If you’re a manager with good intentions, you genuinely want to do right by your team (unlike horrible bosses who like the title, but aren’t interested in putting in the actual work of managing). But sometimes, being the boss can make you feel like you’re a babysitter and your employees are just people you need to keep alive and happy for set amounts of time.
And that feeling makes sense. For about eight to nine hours a day, you’re “in charge” of them. You make up rules. They push back against the rules. You reward them for good behavior. And when they’re badly behaved, you hope someone else will resolve the problem…
And that last example right there is why this article exists. While it’s good to be an engaged manager, your direct reports are not children and you’re not their babysitter.
So how do you determine if you’re managing or babysitting your team?
Here are three signs to look out for:
1. A Babysitter Lets Their Team Do Whatever They Want as Long as They Don’t Break Anything
You may want to be considered a “cool boss,” but there’s a difference between being liked and being respected.
If you find yourself letting mediocre work go unchecked, allowing your team to show up late or unprepared, or ignoring questionable behavior, you’re babysitting your team.
A Manager Sets Clear Expectations
Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. The same way that you need to understand your team’s needs as individual employees, they need to understand yours as a manager. This means being clear about what you expect them to handle and when you expect to be involved.
If a team member is constantly bringing things to your attention that they’re capable of handling on their own, let them know. And if they’re leaving you out of the loop of conversations where your input is needed, also let them know.
You see the theme here?
It’s never a good idea to assume that people can read your mind. Even worse, you can’t get upset if you don’t express when things should’ve been handled differently.
This is not to say that you need to create a running list of do’s or don’ts (because then you can add “condescending micromanager” to your title). Instead, tackle expectations head-on and set them as soon as possible so that everyone is on the same page from the start.
2. A Babysitter Wants to Resolve All Conflicts as Fast as Possible
A tell-tale sign of being a babysitter is running behind your team to fix problems immediately—just as you would with children, picking them up when the fall down or consoling them when they start crying.
You may think you’re doing your employees a favor by taking care of messes yourself—but it’s actually hurting them (and you).
A Manager Asks, “What’s Your Plan?”
It can be tempting to jump in with a solution to an employee’s issue, but that’s not always necessary.
You can save yourself the time and energy (and make your employees more proactive) by asking this question: “So, what’s your plan?”
Give your team the opportunity to address their own conflicts and come up with answers independently. If you have employees who are less experienced, guide them through the problem-solving process without dictating what you think should be done.
Asking this simple question starts a dialogue so that you can see where your employee’s head is at. Then, you can get more information or add feedback as required.
3. A Babysitter Only Gives Good Praise
Who doesn’t like giving positive feedback? Yet, handing out praises like freebies doesn’t provide room for your employees to stretch their skills.
In fact, it can give team members a false impression that they can do no wrong and encourage them to play it safe—to keep the praises coming—rather than take risks. Your team will start to become dependent on the pats on the backs and rely on you to take care of the tough stuff.
A Manager Encourages Accountability
The best way to encourage your team to be independent is to give them the authority to act independently. This shows that you trust them to use their professional experience to do what you hired them to do.
A good manager hones their employee’s skill set and strengths by delegating tasks to them and giving them opportunities to stretch their boundaries. And, when an employee messes up, a good manager supports them as they work to fix it.
One thing to remember is to make sure you provide ongoing feedback—constructive and positive—on a consistent basis. This way there’s always an opportunity for your direct reports to discuss their progress and learn from their mistakes.
If you trust your team and give them the ability to make their own decisions, ultimately they’ll be more likely to make the right decisions—and without your help. They’ll respect you as a leader, and in turn you’ll inspire them to spread their wings and take ownership of their careers.
Photo of people working courtesy of Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images.
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career. Her mission is to help savvy professionals ditch mediocrity by building strong personal brands and living life passionately. She writes about work, life, and imbalance on her blog and loves cheesy 80s music. Say hi to her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or check out her website.More from this Author