Now That I'm the Boss, Do I Have To Turn Evil?
Dear Evil HR Lady,
As an employee, I noticed that bosses tend to be highly irritable, unforgiving, and quite volatile at times. I’ve had my fair share of being blown up at for missing a deadline by 5 minutes. But now that I'm running my own company and have my own employees, I understand how someone missing a deadline can start to affect the productivity, effectiveness, and even reputation of the entire company.
However, I have yet to berate someone in public or blast them in an email for making me look bad. Is that what I have to look forward to: turning into an evil, hate-mail sending grouch? How can I avoid this and still get the work done on time?
--Not a Grouch
I hope you don't turn into an evil, hate-mail sending grouch. That's my job and, quite frankly, I don't cherish competition. There are simple (note, I did not say easy) ways to avoid the urge to send these types of emails. Here are 5 tips.
Help everyone see the big picture. Sometimes tasks may seem silly, or not worthwhile. Sometimes fascinating tasks are less urgent than boring tasks, and the boring gets shunted to the side, causing the boss to freak out. If your employees know what is going on and how things fit together, it's easier for them to see the reason to focus on the urgent first.
Remember, it doesn't have to be done the way you would do it. One of the totally awesome things about running your own company is that you can finally do it your way. And yes, you've earned that right and yes, you're the boss. But sometimes your way isn't the only way. If you feel tempted to scream because something wasn't done the “right” way, pause and ask yourself if it was done a “good” way. Sometimes, a different way turns out to be a great way. Remember, you hired people because you couldn't do it all yourself. So, let them use their skills.
Encourage open communication. If you get upset when someone tells you they are behind schedule and needs an extension, chances are they won't tell you next time. And not knowing in advance is far worse than knowing and being able to prepare. If you appear frustrated or angry anytime someone asks, “Why are we doing it this way?” they'll feel like their knowledge isn't valued. And people who aren't valued don't perform as well.
Hold regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. And by regular, I mean weekly, if at all possible. This is not doing work together (that will probably happen far more often). This is sitting down and saying, “How are your projects? What do you suggest we change? What challenges do you foresee?” This develops relationships of trust between you and your staff. If they trust you and like you, they are more likely to want to do what it takes to help your business succeed. These meetings do not have to be long, but they have to be frequent or they lose their effectiveness.
Remember, lives exist outside of the office. This company is your baby, and like all parents you're willing to stay up into the night, and suffer through the pain of potty training. Your employees see this as a job. And while they may be passionate about the work they are doing, they aren't devoted the way you are. If you expect the same level of love and devotion from them that you, yourself, have, you'll likely find yourself frustrated and angry when they have the audacity to have a life outside of work.
Congratulations on your new business and on recognizing that screaming fits and emails written in all caps tend to dishearten rather than encourage employees.
--Evil HR Lady
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.