10 Ways Bosses Who Make Nice Bring Out the Best in Their Employees
Authoritarians often get ahead in business but leave a toxic work environment in their wake.
This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Strategic Management, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
Leaders do not have to be mean to be effective. Authoritarians tend to think that by being soft they will reduce their staff’s respect and motivation. Steve Jobs, for example, was famous for being mean, critical and tyrannical to his employees.
But successful leaders are rarely like Steve Jobs. He’s the exception that proves the rule. Studies show that overly rough bosses spawn motivational problems with their staff. The stress of working under a mean boss can negatively affect employee health.
A study at the University of London discovered a significant link between cardiovascular disease and management-induced stress. Researchers at the University of Concordia, found that when employees think of themselves as highly stressed, their health insurance costs skyrocket by nearly 50 percent. The Institute of Naval Medicine found that a hardcore management style drives away the best talent, leaving behind only those who perform at a lower level. And conclusively, Esprit de Corps ran a poll that indicated most employees would rather have a nicer boss that receive a substantial pay raise.
The bottom line: people leave bad bosses, not bad jobs.
A considerate boss boosts cohesiveness and productivity and leaders perceived as compassionate motivate their subordinates to be more helpful to colleagues and more committed to their teams.
Here are 10 ways the boss making nice pays off:
1. Let them know where you stand.
Mastering the art of kindness takes commitment and determination. But it’s worth it. Real kindness is shown in straightforward and direct interaction with employees, so they know where they stand and why. You don’t have to pull your punches to be kind. When someone knows you’re genuinely concerned about them, they are willing to listen to your input -- both positive and negative.
Outplacement data compiled by Mullin International over the last three years shows 60 percent of departing employees will remain in their former company’s eco-system as buyers, suppliers, influencers or competitors. Treating your employees well pays off in multiple ways even if they aren’t with you anymore.
2. Strong doesn't have to be harsh.
Leadership means strength, but not harshness. A soft answer turns away wrath, and keeps employees better balanced. When your staff sees that you can maintain poise and self-control even under the most difficult and demanding situations, they are more willing to follow your lead and make their own sacrifices for the good of the team or department or company.
A smart boss does not jump in to take control at the first sign of trouble. He or she guides workers to work out their challenges in a way that is not confrontational.
3. Confidence is not arrogance.
Confidence, like measles, is contagious. Employees want to be around a confident boss -- but shun the company of a know-it-all. The best way to show confidence is to show competence, that you really know what you’re talking about. And then, if you really don’t know something -- confess it and find the employee/team member who does know about it and learn from him or her.
Great leaders are humble. They don’t put up artificial barriers between themselves and their employees. Their door is always open, and they don’t require others to do things they can’t or won’t do themselves.
4. Be positive, not delusional.
To remain positive yet keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds is a remarkable skill that not every manager or supervisor can master.
It takes some trust in others to follow through and enough confidence in your own abilities to remain unperturbed when the you-know-what hits the fan. And it will. It always does. So don’t just say the glass is half full; instead, get your employees to see that the glass needs a lot more that only they can provide.
5. Teach, don't preach.
The corporate world is full of people who believe they should do unto others before others do it unto them. A great boss is one that makes the time to instruct employees in their duties and responsibilities, and is not stingy with praise. Chewing out an employee for anything, whether it’s a bad habit or careless work, leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.
6. Grin and bear it.
Your team will back you up just as far as they feel that you will back them up. So go for broke. Show them that you’ll ‘take a bullet’ for them. It’s not an easy thing to do, but if you’re prepared to do it when the occasion arises, you can be sure they will have your back from then on -- and that’s a wonderful feeling for any boss to have.
Employment isn’t a birthday party, where everybody gets cake and ice cream and plays games all day. But neither should it be slavery in a salt mine, with the whip always cracking. There’s a balance, a delicate one, that bosses have to maintain between a fun work environment and a productive work environment. Sometimes it has to be fine-tuned down to each individual. But your people should always be aware that you’re striving to make things pleasant for them, while still expecting them to meet their goals.
8. Personal, not intimate.
Find out about your staff’s family and hobbies and ambitions outside the office. Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Show concern when there’s a health crisis with an employee or someone close to them. Let them talk about their pets. But, when the talk turns to romance or finance, that’s when the wise and kind boss quickly finds somewhere else to be. Quickly. Show you care, but stay out of the drama.
9. Fearless feedback.
Feedback can be either positive or negative. Find opportunities to discover your workers doing something right, and praise them for it. When you have to deliver negative feedback, always end the conversation by sincerely asking “What can I do to help?” A boss is not doing an employee any favors by procrastinating negative feedback. Get it over with, and ask the golden question. The solution can start that much sooner.
10. Sharing is caring.
A great boss will share credit. Ladle out sincere praise like gravy. Sincerely enjoy the success of his or her subordinates. Kindness is never about you -- it’s always about the other person. Live for others and your own life, at work and at home, will prosper.