Every manager likes to think that her team adores her, but as the never-ending flood of bad-boss stories makes clear, there are lots of bad bosses out there. What’s more, bad bosses don’t usually realize that they’re bad bosses!
Here are 12 ways that you can become a boss who your staff will truly be glad to work for.
1. Let’s start with the big one: Don't be a jerk. If you yell, disparage people, get defensive, shoot the messenger, or publicly berate staff members, it’s a safe bet that you’ve landed in jerk territory. And remember, good people have options, and few of them will want to work for a jerk, so this behavior risks losing your best employees.
2. Set clear expectations. One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is to communicate clear, concrete goals and make sure that your staff knows what success in their jobs looks like. Here’s a good test: If you and one of your employees were both asked what things are most important for her to achieve this year, would your answers match? If not, it’s time to do a better job of articulating clear standards of success.
3. Keep your word. Do what you say you're going to do, in whatever timeline you committed to – whether it's giving feedback on a project, liaising with another department, or making a raise come through. (A subset of this is being responsive. If people have to follow up with you to get a response, you're not being responsive enough. It only takes 30 seconds to write, "I won't have time to look at this until next week." If nothing else, let people know where things stand.)
4. Give feedback. Great bosses tell people where they stand, no matter where on the spectrum it is.. They're clear with each employee about what they do well and where they need to improve, and they're also clear about how the person doing overall. Employees should never need to wonder what you think of their work.
Of course, that means that you need to be honest about performance problems. While talking about performance problems isn't pleasant, it's far worse for employees if you don’t care enough to tell them about areas they need to improve in. Even if you're convinced such a conversation would be fruitless and the employee can't change, she deserves to know—because maybe you're underestimating her, or maybe it would be useful for her to understand the ways in which she's a bad fit for this work, or maybe she just deserves a chance to see the writing on the wall so she can start looking for other positions. If a manager has complaints or concerns about an employee and the employee doesn't know it, the problem is at least as much with the manager as with the employee.
5. Ask for feedback and make it safe for people to be honest with you. Ask for input on everything from how people think last week's event went to how your department could function more effectively. And if you don’t like what you hear, don’t get defensive. You want to create an environment where employees aren't afraid to say that something is a bad idea or that a deadline is unreasonable.
6. Stay focused on results. Don't have rules and policies for their own sake; make sure each is connected to an actual business need, and be willing to explain that purpose. Also, be willing to bend the rules if it makes sense overall; don’t get so committed to rules and regulations that you lose sight of the larger goal: to get great work done.
7. Know how to get things done in your organization, and be willing to do it. There's no overstating the value of a manager who knows how to make things happen, whether it's expediting a production process, adding a new staff position, or replacing that incompetent assistant.
8. Minimize drama. A good manager minimizes drama, rather than causing it. If your team lurches from one crisis to another, with interpersonal conflicts and gossip arising regularly, you’re not doing your job! Model a no-drama approach for your staff, and instill that ethos in your culture.
9. Figure out what people need to do their job better, and help them get it. This could range from training and better equipment to the elimination of a counterproductive policy. Or you might find out that people want you to intervene with a problem coworker or another department, advise them on how to handle a sticky situation, or give more targeted feedback.
10. Don't avoid difficult decisions. Your job is to solve problems, not avoid them. That means that you’re going to have to have tough conversations, make decisions that might be unpopular, and enforce standards and consequences. Ironically, while managers who avoid these things are usually trying to avoid upsetting employees, they end up doing exactly that—because good employees will get frustrated and disgruntled by a manager's passivity and avoidance of conflict. Take on the tough decisions!
11. Treat people with compassion. Even in the hardest moments, like letting someone go, treat all your employees with kindness and dignity. You have more power in this relationship, and that comes with the responsibility of exercising it with reason and decency.
12. Remember that you can’t give too much positive feedback, as long as it’s sincere. Giving positive feedback is like handing out chocolate; people will always appreciate it. Take a minute each day to send a positive email or make a positive comment. That email will be read over and over. You can make someone’s day with only one minute of your time.