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OWNER'S MANUAL

Why Your Employees Think You're a Jerk

One employee behaving badly is enough to turn a solid business into a mess. And that's especially true when that one employee is you.

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The smaller the organization, the bigger the impact difficult people make.

The Inverse-Square Law of Small Business Jackasses states that the impact of an asshole boss is inversely proportional to the square of the number of people working for that boss. (Okay, I made that up, but even though physics is not my friend it still sounds good.)

Small businesses are by definition small: Relatively few employees, relatively cramped work spaces, and functions and responsibilities that often overlap.

That's why one employee behaving badly is enough to destroy teamwork, ruin morale, and turn a solid business into a dysfunctional mess, making it a tough place to work--and having a dramatic impact one the bottom line.

And that's especially true when that one employee behaving badly is you.

Here are seven reasons your employees could think you're an ass:

1. You're a Bill Clinton.

Politicians have to be political. (Wow, that was obvious.)

Business owners don't; in fact, engaging in petty political games is probably the worst thing you can do. Any business with three or more people has a little politics going on--since all you need is two people to gang up on a third--but when you as the boss get involved, the politics run wild.

Then a few people are "in." They don't have to work hard, because they're already in.

The rest are "out." They don't want to work hard, because nothing they do really matters.

2. You hog the glory.

Genuine praise rewards effort and accomplishment, reinforces positive behaviors, builds self-esteem and confidence, and boosts motivation and enthusiasm.

When you give it, that is.

When all you care about is you, employees have no choice but to only care about themselves and not your business.

3. You're a Mike Figgis.

Figgis readily admits to being a control freak. He feels making a film is like making a painting; he can't imagine an artist handing over control of his painting to a technician or an executive producer.

There's nothing wrong with micromanaging employees. You shouldn't expect employees to perform a task or service properly until they have proven they can be trusted to perform that task or service.

Once they do prove they can be trusted, though, it's time to step back. You have a lot better things to do than tell great employees what they already know to do.

And they know it.

4. You're a Tim Donaghy.

Donaghy was an NBA ref convicted of conspiracy charges for passing along inside information to gamblers. He also alleged that referees helped alter the outcome of some games.

Maybe you don't fix games, but you can wreak havoc on employee performance by giving unclear instructions, setting nonsensical priorities, and "testing" your employees by creating strange scenarios.

Play fair--or don't play at all.

5. You play too many "emergency" cards.

Emergencies that require employees to put in extraordinary efforts should be rare. (Otherwise you're not doing your job.)

Great employees automatically pitch in when the chips are down... unless you play too many artificial, "We have to take care of this right now!" cards, whether by whim or just because you can. Then after a while no one pitches in because "emergency" loses its urgency.

The more you prove you care about your people--and that you appreciate extra effort when it's truly needed--the more they care about doing a great job, emergency or not.

6.  You're a Leona Helmsley.

The Queen of Mean was infamous for terrorizing employees. To your employees you might be just as infamous if you make yell, scream, berate, or threaten them.

Treat employees with dignity and respect. Deal with performance issues in a professional manner. Hate the action all you want, but never hate the person.

Otherwise that person will hate you back.

7. You really are an ass.

You're the guy who likes to stand up and give shoulder rubs in meetings. You're the guy who thinks a suggestive double entendre is singularly funny. You're the guy who lives and breathes the Golden Rule: He who haveth the gold maketh the rules.

In short, you can... therefore you do. So when they see you, your employees think one thing:

"Ass."

IMAGE: 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection
Last updated: Jun 6, 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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