By Jared Weitz, founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.
Some bosses don't learn. They continue to mistreat employees even though it is blatantly clear that they are only hurting productivity. Why do they do this? There are at least three reasons. The first is the same reason we tend to snap at our spouses after a long day at work. Pressure and uncertainty cause pain, and people who are in pain have less patience.
The second reason is that being mean is traditionally associated with being a good boss. Many legendary entrepreneurs (Jobs, Bezos, etc.) have been exposed as extremely stubborn, condescending, overly critical and flat-out rude. This gives the impression that abusing your employees will bring out the best in them. But in most cases, it has the opposite effect.
The third reason is that the average boss has probably never worked for someone who managed to achieve tremendous success without being the least bit abrasive. Until they see it, they might not believe it can be done.
What kind of person would you like to work for?
Those of us who have worked for bosses like this know the real formula for maximizing loyalty and performance. It starts with showing that you, the boss, are indeed a genial and compassionate human being. At first glance, this sounds like a recipe for getting trampled on. You might think employees are more likely to take advantage of a friendly boss and slack off. Well, this could be a real possibility if you don't simultaneously display a strong work ethic and make it clear that you genuinely care about your company. It's safe to say that someone who works hard but exhibits a pleasant attitude sounds like a pretty cool person. In fact, this sounds like the kind of person virtually everyone aspires to be.
Exhibiting this difficult balance between work and fun is virtually guaranteed to garner respect and admiration. Employees will want to make you happy in exchange for your supportive and good-natured treatment. This desire will skyrocket once your employees find out that most of their friends aren't so lucky.
Save your urgency for things that are actually urgent.
Every boss wants his or her employees to take their work seriously. From a logistical standpoint, you should be able to accomplish this by being hard on your employees. You should maintain a stern demeanor and show how displeased you get when employees don't fulfill your expectations.
What these bosses fail to understand is that their behavior is actually making employees take their work less seriously. If you appear to be in a perpetual state of frustration, employees will begin to tune you out. They will conclude that you are only acting this way to scare them. It's like the boy who cried wolf. When there is a legitimate need for the team to ramp up their efforts, they won't take their boss's commands to heart. To them, it will be just another day.
A benevolent boss, on the other hand, will likely have no trouble motivating employees. When the boss appears to be just a little more serious than usual, employees will quickly ascertain that a dire issue is at hand. Anything that can make a typically easygoing person act with such urgency must be important.
Go the extra mile with trust and support.
Being especially kind to your employees ultimately shows that you trust them. You have so much faith in their allegiance that you trust them to work hard without constant instruction. Trusting someone you don't know very well is a gracious gamble. But when someone takes a risk in hiring or promoting you, wouldn't you want to prove that he or she made the right decision?
The final ingredient for instilling a strong work ethic in your employees is letting them know how valuable they are. Even though certain positions aren't integral to the company's success, you should consistently remind those employees just how good they are at what they do. Think back to the last awards show you watched. Each winner usually thanks the same people -- the people who believed in them from the beginning.
Old school, meet new school.
It doesn't matter how outwardly busy or serious you are. You will not have the complete respect of your employees if they do not feel respected as well. There will likely be no need for discipline or harsh words as long as your employees truly care about you and your business.
Jared Weitz is founder & CEO of United Capital Source Inc.