Facebook has been used in some landmark cases involving employees posting rants about their bosses or posting photos that don’t comply with company standards. Although this may sound like a childish response to a bad job as a waiter, you just need to type “I hate my boss” into a search engine for a list of songs, blogs, memes, forums, and even games dedicated to the collective groan of those working under bad leaders.
When a job involves managing people, be it two or a thousand, there has to be an awareness and understanding of the fundamentals of human psychology. Someone who recognises the difference in response from their employees when they manage by tyranny or by democracy will also understand the importance of motivation and mentorship to gain the highest level of productivity.
Managers battling with staff friction, office politics, low productivity, high absenteeism, and a less-than-pleasant atmosphere in the office might fare better by doing some good boss/bad boss introspection, and, if necessary, brush up on the following skills.
Poor communication is most likely the number one cause of unhappiness within the workplace. You’ve told your employee to do a task and either it’s not getting done or it’s done badly. Is she just bad at her job? Not necessarily. Be clear and concise when you communicate, and, most importantly, be honest.
Explain to the person directly what needs to be done, as often sending a message through someone else results in poor delivery. Allow your employees to learn from their mistakes, within reason, but dumping a file back on her desk with a post-it that says “re-do” will likely elicit the same response, only this time delivered with some extra resentment.
Motivation is key to getting higher productivity rates. If your employees are constantly aiming for moving goal posts, they will most likely give up. If you are always expecting people to do better, even when they perform at their best, they will move on to where they feel more appreciated. It’s basic human psychology. Taking the time to give credit where credit is due, and provide motivation where it is needed will build up a rapport with your employees, and encourage them to keep performing at their best.
Office politics happens. You and your employees spend more time with each other than the people you have chosen to allow into your life, i.e., family and friends. There is bound to be conflict. People are looking to you to create a good working environment, and it’s important that you give the impression that this is what you are doing.
The first thing you should do is check that you’re not the one causing the conflict. Without realising it you could be assigning tasks to a person when they should be assigned to someone else; or you could be consistently giving credit to a project leader and ignoring the rest of team, which may result in antipathy.
Conflict could be resolved by speaking individually to each party to come up with a solution, or if it’s too much to handle, then enlist the help of someone outside the company who specialises in dealing with workplace conflict resolution. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Choosing to spend the day on the golf course or at your child’s sporting match the day before a big presentation or deadline is a bad idea. If your employees put in 100% to get a job done then so should you. Be present (and visible) as much as possible. If your employees feel that they can approach you for advice or to pitch an idea, it means that they trust you to hear them and to respect their ideas and opinions. If this is happening, then it also means they care about the company.
If something needs intervention at a managerial level, then step in. Don’t put your subordinates on the line by leaving high-risk decisions up to them if they are not yet equipped to handle it. By the same token, if you mess up, own up. It’s easy to blame those working under you, but you will lose their trust and gain nothing in return. Owning up to your mistakes teaches your employees valuable lessons in responsibility, teamwork, and problem solving.
Understand that your employees have lives outside of work. Listen to what goes on and try and pay small attention to small details. If someone’s mother has been sick, try and remember to ask after her. You only need to do it once to see the appreciation it will elicit.
Refusing time off to someone in distress, or someone who requests a couple of hours off to go and watch their child’s prize giving ceremony may be your right, but unless you have a good reason to (they are always requesting time off, or there is a pressing deadline that absolutely cannot be met without them), then it’s just heartless.
If you are a compassionate but fair leader, they will repay you with hard work and will feel less inclined to take advantage of you. Apart from that, a mother whose child is at home with a fever is likely to be highly unproductive while she is in the office worrying.
In this time of economic uncertainty, a good leader is essential to hold the company together and to keep employees happy, motivated, and productive. It’s said that good managers are born, not made. But the world is full of people who have learned from experience and become the kind of leaders that inspire confidence and trust.
License: Creative Commons
Tracey Walker is a freelance writer with a list of clients who specialise in various aspects of business. One thing that is clear in dealings with different companies is that good managers get good results.