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Bosses to Be Thankful For

With Thanksgiving just ahead, what better time to reflect on our managers and the things they get right?

It seems that everywhere you look, there's a new piece of workplace advice offered to help us deal with difficult, cranky, or micromanaging bosses. Sure, there are some less-than-sensational managers out there. But what about the good ones—the bosses to be thankful for? Before we rush off to the bar to share boss-from-hell horror stories with our friends, let's take a moment to reflect on the unsung, tremendous managers that each of us has run across at least once or twice in our careers.

Sometimes, we don't recognize a boss' strengths until we've moved on. Three months into a new assignment with a thundering, or mealymouthed, or intellectually absent boss, it hits us with the force of a lightning bolt: We didn't have it all that bad before. All of a sudden, we appreciate Sally's candor, Marcel's moral support, and Jennifer's attention to detail more than we did while working for them. Suddenly, we regret kvetching behind Franco's back about his absentmindedness. We'd take Franco's absentmindedness and laid-back style over our current boss' chain-gang style any day.

Long-Lasting Impact

No single person influences our quality of work life, career progress, and stress level more than our direct supervisor—whose quirks can irritate us to no end, but whose positive leadership characteristics can make a good job a great one. Sometimes those attributes show themselves in subtle ways: an unexpected pat on the back, a clever answer to a vexing problem, or a well-run staff meeting that keeps you and your team in the loop.

It's easy to focus on what our managers do badly and lose track of what they do well. The good news is that even when managers' good qualities go unheralded, their teams still benefit from exposure to their leadership styles. Each of us who has had the benefit of such a managerial role model will carry those lessons forward.

Maybe you're working for an underappreciated manager right now. Take a look at our roster of bosses to be thankful for, and see how your leader measures up.

Liz Ryan writes her "Career Insight" column and answers readers' questions every week at She is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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