Being the boss is really hard. Your reputation and name are on the line for every action taken by your employees. Mistakes, missteps and just plain screw-ups can cut into your client base, make you feel like a fool and cost you money. If you’re prone to a punitive leadership style, your responses to these mistakes can lead to a culture of fear.
Benefits Of A Culture Of Fear
Nobody tells you about mistakes. You only hear about the good outcomes while your employees scuttle around, covering their backsides and following each regulation down to the minutest detail. For a time, things may hum along quite smoothly.
Drawbacks Of A Culture Of Fear
Remember all those bright, creative problem-solvers you worked so hard to find and hire? They may still be bright, but their creativity has been packed away and their problem-solving skills are growing rusty. By keeping their heads down and following every rule and regulation that comes along, they don’t have to solve problems for you anymore. The new problem they may be working on is to find another job to get away from punitive leadership.
Put Mistakes To Work For You
If your employees are truly frightened of you and your wrath, no employee engagement ideas or survey can fix this. To nurture truly engaged employees, you’ll need to make some personal adjustments and rebuild rapport.
1) Are you a screamer and yeller? Get some help and let people know you’re working on your issue.
2) Do you lead by “my way or the highway” thinking? Then lower your sights when hiring. Competent people can easily work jobs that require no synchronistic thinking, but in the long run you’re wasting their time and your money. Hire automatons, or hire competent people and get out of their way.
3) How do you handle structural changes in your business? If you need to make a large adjustment in physical workspace or software, who has input? The people who are doing the job know the job, so any large changes need employee input before the change rather than after.
4) How do you implement change? Should your method of making changes include informing them of how to do the job they’re already doing without their input, be prepared to have people working for you who no longer care about their work.
5) What led to the mistake? Sometimes mistakes come from poor or incomplete structural processes. If the data coming from one department is constantly full of errors, instead of punishing the department head or employees, consider asking for their input on structural adjustments that can reduce these errors, and be prepared for these fixes to fail. People need the chance to try new things, and if your employees are afraid of you, this may require a couple of attempts.
6) How do you handle your mistakes? Let employees know mistakes are OK by owning up to yours.
Make This Firm-Wide
Leaders of large organizations may have departments that are unusually quiet or that suffer large amounts of turnover. This is a red flag that needs your attention. Consider meeting with employees without department managers in place to try to gather information. Be aware that those managers may not be happy about this in your leadership training, and take care to notify rank and file employees that they will be protected from retaliation. Give these meetings time; many brow-beaten employees have a hard time opening up.
Keep An Eye On Bullying
Bullying in the workplace has gotten a lot of press because it’s destructive, demoralizing and unhealthy. Should managers in your organization be in the habit of playing favorites, denying all employees access to the same information, or freezing out a particular group of rank and file employees, you need to put your organization on a correction plan that includes all employees in the information flow.
You may not have gotten into business for yourself to lead people, or you may feel that your personality doesn’t make leadership easy. We all have behaviors and attitudes that we’re working on. You’re a success because you have passion and brains. Hire people with passion and brains, and lead.