In addition to all of your achievements, you’re sure that you’re a great boss. After all, your leadership skills have helped you climb the ladder of success. But some of the world’s top companies succeed in spite of poor leadership, a result of great products or concepts rather than motivated team members.
According to entrepreneurial counselor Michelle McQuaid, bad bosses cost businesses $360 billion in lost productivity every year. The stress caused by difficult supervisors can negatively affect an employee’s overall health and workplace morale, eventually driving him or her out the door. Since losing one employee costs a business tens of thousands of dollars or more, your business will eventually suffer financially if you can’t keep employee loss at a minimum.
When you’re a leader, it’s tough to know how others see you, especially if your work keeps you extremely busy each day. In my article “10 Signs Your Employees Are Happy,” I discussed some great methods to determine whether you’re doing a good job as a manager, but here are a few noticeable signs that may indicate your employees see you as a bad boss.
1. You Have High Turnover
Does your staff have a revolving-door feel, with employees leaving almost as soon as you’ve hired them? If so, the fault is very likely yours. Either you aren’t taking the time to hire the right person for the job or your management style is sending them out the door. Whatever the cause of your low employee-retention rates, it not only can harm your bottom line but also have a direct effect on the morale of the rest of your team.
Take a long, hard look at your staff and determine which employees have been with you for the longest. When your employees resign, is it with deep regret—or with a dramatic exit? Once an employee is gone, it’s also important to make note of any post-employment interactions. If you encounter a former employee at an industry event or in a personal setting, is that person happy to see you, or does the encounter feel forced? A good boss generally hears from former employees over the years. Your ex-workers may ask you for recommendations or refer business partners or potential hires.
Even if you have employees who have stuck with you for a long time, it may still not be due to your stellar supervisory skills. Some people will stay in a job for years when they’re unhappy, generally due to loyalty, fear of the unknown, or reluctance to change. For that reason, you can usually tell quite a bit from the morale of your team members, especially those who have been with you a while.
2. You Hear Complaints
Complaints always seem to find their way to their subjects. In an office, that subject is too often the boss. If you have a human resources person or office manager, this individual can be a valuable resource in determining how your staff is feeling. Complaints will often be carried directly to HR, even if they’re about your management style. The key is to weed through complaints that are a symptom of people simply resisting authority to find true issues with your own management style.
In today’s open-office environment, it’s difficult to keep gossip under wraps for long. Eventually you’ll overhear snippets of conversation or you’ll see workers gathered together to talk, with one occasionally glancing toward your office. While it’s important not to fall victim to paranoia, it’s also important to notice the overall mood in the office. If things seem especially tense after team meetings or when new assignments are handed out, it might be a good idea to find ways to boost morale.
3. Your Employees Avoid You
You say you have an open-door policy, but how many employees take you up on it? If you notice employees are taking wide paths around you, you may have an issue. Some bosses think true leaders should instill fear in their employees, but this type of work environment is considered a “culture killer.” While you likely won’t be invited to employees’ houses on the weekend, your employees should see you as approachable.
Another telltale sign of problems is employee behavior during staff meetings and one-on-one interactions. Body language is a key indicator, especially lack of eye contact. If employees tend to avert their gazes when you speak to them or, worst of all, exchange looks with other employees while you’re talking, you can bet you’re making a negative impression. As a leader, you, too, can send the wrong signals through your body language. Work to let your employees know that you’re approachable through the way you respond to their ideas and concerns, whether in a group setting or individually.
4. You Have No Idea How Your Employees Feel
As you’re reading this, you may be thinking you have little sense of how your employees feel. That, in itself, is a bad sign. One frequent complaint from employees is that their leadership is out of touch with what’s going on within the organization. Team members take assignments less seriously when they feel management has no clue what goes on throughout the company on a daily basis. Additionally, individual employees suffer from poor morale when they feel unappreciated and unnoticed.
Performance evaluations and job descriptions are the perfect way to ensure regular communication with each member of your team. When expectations are outlined up front and supervisors provide feedback on how a worker is handling those expectations, all workers are aware management is watching. That makes them feel more accountable for their daily actions and more likely to want to do a good job to make a favorable impression.
As part of your exit procedure, terminated employees should be asked to sit down with a human resources manager and discuss the problems that led to the departure. If your business is too small for a dedicated HR person, consider having a consultant interview exiting employees privately and provide recommendations based on what is said.
5. You’re Working Too Hard
Age-old wisdom states that if a manager is correctly doing his job, he isn’t working hard; he’s working smart. In fact, many managers work harder than most of their team members. But the long hours you’re putting in every day should be related to growing your business, not managing daily operations. If you’re doing other people’s work because it’s easier than constantly staying on someone else to do it, it may be time to look at your management style.
A good manager delegates work and trusts team members to do it, rather than standing over employees to make sure it’s done correctly. This means sometimes you may have to accept the fact that your employees won’t necessarily do things exactly as you would do them, but the end result is the same.
Your goal as a manager isn’t to be each employee’s best friend, but it also isn’t to be feared and reviled. When your employees like you, they’ll want to do a good job to help you succeed. Keeping morale high not only improves productivity but also keeps the costs of employee turnover down and helps your business continue to grow and thrive.
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