As a leader, it's critical to get feedback from your staff and make sure you listen and react appropriately. You have to pivot constantly to stay in tune with your employees. Yet, there are quite a few things that crop up in a company that cause tension and even hurt feelings. Unfortunately, employees will often keep these things to themselves unless you ask.
My advice? Scan through this list and pick out a few that might be a problem in your organization and address them in a way that's honest and open. Let me know if it works.
1. You don't listen
Employees won't interrupt you as you drone on and explain every detail about a project or new company direction. You have to pause and wait. Better yet, ask them directly if you need to listen to their needs and stop making everything a one way street.
2. You're too abrupt
Fast-talking and fast-thinking leaders sometimes don't realize they act too abruptly, especially during meetings or in a one-on-one discussion. Go ahead and ask if you need to take a bit more time and think through a topic at work a bit more thoroughly.
3. You're demotivating them
You might have really good intentions when you take on a task or redirect someone who is struggling, but that can be demotivating. Go ahead and check with employees first and see what they think. They usually won't tell you when they feel demotivated.
4. You're not clear
It's hard to confront someone about being unclear, let alone the boss. You feel like a jerk if you try to explain that there's something missing. Many employees will try to figure out what you mean; it's best to ask if they understand and get their feedback.
5. Your meetings last too long
You're the boss, so you get to dictate how long a meeting lasts, right? Not really. Even for the person in charge, you should stick to a set meeting time. It shows respect for everyone on your staff. Ask employees if they can stick around or give them a pass to leave.
6. You're over-confident
Have you noticed that over-confident people never know they are over-confident? Maybe it's because they are trying to hide a lack of understanding. Confident people don't do that, and confident bosses tend to give other people more say in a discussion or project.
7. You talk too much
Employees won't interrupt you if you talk too much-they'll think that's disrespectful. Many will just let you keep right on talking. But look for the non-verbal cues. They might start looking down, glancing back at their desk, or even give you a blank stare.
8. You live in an ivory tower
This one might be way too obvious, especially if you are in the corner office and have a white desk. But employees don't always tell you their feelings about how you seem like the king or queen of the domain. The trick? Make sure everyone has a similar office space.
9. You don't give them enough time
If you cut off a project and set unrealistic deadlines, employees might just lose hope, but they probably won't tell you anything. They'll assume you want them to act like time machines exist because you are pushing, but guess what? Time machines don't exist.
10. Your edgy
Being edgy in the office usually means you don't have any patience and you act angry or difficult as a way to get what you want. As the boss, it's best to learn some patience and to look for cues that people might be just a little wary of your demeanor.
11. You provide too much information
TMI on that one, but not in an inappropriate or personal sense. If you constantly give too much information about a task or company goal, it shows employees you don't trust them to figure things out on their own. Learn to provide the right amount of information.
12. You get too personal
It's OK to ask employees about life outside of work and get to know them. If you get too personal, they might get annoyed but it's even more awkward to actually tell the boss she has stepped over the line. Find the happy balance between personal and work boundaries.
13. You're over-sensitive
Some bosses just can't seem to hide their emotions, and it's a learned skill trying to keep things focused on the tasks at hand and not on your feelings. Give employees the facts. It's OK to be human, but if you tend to reveal too many of your inner thoughts, reign it in.
14. You're not in the office enough
Employees probably won't confront you about never being in the office. And, it usually sets a tone-you'll notice you are giving them a model to follow if they tend to come in late and leave early. The best way to handle this one? Become more available.
15. You're too directive
Harsh demands don't usually get you any points with employees, who tend to want respect more than commands. Look for ways to clearly state the project goals, and then trust the employees to get the work done. If you're too dictatorial, they'll lose morale.
16. You have an attitude problem
Having an attitude about being the boss comes through in the way you talk, how you react to employees, and even in your body language. An attitude is really something that's hard to pin down, so employees won't point it out...ever. It's best to keep your attitude in check.
17. You have favorites
Patty in accounting always gets your full attention and so does Jim in marketing. You seem to show them more respect. Employees will pick up on that. Be as fair as possible. Remember that you (likely) hired them all, and they all deserve equal treatment.
18. You don't trust
Trust is something you give out as an unwarranted gift. Ask your staff what you can do to demonstrate more trust and show you believe they can do their jobs. Be ready to trust employees beyond what you think they can do and see if they surprise you.
19. You interrupt
OK, this one really gets under their skin. Employees don't like to be interrupted because it shows you care more about your own pontificating than what they have to say. Become the type of boss who listens first and then asks questions, not someone who jumps in on every conversation.
20. You dominate meetings
Letting a meeting run long and irritating employees is one thing. Dominating the meeting is another, because it makes your employees not want to be there. Let them speak freely. The domination you show is also making them scared to give you feedback.
21. You talk too fast
Fast talkers don't usually pause to get much feedback...or participation. This issue is a tough one for leaders because you want to disseminate information quickly. Yet, a pause shows you want to have a conversation and not just give employees a speech.
22. You only listen to a select few
Favoritism has a cousin, and it is picking people to be your advisers. That OK when it comes to mentors but tends to put employees on edge because it means some have your attention and some don't. Make sure you seek out a variety of opinions in the office.
23. You are not open-minded to new ideas
Managing people is not easy because you sometimes need to be close-minded-say, about giving people more time off or working on random side projects. Yet, if you shut that valve off completely, employees won't tell you when they have a groundbreaking idea.
24. You make the ideas of the staff your own
What could be worse than shutting the door to new ideas? Stealing them. Yet, employees might think that's the office norm and not complain too much. Secretly, they're fuming. Make sure you attribute the idea correctly and make it clear you want to hear more.
25. You don't communicate enough about financials
There's a common problem in smaller companies related to finances. The main boss secretly tracks the accounting but doesn't share enough about plans or successes. First, go ahead and be more upfront about it. Second, ask if you can share more details.
26. You don't relay enough information from investors
Investors often give out great advice. They are plunking down hard cash and want to see things work out. Yet, as the boss, you might try to hide the fact that investors are invested. Clue the entire staff into this as a group effort. They are all wondering about it anyway.
27. You need to provide more flexibility
If you get to rigid about work hours or projects, employees might clam up. (Maybe they'll think finances are too tight.) Stick to the mission and process, but be open about how you reach those goals. Don't make it all about your direction and your ideas.
28. You're negative
As a leader in business, I used to make the mistake of relaying bad news too often. Is it bad news or a temporary setback? Learn to tell the difference or if constantly informing everyone about every hiccup is just destroying morale.
29. You create conflict
The lazy older brother of being too negative is always creating conflict. If you constantly nitpick and point out faults, employees will just accept that as the new mode of operation. Encouragement, positive thinking, and acknowledgement all negate conflicts.
30. You're too optimistic
Maybe you can't be too optimistic, but in business it's possible to paint everything as perfect. My advice is to stick to the facts. Trust employees with information. They might not tell you when you seem like you are always a cheerleader and never a voice of reason.
31. You kill projects too quickly
Killing projects too quickly makes employees think you're too random. You see problems and smack them down instead of asking questions and learning about what needs to be tweaked. Be a leader who corrects and reassigns, not someone who just pulls the plug.
32. You get too angry
Angry bosses don't usually know they get too angry, because everyone's too scared to say anything. First, stay calm. Anger isn't helping anyone get their work done anyway. If you do get upset, be humble enough to ask for forgiveness and clear the air.
33. Your jokes are inappropriate
Employees might not tell you when you're inappropriate, but they might tell HR...or a lawyer. Of course, the real answer is: Stop. Stay away from any hint of inappropriateness. If you make a mistake, apologize in a real way and correct your own behavior.
34. Your stress has become their stress
Stress is a form of control. Those who are not stressed are just accepting what comes along. The best way to avoid the "my stress if your stress" problem is to create a boundary between your given role and the load the employee has to carry. Don't mix the two.
35. You're reactionary
If you'reactionary, be careful. It creates tension with employees who never know if you'll explode about a topic or project. Create en environment where there isn't that constant sense that you might fly into a rage or make an abrupt decision.
36. You can't see their point of view
It can be hard to see the point of view of your employees if you don't entirely understand their role. Maybe you're not an engineer or you don't have a marketing degree. But stay curious. Give your staff the impression you will always listen no matter what.
37. You insist on always being right
Do employees think your definition of "boss" is the person knows everything? That's a problem because it means they will just let you live with that illusion. Make sure you see your staff as having equally important (if not more important) opinions and expertise.
38. You're a curmudgeon
The guy who walks around and stamps his feet, that's not creating any tension at all, right? Employees might even despise you and regret when you come into the office, but they're never going to speak up. Change the perception before it's too late.
40. You infuriate them
Employees might be pulling their hair out...at least in their thoughts. There are bosses who just keep questioning things and poking. Don't be that person. The underlying problem is, of course, that you are getting too involved in their projects and not letting them work.
41. You make them feel out of the loop
One of the great mistakes of leadership is not informing employees about goals. (The same is true in parenting, by the way.) Give them the backstory. Include employees in decisions or they will decide to just let you fail on your own and never warn you about pitfalls.
42. You don't empower them enough
The boss who does everything on her own is trying to carry a big weight, but this leadership style creates an ancillary problem. Employees don't feel part of the solution. They won't say anything when you are too busy doing it all. Stop and ask: What can you do to include them?
43. You overlook big accomplishments
Employees who are finally empowered might then feel their contribution is overlooked. Maybe they're appreciate the trust, but they'll also despise the fact that no one seemed to notice their creative thinking. Notice what they do. Put a plaque up on the wall if need be.
44. You hire people that are not a good fit
Donna is not meshing with the team. Neither is Dan. Both of them were hires you made without really understanding the needs of the other employees first. But what can you staff really do about that? They probably won't tell you unless you ask first.
45. You fire people without getting enough facts
Your staff might not confront you about errors in judgement when it comes to terminating someone. They don't want to end up on your list. But it's OK to get their feedback about how you go about evaluating employees in general and if you gather enough information.
46. You're too sarcastic
I hate how sarcasm is a tool for people who are afraid of being direct. Ask your staff if you do that. Stick to sarcasm that's funny and meant to poke fun. Employees might not tell you if you have crossed the line because it is such a gray area of funny or insulting.
47. You're not explaining complex subjects
Employees don't want to be perceived as dumb. If you don't explain complex subjects, they might just pretend to know what you're talking about. Make sure you don't just ask if they get it; ask them to engage with you on the subject and come to a mutual understanding.
48. You're not giving them enough encouragement
Employees need positive feedback, but they might not always try to pry it out of you. Take a risk. Ask employees if they feel you are giving them enough encouragement or error on the side of giving too much praise and pointing out the efforts of your staff too often.
49. You don't explain the mission
A company mission is a tool for upper management to unify the staff, but employees might not be willing to question it too much. They might just accept it without fully embracing it. Create a mission together and give them ownership, then ask how they can embrace it even more.
50. You kill momentum
As a writer, I'm constantly aware of my own momentum. Distractions and interruptions destroy productivity. One of the culprits? The boss. Make sure you ask if you are letting the staff build enough momentum or just stay out of the way at times and let them work.
51. You're acting too much like a know-it-all
Leadership is not synonymous with knowing everything. Often, the best leaders are the ones who ask the best questions. Don't pretend to have all of the answers. Ask for more information. Educate yourself. Be a leader who is constantly curious and improving.