During a discussion about micro-managers with a partner at an accounting firm, he told me, “I have a lot of independent business owners come through my office. A lot of people can’t work for or with others, so they go into business for themselves and never get around to expanding.” As a manager at a small business myself, I’ve put a lot of thought into this matter. I occupy a space somewhere between employer and employee so I have plenty of opportunities to see both sides of things. I understand that someone responsible for a product or service wants complete control over the results because quality is of utmost importance. Yet those tasked with carrying out that quality simply want recognition for the things they’re doing right and guidance on what they’re doing wrong. They certainly don’t want to feel like they’re being babysat.
I’ve compiled a quick list on how both employees and employers might handle their relationships with one another to maximum effect. The beauty of these tips is that they can be applied to almost any relationship: parent, child; teacher, student; landlord, lessee; even friends.
1. Communication is King
People expect others to know what they’re thinking far too often. I’ve seen it a million times. A boss hires a new guy and he can’t perform up to speed with everyone else. What’s the boss do? Either he does the work for the new guy and gets frustrated at his performance or just lets him go. And all because the guy doesn’t know the ropes.
An efficient employer however might approach the new guy and ask if he needs help. He would realize that someone with five months experience won’t be as good as someone with five years. He might talk with the employee and go over standards and what’s to be expected. But he should never get frustrated and do the work for the new guy. Patience and guidance are key here.
On the other end are employees. If you don’t know something, ask! Most people live in fear of their superiors and get angry when they’re reprimanded for not doing something correctly. Often asking how you might do it better next time will dispel your boss’ cranky mood instantly. We have to remember that all people are equal in essence even if their roles are not. Your boss can be your friend.
2. A Workplace without Trust and Respect is a Garden Watered with Battery Acid
A lot of employers, especially small business owners, have been burnt in the past. They’ve had that gal who stole supplies or funds, they’ve had that guy who showed up late or not at all, or that one who wrecked the company vehicle while drunk or high. Hate to break it to ya’, but that’s life. There’s losers out there and you’re going to get a few. What will make or break you though is how you respond in the long run.
Those bad apples are not the new intern. Remember that and remember it often. And if one of your employees is failing to show up on time or perform well, try to be forgiving or understanding — at least initially. Show them you can be a friend and that you care for them. Ask them what’s going on. You never know, you might have been in a similar situation at some point. Maybe you can help.
Also, if an employee is offering additional skills, take advantage. Too often employers are stubborn and neglect to recognize the talent they have in their reins. If an employee is shouting out for attention, pay attention. Otherwise you’re wasting your money — not to mention losing it in terms of what more your company could be doing. Step back, trust your workers, and relax a little. There are far too many tasks that could occupy your time to do work you’ve hired others to do.
And employees, always approach your employers with respect as well. Be strong and confident in your suggestions, but never cop an attitude. It puts a bad taste in your boss’ mouth. Approach whatever topic is on your mind subtly, maybe even breaking the ice with some light conversation beforehand.
3. There are as Many Bad Employers as There Are Bad Employees
I can’t tell you how many times I hear business owners complain about how hard it is to find good help. All the while, these same people fall into the bad mold themselves. They micro-manage tasks designated for others, fail to provide an atmosphere in which employees can learn and grow, and walk around with a condescending demeanor. No wonder you can’t get no help if you can’t even help yo’self!
Step back and think about what you’re doing wrong for once. Do you foster a respectful and trusting environment or do you hold baggage that hinders your employees? Do you communicate with and instruct your employees or do you just get frustrated and say, if you want it done right, gotta’ do it yourself? Often the problem isn’t one sided.
Shoe on the other foot, how many employees grumble about not getting paid enough for the work they do? How many people get upset when their boss changes that report they slaved hours over? How many can’t stand how condescending or arrogant their superiors are?
My question to people like this is: does your manager know? Have you provided him or her with an argument and a list of reasons why you think it’s time for a raise? Have you leveraged your options and looked elsewhere to take your talents when your boss failed to respond effectively? Did you stand up to him and defend your choices or let her know to consult you next time she changes things around?
Now, I’ve used employers and employees as a point of reference to talk about problems in the workplace. But these three simple insights can be used in just about any situation. Whether you’re faced with a turbulent marriage, a kid whose acting out, or a failing friendship, focus on the facts and wherever there’s a lack of communication, trust, and respect, you’ve found your problem. And remember, most problems are two sided. Someone’s got to break the cycle before it gets better, otherwise the divide will only get wider.