When you’re a parent, eventually you have to accept that a vast majority of the things you do for your kids will be ignored, resented or taken for granted. It doesn’t feel fair. I kill myself day and night only to get a shrug at best, outright hostility at worst. Honestly, it’s as if my kids think I wake up in the morning thinking, “How can I make them miserable today? I know, I’ll make them wear winter coats!”
Managing employees can feel a bit like that, too. Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard you try to be fair and friendly everyone has a complaint. This is particularly true when the business is going through a change of some kind. You know how much everyone likes change!
I’ve worked with many a business owner who feels resentful, alone and frustrated when that happens. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Be friendly but know that your role is not that of a friend. You have to balance your employees’ interests with those of the business and your own. Not easy, but that’s why your name is on the building.
- Sometimes all people need is to be heard. Listen to what they have to say and respectively disagree if you need to.
- Stand firmly behind your decisions. Don’t waver. If you don’t seem committed to them no one else will be either.
- If you find you’ve made a bad decision fix it and move on. Acknowledge the change but don’t apologize for it. Everyone, even the boss, makes mistakes from time to time.
I would love to write more but I’m traveling this weekend and before I go I have to complete my scheduled work, clean the house, finish the laundry, pick up some groceries, and produce a helpful household schedule that no one will read. A good day’s work – not that anyone will appreciate it.
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The other night when we were at the home of some good friends I heard my youngest son burst into tears. Turns out a “game” he was playing with his brother resulted in a rug burn over the entire area of his stomach. It was not a pretty sight.
If you’ve ever been in charge of the behavior of others – children or adults – you know with certainty the first law of management: People will sometimes do unspeakably dumb things for no apparent reason, and often with no real remorse.
And the codicil to this rule: You may never know exactly what transpired because no two people will relay the same version of the event. You’re left to guess what happened based only on the evidence apparent in the outcome.
People are people – rational yet unpredictable beings – so you may not be able to avoid all mishaps but you can lessen the probability by:
- Providing adequate supervision (clearly lacking in this situation). This does not mean micro-managing! It means providing reasonable oversight and being informed enough to head off potential disaster.
- Keeping lines of communication open. If there are important initiatives underway don’t assume they are progressing as you hope – verify. The sooner you know something is headed off the rails the sooner you can correct it.
- Don’t govern by fear – and don’t “shoot the messenger”! If people are afraid or hesitant to approach you when things go wrong you will always find out when it’s too late to avoid a problem.
In the case of my kids, one usually has a vested interest in ratting out the other so the lines of communication stay open. While it keeps me informed it certainly isn’t the scenario I wish for you and your management team!
How do you stay in touch with the things that are going on in your organization? Send your notes to email@example.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.