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OWNER'S MANUAL

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees

Confessions you wish you could make to your team but can't.

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There’s a lot you don’t know about your employees, especially the things your employees will never tell you.

There’s also a lot employees don’t know about you. Here are 10 things business owners wish they could say to employees:

I care about whether you like me. I want you to like me. When I come off like a hard-ass who doesn’t care about your opinion of me, it’s an act. My business is an extension of myself. I want you to like it. And me.

I don't think I know everything. A few people stepped in, without being asked, and made a huge difference in my professional life. I will always be grateful to them. I don’t offer you advice because I think I’m all knowing or all-powerful. I see something special in you, and I’m repaying the debt I owe to the people who helped me.

I think it’s great when you’re having fun. You don’t have to lower your voice and pretend to be working hard when I walk by. I know it’s possible to work hard and have a little fun at the same time. Before I got all serious, I used to work that way.

When you enjoy what you do, it makes me feel a little better about my company and myself. I get to feel like I’ve created something more than just a business.

I want to pay you more. I would love to be the employer of choice in the industry or the area.  I can’t, mostly due to financial constraints but partly because the risks I’ve taken require a reasonable reward. If I go out of business tomorrow, you lose your job. That's terrible, I know. But I lose my business, my investment, my credit, my house… sometimes I lose everything.

Someday, when you start your business, I promise you’ll understand.

I want you to work here forever. Job-hopping may be a fact of business life, but as an owner it’s a fact I hate. I don’t see you as a disposable part. When you leave, it hurts. A part of me feels like I’ve failed.

I want to own the kind of business people hope to retire from.

Sales don’t appear by magic. I know you despise filling certain types of orders. They’re aggravating, they cause you to fall behind… they’re a pain. You wish we would sell other work. Unfortunately (from your point of view at least) sometimes the orders that take the most time are actually the most profitable.

And even if they aren’t, sometimes those orders are the only thing we can sell.

Sometimes I even take terrible work because it's the only way to keep the lights on.

I would love to turn you loose. You can't stand to be micromanaged. That's good because I hate micromanaging. But freedom is earned, not given. Show me you can fly on your own and I’ll gladly focus on something or someone else.

In fact, if you feel I’m micromanaging you, step forward. Say, “Jeff, I can tell you don’t quite trust me to handle this well. I understand, so I’m going to prove you can trust me.”

Do it and I'll get off your back and respect you even more.

I notice when others don’t pull their weight. I’m not blind. But I won’t discipline those individuals in front of you. No employees, no matter how poorly they perform, loses their right to confidentiality and privacy.

And sometimes I won’t discipline them at all, because occasionally more is going on than you know. You wouldn’t realize that, though, because oftentimes…

There are things I just can’t tell you. Even though I would love to, and even though you and I have become friends.

Ownership is the smorgasbord of insecurity. I worry about sales. I worry about costs. I worry about facilities and employees and vendors and customers and… you name it, I worry about it.

So occasionally I’m snappy. Occasionally I’m distracted. Occasionally I’m tense and irritable and short-tempered. It’s not your fault. I’m just worried.

More than anything, I’m worried about whether I can fulfill the trust you placed in me as your employer.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Feb 15, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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