I will never forget when my son was getting tubes put in his ears. I can’t even remember why, but I hated his ENT. I just remember telling his resident that the ENT’s bed side manner was terrible. I will never forget what he said, because I have come to realize it was completely true. “Sometimes, learning what you shouldn’t do is more important than learning what you should.” Boy was he ever right.
I have worked under a slew of managers, as we all have. I have worked under two in particular that were really terrible. I’ve broken down why the employees had such issues with them.
1. Talking down to employees
Your employees are an asset to your company. They are the cogs and gears keeping the machine running. If one isn’t quite working well, the entire machine starts to break down. The biggest and fastest way to have technical difficulties with your machine is treating it badly.
“I don’t understand what is so hard about…”
“We just went over this…”
“Why isn’t this done…”
Words are so important. How you say things can make or break you. Because the more you talk down to your employees, the more they group together and talk about it. I was once told “we are done gossiping.” It wasn’t about gossiping. It was about feeling unappreciated and everyone else in the store feeling the same way. Trying to figure out what to do about it isn’t gossiping when you are trying to decide how to handle it. Think about how hard it is to say something that may be negative, to anyone. May cause conflict. Many people just avoid the conflict completely and keep it inside. If it has gotten to the point that multiple people are coming to you talking about an issue centered around you, you are the problem. Most of the time people suffer in silence. If it has gotten to the point where people are finally saying something about it, everyone is thinking it. There is a problem.
Change your statements. Ask what and how questions. Not “what are you doing?” questions. Not “how do you not understand?” questions. The best way is to ask “how can I help?” “What can I do to help you?” “What will help get this finished on time?” Asking to them explain further. “I’m sorry. I’m not understanding what you are getting stuck on. Can you explain?”
Probably the biggest thing is not what you say, but how you say it. Inflection is the biggest issue in any conversation. Inflection in the tone of voice. Negative connotations. Record your voice as you say things and listen back if you have to. You don’t like when anyone makes you feel small. The big boss comes in and makes light of your hard work. You wouldn’t like it. Don’t do it to someone else.
Assuming is always an issue. Assuming that you know what took place when you were’t there. A big project isn’t done? “All you had to do was move everything to the other side.” “That doesn’t take three hours.” Now he/she is offended. What you didn’t know was that the hardware all had to be changed out or that there was an incident with a customer/client that had to be handled in between working on everything.
Assuming puts people on the defensive. You are being offensive when you assume and they immediately feel like they have to defend themselves. That already is getting things off on the wrong foot. When people feel they have to defend themselves they get angry. Instead ask. Asking is pivotal in business. You always want to ask when you don’t understand something. You don’t understand why that project isn’t done? “This is taking a bit more time than I thought it would. Did something go wrong? How can I help?” Every time you ask how you can help, you are saying you are on the same side and shows them they have nothing to be defensive about. You are saying you are on the same team and that you are willing to help to meet a mutual goal.
3. Not Understanding Life Outside of Work
This is a big one. Things happen. I have train tracks right near my house. I was driving over an hour to one of my jobs. In order to get on the freeway, I had to take the road that the train tracks go through, or take another route that would put me off about 20-25 minutes. There are no reports on the news for traffic due to trains. There is no way to know until you are sitting there. I got written up for being late. I called 45 minutes ahead of time to let my manager know I was going to be late due to the train. “You should have left earlier.” Really?! I should leave an extra half hour early when I already leave 15 minutes early and normally sit in the parking lot waiting on you because you are running a few minutes late.
I was told “this is getting ridiculous” when I called to say I was taking my son to the hospital for an asthma attack a week later. Sure it may seem like excuses, but if you don’t give your employees the benefit of the doubt, then you again, are putting them on the defensive. If it becomes excessive, then that is talk that needs to happen. But not unless it has happened. Otherwise, you should be understanding.
Train causing them to run late? “Okay, see you when you get here. Thanks for calling to let us know.” Someone in the hospital? “I’m so sorry I hope they feel better. Let us know if you need more time off.” A surprise dinner? “That’s awesome! See if you can find someone to cover your shift. If not let me know and I can see what I can do.”
Scheduling/time off is the biggest issue when it comes to not understanding others’ lives outside of work. It is normally not that difficult to figure out how to make everyone happy. Deadline? If they can find someone else to do it, it’s fine. Maybe they can work at home. Don’t tell them “you have a whole store to run and their problems aren’t yours.” Because they are. Each employee is a part of your machine. They need to be taken care of and feel they are cared about. Otherwise, your turn-over rate is going to be sky high and you will be costing the company thousands because you have to train someone new every month or so.
4. Not Understanding employees are individuals not a group
Don’t see your employees as a group. Don’t see them as this is my group that helps me do A, B, C, and D. Understand they are individuals. Doing so will help your business. If you don’t you will just have anyone do a job. Instead of learning Alex and Carrie’s strengths and weaknesses, you have Alex working the budget and Carrie tasking. If you knew your team as individuals, you would know that Carrie is good at numbers, and Alex likes being busy. Putting them in the opposite positions means it gets done slower, or not as well as it could have been done.
If an associate comes to you about personal issues that mean that scheduling may be difficult, don’t blow them off. Take care of them. Work around it. They will appreciate it that much more.
The one time I would say it is okay to think of the group as a whole is when hiring. When I was hired to work in a bridal store, one of the managers, Kaila, said she thinks about how people will work within the group she already has. This is unbelievably smart. So often people are hiring ONLY for their qualifications or because they are down on staffing and just need to get a body in the store. Thinking about how the new individual’s personality will work within the existing group will make your group better and stronger. Personalities will gel.
Ah. Favoritism. America’s favorite pastime. You are going to have your favorites. There’s no doubt about it. It WILL happen. The issue comes when you act on that favoritism. You go out to eat with an associate that is under you. You go out to the bar with them. You give them all the best jobs. You give them extra hours.
Some will say this makes the others work harder. Most of the time people give up. Because why would they try harder when everything is going to be given to your favorite anyway. Using favorites is never a good idea to motivate people. It creates a negative work environment. For everyone. Once the negativity starts it is hard to stop. You give people a reason to come together collectively on something negative and they will. They will feed off each other’s stories about that favoritism and just making people more angry.
Human kind are generally want to feel included. They like to feel involved. When they feel left out of anything in any way, it starts the negative work environment. People thrive in a place that’s positive. Where they feel cared about equally with the person next to them. Where they love coming. Favoritism gets in the way of that. In order to keep favoritism at a minimum, I implement my own conduct code. I do not add any employees on social media unless they are in a leadership position. I also will not text any employees casually. I try to keep texting to a minimum period. I was told that “though it’s frustrating sometimes that I won’t text employees, it’s also really refreshing.” I think that says a lot.
6. Not Being Accountable
In retail, all I heard about was “accountability.” There are so many pages written about it. In just about every work place that I’ve been in there was something talking about accountability. I heard it leave the mouths of so many of my managers. It’s clearly something that is important in the business world. And I completely agree. But my issue is the word is constantly thrown around without understanding the full meaning of it.
Accountability doesn’t mean that your employees take responsibility for their actions, it means you do as well. Owning up to what someone doesn’t like. Be it your boss not liking something you implemented, or an employee that has sit down to talk to you about something that they don’t like.
If your higher up doesn’t like the visuals of the store. Don’t blame it on your visual merchandiser when they are following your direction. Apologize, ask/figure out how you can fix it, and ask what they are expecting. This works for an employee too. Your employee wants to know how come they are “employee of the month” but have the least amount of hours. “I’m sorry, I overlooked it. I have enough in payroll to give you 8 extra hours next week. Will that work?”
You seem more like you know what you are doing when you don’t pass the buck and take…that’s right ACCOUNTABILITY. I owned up to making a mistake to a manager, and that manager told me “don’t throw yourself under the bus, just say you will fix it.” I don’t agree with this in the least. I don’t believe that taking accountability for what I did is throwing myself under the bus. I would rather step up and admit that I made a mistake, which happens, than someone else be called out for my actions.
Not only is taking accountability with your words important, but taking accountability with your actions. What does that mean?
Once in a meeting with my general store manager, she was talking about taking accountability for how my actions are perceived, while rolling her eyes every time I spoke. Which leads to my next thing.
7. Not Leading by Example
There are rules at every work place. Don’t expect your employees to follow them if you don’t. Make yourself aware of the dress code. Follow the dress code. Follow the code of conduct. Because you are always being watched. When they see you are wearing gray pants when an all black is the dress code, they are going to assume that it is okay to wear gray. One person decides to follow your lead and then it snowballs into everyone wearing gray.
If you cut corners, they will cut corners. Lead by example. You should not be doing anything your boss wouldn’t want to see. Imagine they surprise you and pop up without notice and they walk into a sea full of employees in gray.
This also means making sure that everyone not following the rules is talked to. Every time you see it. Because if people feel like someone is constantly getting away with something they can’t do, it starts that negative workplace I keep talking about. That’s what starts the questions of favoritism.
Again your actions are important with this as well. No, rolling your eyes isn’t against any rules. But you know and understand that is something that is considered rude. If you don’t want your employees rolling their eyes at you or customers/clients, then lead by example. This way when you speak to them about it, they can’t say “well you do it.”
8. Not Showing Appreciation
In order to help maintain your machine, keep it oiled. Make sure it knows it is important. In the real world it is as simple as “please, and thank yous.” Staying late? Buy some $5 pizzas. It is the simplest thing that doesn’t take place in that many companies.
“I think it’s stupid to thank people for doing their job” one of my mangers said. I thank people if I could have done it myself and asked them to do it for me. “Will you run this to the back so I can finish typing up this email please? Thank you.” If it isn’t something that they necessarily had to do, if it is not their job, I thank them.
To be so against something that makes someone feel less like they are being told to do something and more like they are a part of the decision, is silly. It is the smallest thing. But it is so important.
Hold in store/office contest. Ask how they are feeling about the new rule implemented. Make sure there is an employee of the month. These things don’t take much time at all, but can make your team know that you care about them other than just being an employee. Speaking of that..
9. Not caring about your employees as people
What do you mean? I remember the complete difference in joining a store that cared about their employees as people and the one that didn’t. No one is talking to each other, other than work stuff at one. The other, felt like family. You knew which employees were trying to get pregnant, who was having trouble with relationships, who spent time at the park earlier that day.
When you don’t do this, work lags. It really does. I have had this happen at a couple work places. You are so business focused that’s all you talk about. You clearly don’t care about me. I’m just someone filling a spot. I am just a body in a store/building. And though some people would say that doesn’t matter, you are more likely to stay in job where you feel connected to the people.
One of my favorite things to do on a slow day is to play “fun fact” over the headset. Each person working states fun facts about themselves. You learn so much about that person and sometimes really interesting stories. I genuinely love and care about the people at my job. I want to know what is going on in your life. I want to know how many kids you have and which one is driving you up the wall. I often know my employees best friends’ names, even though I have never met them. There is a way to do this without it getting in the way of work. Just short little conversations. As long as you know when, and how to break away from that conversation, your team will still be productive. And more upbeat as a result
Some of these things cause the others. Often, when one of these is an issue, there’s another that is too. If your employees are in a negative work environment, they aren’t going to enjoy coming to work. If your employees are looking to see which manager they are working with, they are dreading one of you. A team that works well together keeps the machine running fluidly. This will make the company more money. Think about it. If there is someone you don’t like then you try to avoid them. Avoiding means you aren’t going near a certain area. If you aren’t working together how are you going to make a profit? Strive for a team that only checks to see when they are working, not who they are working with. That team is the best. Just ask mine. We have our days but we are a work family, not a job that pays the bills.