Yes, Virginia, there are good bosses

A tech pro discovers the value of fair treatment from the boss -- and the boss creates a great working relationship with a tech pro

There are many stories about bad bosses, which makes one about a positive experience seem like an endangered species. But sometimes an IT pro is lucky enough to stumble into such a situation.

Several years ago, I started working for a boss, "Zack," who owns the company and, as I soon discovered, has good business sense as well as technical skills. Zack used to be a programmer/analyst, but hired me to do that part. He determines the general direction and the use cases of our work, but often leaves many of the technical decisions up to me and gives me the freedom to implement a fair number of changes without checking with him.

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For the most part, Zack is reasonable about expectations. But as in any company, one has to think about the business sense when communicating with the owner. On one project, I ran into a potential problem when I was developing an in-house billing application he had requested. At first, I hadn't seen any problems with the project and figured I'd have it done fairly soon.

Then I got started. I worked out how to handle data entry into the various tables and discovered that Zack wanted the data entry for the transactions table to be different than the others in the project. I experimented and determined that his request was reasonable, but its complexity would make it time-consuming because I had to proceed in a rather different style.

I didn't want to be in the situation of taking a long time to work something out, then getting criticized after the fact -- and hit with questions from the boss: "Why did you take so long? Why didn't you say anything?" Based on my experience with other superiors, I dreaded going to him and explaining that the project would take more time than at first expected.

I gathered my courage and explained the situation to Zack. To my relief, he told me something that I valued very much. He said that he did not care how long it took, just to do it. With that level of commitment from him, I completed the project in the timeframe the project required, and not on some seemingly random date that didn't make sense.

I've also discovered that, if needed, I can tell him point-blank that he is wrong. This is rarely necessary, but if it is I do not get a blowback: He will listen. And turnabout is fair play -- he tells me when I get something wrong. We've discovered that we're both fair-minded people, and we don't get into the blame game.

Bosses, do not underestimate the power of communicating your expectations clearly and standing by your juniors. Trust and respect can be one of the best ways to keep staff and to keep the business going.

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This story, "Yes, Virginia, there are good bosses," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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