Devan Moonsamy 

At some point in our lives, we must have dealt with a tough boss. From the part time job at the local supermarket or mall to a high-ranking corporate job, tough bosses are everywhere. 

But working for a tough boss can either be a gateway to better opportunities or a literal nightmare from leading to mental health issues to just a horrifying work experience. 

When we refer to a tough boss, we refer to someone who is assertive and holds people accountable for their responsibilities. There is a difference between a tough boss and someone who is a bully. 

Being a tough boss does not mean having your staff tremble in fear as you walk down the office hall or for them to switch to work mode the moment, they see you. A tough boss is someone that is still firm on following organisation policies while making staff feel valued and understood. 

Research shows that bosses who are tough yet supportive take the role of being a mentor seriously. They direct their attention to getting the employee familiar with how something needs to be done, why it must be done in that specific way and how knowing how it is done will benefit the employee. 

But here’s the thing the age old saying that people don’t leave companies they leave because of bad leaders is true in the case of having a bully for a boss. A toxic tough boss can use bullying tactics to express their authority. They would use phrases like “it’s either my way or the highway”. 

This is not an encouraging attitude. People need to feel that they are valued not that they are in a working environment that is controlled by what seems like a perfectionist. 

Tough bosses feel the need to put pressure for high work performance but the lack of interaction with staff will result in not identifying their challenges over dealing with the work at hand. 

But it is possible to be a tough boss and be fair. Being tough doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant but rather realising your team needs a leader and not a boss who wants to be their friend. 

Here are ways to improve your tough management styles: 

  • Instead of cracking the whip on staff that are not performing in the way that is best suited for your company, try to revaluate their strengths and place them on a project that is more suited for their skills. Not everyone can eb client facing and if you see a staff member that has a shortcoming in terms of communication assist them. This doesn’t mean throwing in the deep end but rather giving them the tools to find their way. Initiate training and job shadowing to improve the skills of your staff. 
  • Never yell at your staff in front of others. This is humiliating and demotivating. This sort of attack is used by a bully. They have an outburst to affirm their authority. If someone has messed up take them aside and assess the situation. Try to understand what happened and look at what can be done to fix it. The truth is if staff feel they are being mentored they might feel confident to own up to a mistake instead of passing the blame to someone else. 
  • People talk. If you are a tough boss word will get around. That means management will be closely watching to see how you manage your team. If you are a tough boss with the potential to guide and mentor you won’t have a high staff turnover. However, if you are a bully in disguise of a tough boss then you are at risk of having a high staff turnover. 

It is essential that you review your operative methods in the office. By having a more strategic management style will aid you in grooming employees to grow in the organisation. A healthy management style can also mean new opportunities for you. 

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African TVET College. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute. 

The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | 083 303 9159 |

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