No Excuses! How to Tell if You Should Love or Hate Your Tough Love Boss

There are several types of bosses who elicit particularly intense emotions, including the “tough love” boss who says I don’t care how, find a way, no excuses!

Frankly, it's hard to know if you should love* this boss or hate him. (It could also be a her.)

I worked for this boss once. I hated his inflexibility but I also learned a ton working for him. Once, I tried managing up to get some balance. I showed him everything that was on my “to do” list and asked for help prioritizing.

“It all has to get done,” he said. When I explained how the list represented something like 10 consecutive 120 hour weeks, he replied, “The secret to success is figuring out how to shove 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.” I didn’t try managing up after that.

A lot has happened since then. I've been a boss. I've hired people and I've had to fire some of them. I've had to let others go. I got an MBA with concentrations in Organizational Behavior and Finance. I assessed and coached executive leadership teams at companies you know. Taught leadership and negotiations to grad school students. Worked with HR leaders, Talent Acquisition leaders, entrepreneurs, and countless job seekers across the spectrum of corporate America. I built a company.

And somewhere along that journey, I hit on a simple rubric for figuring out if I love or hate that hard-driving boss (or partner, or anyone):

Do they also provide the resources I need to succeed?

If yes, then love fest, regardless of how hard he pushes. But if no, then it's a short discussion; I'm out.

Great leaders who accept no excuses also hold themselves accountable to supporting their teams. It's "leaders-in-name-only" who accept “no excuses” without also holding themselves accountable. They stick their fingers into their ears when their teams ask for help, blame the team, or point fingers at external factors.

Caveat: in the moment, it can be harder than you'd think to see if you're getting the resources you need. This is because when a leader's goals are made on a whim, some of them are bound to be realistic, so it's not like every goal you're given is going to be impossible. And, on the other end of the spectrum, great leaders will give you stretch goals you probably won't be able to hit.

If you ever have trouble figuring out if you have the resources to do your job, ask yourself this:

Am I refreshed, or haggard?

When you're dealing with the wrong kind of stress, you're bound to wear it on your face. Even if you're brain isn't sure about the answer to the question, your body will know.

The body always knows.

Bosses worth loving will push you in all the right ways. The others will just wear you down.

*Yes, there's a whole other discussion about love vs. respect when it comes to leadership. Comment away...

management, successseiden