Baseball great Casey Stengel once quipped that the secret to being a successful manager is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t yet made up their minds.
Don’t worry, though. With a little insight and sensitivity, you almost always can keep employees happy and can keep resentment at bay. Read on for nine tips on how to be a great boss.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions.
There’s always more than one side to every story, said Eddie Johnson, national field operations director at Move It Self Storage, an Addison, TX-based storage operator. You might want to leap into action when you find that something is being done wrong, but sometimes you need more information.
“Step back and take a moment to be neutral,” Johnson said.
When it comes to customer complaints and coworker disputes, don’t rely on just one person’s word. Make sure you get a version of the conflict from everyone involved.
2. Respect employees’ off-the-clock time.
Remember that you’re dealing with people, and their families and lives.
“They have external factors in their lives that affect their work,” Johnson said.
He considers employees’ personal lives when making changes to operating hours or procedures. For example, Move It Self Storage’s webinar series is required viewing for staff, but Johnson knows that workers with families might have arrange to come in early twice a month for that training.
3. Pay attention and listen.
As tempting as it might be, don’t check your email, read text messages or scroll your Facebook page while an employee is expressing an issue about a coworker or telling you what’s on his mind.
“Lots of bosses now multitask without really listening and meeting the employee’s eye,” said Bob Phibbs, a trainer and consultant known as The Retail Doctor. “Be present.”
4. Lead by example.
Don’t ask an employee to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself, said David Dixon, chief operating officer of Universal Storage Group, an Atlanta, GA-based storage operator.
“If you expect employees to clean the bathrooms and sweep the curb,” Dixon said, “then show them that you’re willing to get out the Windex, broom and toilet brush and do it yourself.”
5. Encourage two-way conversations.
Establish an open-door policy that allows employees to express grievances and offer suggestions. “You can’t dictate all the time,” Dixon said.
Listen to workers’ ideas about how to improve operations and the workplace, and see whether you can adopt them. “If it works, OK. If not, let them vent,” Dixon said.
6. Set limits.
If an employee comes in late and you let it slide, that person learns that showing up 15 minutes into his shift is no big deal. On the other hand, if you make it clear that tardiness is unacceptable, the employee knows that being late isn’t tolerated.
“Have clear boundaries of what is and isn’t OK,” Phibbs said. “Also, make sure you train them so they know clearly what the job is and isn’t.”
7. Give honest feedback.
Schedule periodic evaluations to let employees know what you think of their performance and whether they’re meeting expectations. Failing to check in with regular evaluations creates uncertainty for staff members. “They don’t know what ground they stand on,” Dixon said.
8. Avoid electronic miscommunication.
Don’t hit that “send” button so fast. Before you shoot an email to an employee, “read it and consider how the context will be accepted by that person,” Johnson said.
Disciplinary emails always should be a follow-up to a face-to-face discussion. If you introduce new policies by email, give a full explanation of the changes.
“Sometimes that extra mile with that little bit of information takes away the misunderstanding. They can see that you’re not picking on them,” Johnson said.
9. Don’t get too chummy.
Trying to be your employee’s friend can lead to problems and create animosity and confusion. You can be friendly with your staff, but when you start telling each other your personal problems and hanging out on weekends, there’s going to be trouble.
“They don’t see you as a boss. They see you as a friend when really, they need someone to lead them,” Dixon said.