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5 Signs You're the Problem at Work

Face it, sometimes you're the cause of a lot of problems in your office.
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One of the reasons launching a startup appeals to a lot of people is that being your own boss--and the boss of others--is a lot more appealing than than being an employee.

But just because you're the boss doesn't mean the problems go away. In fact, there seem to be more--clients, employees, investors, regulations--and sometimes, the biggest problem is you. Here are a few ways to tell if some of your so-called problems could easily be fixed by changing your behavior and attitude

You think everyone's stupid. Everyone makes a hiring mistake now and then, even expert interviewers. But if your employees consistently misinterpret your instructions, it's more likely you aren't communicating clearly. 

The fix: You need help communicating. Sometimes this means hiring an assistant who can interpret what you mean, but this type of person can be difficult to find. A better bet may be hiring an executive coach who focuses on communication skills to get you saying what you mean in a way that your staff can understand.

Turnover is high. Why do people keep walking out the door? Take a look at your own practices and see if the following apply: You don't promote from within. You haven't offered a raise in years. You limit raises to a 5 percent maximum, regardless of whether you would have hired someone outside the company at a higher rate. You respond to negative feedback by punishing the bearer of bad news. You don't reward great performance.

The fix: Welcome negative feedback, as it can really tell you what's going on, and reward performance, always. Treat your employees like valuable team members, and not just as people who owe you for their jobs. If you start doing this, the whole nature of your company will change, and your turnover will drop.

You leave rude comments anonymously on the Internet. So what? This doesn't determine how you treat your staff, right? Wrong. 

The fix: Stop being rude anonymously. Then make a goal to find five positive things a day that people around you do, and remark on it. You can make positive anonymous comments on the Internet, but it's better to make positive comments to your staff instead. You'll find your attitude changing, and gradually those things that annoyed you most on the Internet will bother you less and less.

You have run-ins with people who don't share your views. You didn't land that client because they don't want to do business with someone like you. You got a bad price on the office space because the real estate management company is prejudiced against whatever group you identify with. There's always something, but the common denominator seems to be you. Notice a pattern here? 

The fix: Did you really lose that client because of their prejudices, or was it because your proposal wasn't as good as your competitor's? Is your lease because of your race, or because you have no history with commercial property and they're taking a risk on you? Perhaps more often than not, you may be making yourself miserable by blaming your problems on something you can't control--such as your race or sex--rather than figuring out how to improve on the things you can. 

You bully people to get them to listen. If you're constantly raising your voice or using foul language at the office, you're the problem--and a bully. It's not funny, and it's a sign of poor leadership when have to drop F- bombs all the time. If you feel you need to be intimidating to get employees to listen to you, it's likely they've learned what you say politely is meaningless. They only jump when you scream because you trained them to know that screaming is a sign of importance.

The fix: Gather your staff and apologize for all the yelling you've been doing. Tell them it's a bad habit and you're going to stop it. Any time you raise your voice, vow to put $5 in a jar. At the end of the month, the staff can have a party with the funds. But in exchange for your lack of yelling, tell your staff you expect them to respond to your calm requests. Trust me, your staff will keep you in line with a party on the line. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 15, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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