Being the boss has its perks. Usually you have a good parking space, you can set hour own hours (which basically means that although you are ALWAYS working no one is tracking how long your lunch is, etc.), and you have a position of authority and purpose. Before you go feeling too smug and comfy, grab yourself a cup of coffee, kick back, and prepare yourself… You are the boss, and there are things you need to know. This isn’t about time management and sales goals for the upcoming year. NOPE — this one is about you. If you are sharp, you are cognizant of the invisible wall which separates you from the rest of the staff. There are jokes you won’t be in on, certain things that you won’t understand, and a lot of words which will be left unsaid. It is time for you to hear those words. This is not a comprehensive list, and not all will apply to you. If the shoe doesn’t fit, pat yourself on the back and move on. Check yourself as you read these, and try not to be oversensitive to the ones that do apply.
1) “Your breath smells…and you have body odor”. YIKES. We can’t say this one easily to a co-worker (maybe we can hint and hand them a breath mint), but it definitely won’t be shared with the boss. Did you have sushi and catfish for lunch? Did you catch a whiff of yourself as you’ve been stressed out, nervous and sweating up a storm? If you smell it guaranteed they do too. You’ve got a big desk… keep a tooth brush, mouthwash and other personal toiletries on hand for just such unpleasant stinky occasions.
2) “Your sarcasm offends. It isn’t funny and comes across as rude”. Everybody laughs when Rick is sarcastic so what gives? Well… Rick is just one of the gang and his delivery is different. And you’re the boss! When you do it the message delivered is one of judgment and disdain. Oh sure, it’s not fair, but unfortunately it goes with your title. (And life isn’t fair, so get over it.)
3) “You bully the weak.” Like a dog that smells fear, this is you. The ones who cower a little bit and act afraid, those are the ones you pick on the most. It’s a complete turnoff and when it happens it gives the rest of the team hours of gossip. Maybe you don’t respect these soft spoken souls quite as much because they don’t stand up for themselves? Whatever the reason, figure out what your problem with them is and stop the intimidation. It just isn’t cool.
4) “You don’t listen.” Well, you pretend to, but you really don’t. You ask for input at staff meetings, want people to contribute ideas. When they do you end up using your own anyhow, so why bother? Your “open door policy” is a joke. Your door may be open but your mind isn’t. Sometimes you don’t even make eye contact. You’ve been caught playing with your cell phone while you should have been listening wholeheartedly. How insulting! What would you do if one of your staff did that to you? Your whole demeanor is standoffish and closed.
5) “Nobody wants to hear about your home renovations, your upcoming trips, or the cars you are contemplating buying.” You don’t pay your staff that well. Some are barely squeaking by after paying their student loans and other obligations. It’s nice that you want to share personal things with your team, but think how it sounds to the guy who is broke already on payday having to listen about your frustration with the drywaller and lawn service at your summer cottage. Nobody begrudges you the finer things… you’ve worked your butt off and you deserve them, but remember your audience. Don’t find yourself wondering out loud whether you should fire the new cleaning girl at your home, when they are trying to figure out if their budget will allow replacing the broken vacuum in theirs.
6) “You need to dress better”. You have an Employee Handbook with a strict dress code and you look like you rolled out of bed fully dressed every morning. Raise the bar and set the example.
7) “Get a life!” Maybe you don’t have anything to do Friday night, but the rest of the staff is ready to bust out of there. You may have sold your soul when you became an entrepreneur but you can’t expect the same of your team. Hard work, professionalism and attaining goals can and should be expected, but requesting that others burn the midnight hour or work weekends just because you are is an unrealistic request.
8) “You play favorites”. There is probably a reason for this. Your favorites are probably hard workers and get the job done. No need to apologize for liking one person better than the next, we all do it, just make sure you have a level playing field and all have the same opportunities.
9) “This place is a pig sty”. Is it possible to give your staff a nicer work environment? They spend many hours there, more awake hours than at home, so show your appreciation. Some new carpet, fresh paint and art work can turn gloom to glam. Get rid of the paper mess and stop hoarding. It sucks the life out of your team having to see it every day.
10) “Just let us do our jobs”. Do you hover? Interject your opinion often throughout the day? As the boss you have the right to, of course, but let the staff see that you trust them enough to just let them work. Pay attention at how the atmosphere changes. It will amaze you.
11) “We get paid the same whether we are doing something stupid or something that needs to be done”. Are you the King of Busy Work? It won’t take your team long to realize that your desire for complete and continuous control has a trickle-down effect. Constant updates, creating lists and sub-lists… employees will humor you and get these pesky little things done, but at a cost: leaving the important work unfinished, feeling frustrated and annoyed, and developing increased disdain for you each time you think up a new meaningless task just because you can.
12) “We just don’t like you”. This one stings a bit, but rather than letting your feelings get hurt ask yourself what you can do differently… or if you are brave, ask for honest feedback. You are the boss, not a buddy, but understandably you still want the team to like you. What behaviors or personality traits are you portraying? Bluntly stated, are you typically a pompous ass because you can be? Think of what you are like within your friendships (assuming you have relationships outside of the office) and how you act. You are probably not overbearing, rude, aggressive, or dismissive of what friends have to say. While you don’t have to be buddies with your team mates, strive to treat them with the same level of kindness and respect you use within your personal relationships.
The invisible wall will likely always exist because you are the boss, and that’s okay. The reason the Dilbert cartoons are so popular and funny is because we have all worked for the Pointy-haired boss and can relate. If you read the above statements and none of them seemed to apply to you, congratulations! Your employee turnover is probably low and you have figured out the key to successful management of your staff. Not quite sure? Maybe you could post this in the break room with a highlighter and ask staff to have at it. Encourage comments and add-ins at the bottom for items not on this list. If you’re not feeling that brave, at the very least reread this and see if there are changes you could make to improve staff retention and make the office environment a better place.
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