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MCLEOD: Why bosses and teachers have so much power over families

We talk about you at dinner. Almost every night, our spouse or child gives us a recap of your day. We hear about your moods, what you said or did, sometimes, we even hear about your wardrobe and facial expressions.

It’s probably not fair, but if you’re a boss or teacher, you’re a frequent subject of dinner conversations.

When I first become a manager, at the age of 25, my father said to me, “Congratulations, you’ve just become the second most important person in your employees’ lives.”

He elaborated, “Next to your spouse, your boss is one of the most important people in your life. Your boss has the power to make your life wonderful, or miserable.

Over the years, I’ve always tried to remember the truth of my dad’s words. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that the boss isn’t just an important person in the employee’s life.

The boss affects every member of the employee’s family. The same is true of teachers.

Your spouse’s boss and your kids’ teachers can be a source of joy, or misery, for an entire family.

If you’re a boss or a teacher, which of the following comments might apply to you?

When you compliment our loved one, they repeat it to us. Our loved one was beaming with pride as they shared your words. We clapped at the dinner table, as we told our loved one, “I’m so proud of you.” Our whole family felt like we were part of the victory.

When you show up on fire for your job, you bring energy and joy to our entire family. You’re the reason our spouse is more confident and envisioning a successful future. You’re the reason our child wakes up excited about school. You got our loved one interested and engaged; we love you for this.

But when you have a bad day, we do too. When you ignore, belittle or get frustrated with our loved one, they come home with their head hanging. Sometimes they repeat your words, and we’re able to help them work through it. But more often than not, they pick a fight or sit there with a dark cloud over their head. Their misery permeates our entire household.

You should know we always start out on your side. We want our loved one to be successful with you. When they complain about you, we try to help them do a reframe, to figure out how to make it work. We take up for you, encouraging our loved one to try harder, to not take it personally. We try to help them see how hard your job is. We practice conversations with you. We brainstorm ideas for improving the situation.

But if, over time, we can tell that you’re not on their side or that you hate your job, or that you’re just flat out disengaged and phoning it in, we grow to dislike you. A lot.

You’re the reason our spouse stares at the TV every night with no energy to do anything else. You’re the reason our little girl cries at night or our teenager spends most of his day dreading your class. You’re the reason someone we love now hates their life.

Because you see, when you’re good, you are very, very good. But when you’re bad, you are horrible.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of several books including “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.”