Thanks to those who commented both on and offline to my latest post about how some bosses attempt to motivate their employees through fear and intimidation. Because of the number of emails I received, I can tell you that this situation isn’t unique. Apparently there are quite a few people out there who are battle weary from the workplace.
But does it have to be this way? Of course not! I’m not saying that every employee, or for that matter every boss, is perfect. Goodness knows, I’m not. But if you give your employees (or colleagues or clients for that matter) the “benefit of the doubt” approach, I think you might find more effective language to talk to staff.
You see, while I bitch and moan in my blog for fun, I really have a very optimistic outlook on things. As I get older, I realize that most people are doing the best they can, with what they have, at a particular moment in time.
A professional colleague, Chris Hinrichs responded with some great insight,
“Most people who are ruled and controlled by their fears can only deliver what they were given growing up….. pat phrases, unthought-out commands, “chatty-kathy” responses when under fire or threatened by their very own catastrophic assumptions of their future….they are total victims of their own doing.”
That’s an incredibly elegant way of saying that even some of those bad bosses are doing the best they can. So the question is, how can they get better?
If you are a leader, whether you are the President, CEO or a department manager, your first step is to take a step back and get a reality check. Remember, you’re already in charge! So you don’t need to grapple for position and authority. Your very title gives this to you. Your challenge now is to establish trust and credibility within this position. You can’t do that by being a bully.
Instead, take some time to listen to your employees. Remember, you didn’t hire losers! Your company most likely hired the best in a stack of resumes a couple inches thick – so treat your employees like the winners they already are! They are competent, even if they need more education and coaching to improve.
Next, don’t rush to blame. Blame only creates fear, which shuts people down. What do little kids do when they think they’re in trouble? Eddy Izzard, a British comedian has a funny bit about kids lying. He says that a kid is so worried about being in trouble that he will even lie about the simplest of things. Mom asks, “Did you brush your teeth?” Kid responds, “I was dead at the time!”
Don’t put your employees in this position. Ask questions. Open your mind. If the current challenge isn’t putting your company out of business (highly unlikely), can you use this as a teaching experience? Even if you know the answer or the outcome you seek, can you help your employee find their own path to the same outcome?
Melinda Starkweather of Starkweather and Associates Association Services suggests that a boss say something like this, “You’re capable of so much more. I’m just raising the bar because I know you can clear it.”
Great advice Melinda. Now, let’s all raise the bar – for ourselves – and see how that affects those around us.