are these areas clean, because clean is one of the primary things you’re selling, isn’t it? Is your staff highly trained, and expert in their area of responsibility? Do they have the tools they need to succeed?

Let’s walk into your call area. Is your call office up to the image you profess to project to the world? You see where I’m going with this, right?

Show me a boss who complains about his or her staff, and I’ll show you a bad boss.

Most of us think that we’re the best damn dry cleaning, fabric restoration company out there. Is that what you see objectively as you look around? Are you really the best, based on your little inspection tour? Look at it with fresh eyes.

Here is the overarching point I’d like to make. Your business reflects you. It reflects your values. It reflects your priorities. It indicates your state of mind. However, more importantly, the culture you have within your company is your baby too. You gave birth to it, and you’ve nurtured it every day you’ve been the owner. Every word spoken by you, every action taken, every value you’ve embraced and acted upon in your role as owner, lays another brick on that wall of what we should now think of as your company culture. Your company culture simply is you. (And believe it or not, so is your company brand.)

This reality is crystal clear in well-worn expressions like, “The buck stops here.” “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” “It’s lonely at the top.” “That’s why I get the big bucks.” And so forth.

What is true of your company infrastructure, your organization, your plant’s cleanliness, is equally true of your staff as it functions day to day, and season to season. You transmit to your staff your values, your personality, your strengths, and more importantly, your weaknesses. Over time, the staff becomes a reflection of your character. Are you kind? Are you generous? Are you fair? Are you hard working? Are you appreciative? Are you organized? Are you tolerant?

However, most essentially, with your staff, do you take credit for company success, and blame them for failures, or do you more helpfully give credit to your staff for the company’s success and take personal responsibility for its failures?

Nothing will generate more loyalty to you, to your brand, and to your success than this one idea. Give credit to others. Take the blame for yourself. Share on X

Nothing will endear you to your staff more than doing this one simple thing. Nothing will generate more loyalty to you, to your brand, and to your success than this one idea. Give credit to others. Take the blame for yourself. And then act upon those interpretations with clear purpose and alacrity.


Nothing will generate more loyalty to you, to your brand, and to your success than this one idea. Give credit to others. Take the blame for yourself.

Your business is a living, breathing entity composed entirely of the people you have interviewed, hired, trained, motivated and rewarded to do your bidding, to make you financially successful. These people who work for you are alive as a single organism, a single entity, and they are constantly adapting themselves to new circumstances and challenges, and most importantly, to the inputs, you place upon them. Your staff are your eyes and ears, your hands and feet. They do the work. Look at the conditions under which they do this work. Are conditions good because they too represent your values? Your staff absorbs all these inputs from you, senses these things outwardly and intuitively, and then acts upon them accordingly. You get what you give.

Your staff implements the thoughts from your head and the feelings from your heart. Your primary job is, in fact, to direct them in ways that allow them to showcase your brand, which you have created, to the world in the best possible light. I suggest you make your culture a good one, a noble one, one that stands the test of time and the scrutiny of the community in which you live and do business.

You can energize and excite your staff, or you can deaden them. You can motivate them to the company’s best interests, or you can crush any ambition they might have had to succeed by taking all the credit for things gone well to yourself and distributing the blame for things gone wrong back to them.

So, if you’re complaining about your staff, look in the mirror. As Commodore Perry originally said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Next time: Is the analysis above correct? On some level, it is obviously deeply flawed. Why do so many bad owners last so long? How do companies that treat their employees badly still succeed so spectacularly? How does culture relate to the brand? How can an owner be radically successful financially with equipment that is uncared for, with horrible working conditions for the staff, with production facilities that are dirty and disorganized, and with employment practices that if exposed would be embarrassing at best and potentially criminal? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but we can consider some possibilities together in the next installment of this series.

After that: where to start with your managers and staff to motivate them.

Here is a hint–

You should say to them, “What you want from me is to walk into your area, look around for five minutes, tell you-you’re doing a wonderful job, and leave.”

What you want them to say to you is, “You should be on your boat. Why are you here? You’re the owner. Trust us. We’ve got this!”

Never Underestimate the Influence of a Bad Boss