They are the hear-no-evil bosses. The type who overreact to bad news. The shoot-the-messenger sort. They are the managers who will go from calm to panic faster than a Maserati goes from 0 to 60.

So what happens?

"When the boss won't take bad news, eventually something really bad will clothes-line the boss on a bad day," said Melinda F. Emerson, the author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months."

Emerson said, in Fortune 500 companies, a boss who will not reckon with bad news is shown the exit sooner or later.

In small businesses, the whole enterprise is at risk.

"Any company that kowtows to the owner's ego will ultimately fail," she wrote in her book. "You must hire smart people and empower them to make decisions, even if they are not the decisions you would make."

Management has to foster the kind of communication where bad news can be passed along before it is catastrophic news. If a culture develops in which employees are afraid to share what is happening on the ground, two things happen:

First, good employees will leave, Emerson said, because people want to work where they feel they can make positive difference.

And then, second, the small problems will grow to be unmanageable, large problems. After all, there was a lot of grumbling about Captain Bligh long before the mutiny on the Bounty, she pointed out.

Emerson said the leader of any business has to keep in touch with the workers on the front lines who most directly engage with customers. The people who work with customers hear the complaints about a product or service long before those complaints trickle up through the chain of command.

In a blog post, Emerson wrote that any business owner needs to show appreciation for employees and engage them in helping to solve business problems.

"Do not hide in your office struggling to come up with all the answers," she wrote. "Engage your staff in brainstorming sessions to solve issues in the business. I have had many interns save the day."

She also suggests holding regular staff meetings — during which the boss also holds him or herself accountable.

"Don't demand updates from everyone around the table without offering the status of your own projects," she wrote. "It will help you keep the lines of communication open with your team."


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