I'm home today sick but this has been playing on my mind and thought I'd ask for some advice. I have a really great boss. He is very open and caring about his employees (probably too much so). He said that he hired us to make him look good -- that is, he says that he trusts us all professionally and he really doesn't do any sort of micro-managing.
A few things are going on. One, my boss is an extremely open and caring person but this was exacerbated last summer when one of the very small staff took his own life. He was close with that staff member and still, to this day, he will say things like, "I wish I had of known things were so bad" or "I wish I could have done something...". The what-ifs are terrible! Post-trauma, my boss has been really making sure staff is "okay". If you don't smile or anything seems like it is bothering you, he will come around to make sure things are good and will let you know that if there is "ANYTHING" he can do, he will. He has offered me loans of money, he constantly rides me about taking days off (says I work too much). He will come to me and ask me if other staff members are doing okay if they seem off-kilter. I understand why he is doing this.
In some ways, I couldn't ask for a better boss but unfortunately, I think it has made him a bit too soft on everyone. He has become very laissez-faire regarding our work. I work for a non-profit, public academic institution. He is very into making sure students get a lot of experience but he is placing too much responsibility on them, he says, "to help ease the burden on staff". Essentially, he is asking them to do our jobs!
The problem is sometimes the output of these students is sub-par. We are a professionally accredited institution and I feel like giving undergraduates so much unguided responsibility is making the rest of the staff and the institution overall look bad. What I mean is, they will write something for publication and it will be riddled with errors or inaccuracies and he will barely look at it and say, "hey that looks great!" He has a Ph.D., he is a very smart man but I think his wanting to be nurturing and kind with everyone is just a bit too gentle. These students are young and happy, they are not going to hurt themselves if he gives them some constructive criticism (we are a "lab" of sorts for these students -- any other teacher would have no problems grading them harshly -- it is for their own good!).
This past week I sent him an e-mail expressing some concerns about something that was going out to publication that I thought was just plain bad. The problem was that he had an opportunity to look it over and gave it an approval. I said to the person who was about to print a whopping 8,000 copies after his approval, "Hey, can I see it before it goes out?" I was shocked. There were some very bad things happenining and if I hadn't of asked it wouldn't have come to light. The boss agreed, "yes, we need to make some of these changes." But he seemed almost disappointed in me not trusting the work of (in this case) my co-worker and her student assistant.
I don't want to be a micro-manager but copy editing is essential! I feel like if we do not elevate the output of our work it not only looks bad for our institution but it also looks bad on us individual staff members. As I said, the staff is very small. I want things to be great -- I don't want to micro-manage but I just wish the boss would take a more active role in making sure things are great. I don't want to hurt his feelings and am happy at my job. I want things to be really accurate but I don't want to be the staff member going from department to department trying to correct things.
Long story I know -- but what do I do? My boss has no trouble asking me about my personal life and discussing other personal issues with me. I actually feel like he is a friend and do not want to to criticize him but I want him to realize that things could be done more efficiently and accurately. I mean wouldn't that be making him look good? How do I gently talk to him about this without him taking offense at his management style?
Maybe this is irrelevant, but is he your boss or your chief? To me, the title makes a difference. How was he appointed to be in that position?
Have you talked about your concerns to your co-workers? How do they generally feel about it?
This is like a two-edged knife. It would be easier for you to approach him within a committee. It may be an informal committee, but in any case your plea would appear stronger, you know. It might lead him to think it over carefully and work together with all of you.
On the other hand, he might think there is a conspiracy against him and may be scared.
If you act in isolation, it may not be so effective. He may think you are the only voice "against" him.
He is a nice person, according to your description, but your work seems to be more important, right?
I would not just wait for things to change (if ever they will change - a new boss?) or try to do something when it is already too late.
I would vote for the committee. A friendly committee can't hurt him too much, in my opinion.