You are their boss, not their friend — it’s business; it’s not personal. This is what thousands of reviled bosses around the country say to convince themselves that it’s okay their teams hate their guts, and it’s what you might be tempted to chant whenever you make an unpopular decision in the office.
The truth is it does matter whether your employees like you or not. The workforce’s opinions of their leadership have a profound effect on the quality and quantity of work performed; as you should expect, when your employees don’t like you, they won’t put in as much effort as they could to bring your business to success. Worse, you will start to hemorrhage employees, and a high turnover rate is an exceedingly expensive and time-intensive problem.
Still, that doesn’t mean you need to act like Michael Scott. You can maintain a professional distance from your employees while still winning their appreciation, support, and trust. Here’s how.
First, Determine How Much and Why They Don’t Like You:
Every happy workforce is the same, but every unhappy workforce is unhappy in its own way. As a business leader, you need to understand why your employees don’t like you — and the extent of their dislike — before you can effectively change the tone of your workplace. Here are a few key signs that your employees are (not-so-) subtly telling you they aren’t pleased:
They act like you don’t exist:
Your employees should be striving to impress you with everything they do; when you walk in a room, they should sit up straighter and give you their full attention. If they hardly acknowledge you — even going so far as to actively ignore you-you should recognize their revulsion.
They don’t tell you things:
You might think that you are privy to more information than your subordinates, but the truth is lower level employees are often some of the first workers to find out critical information. If they don’t tell you what they know, they either don’t think you’ll help (which is bad in itself) or they want you to suffer.
They don’t follow your rules:
Sometimes, managers make bad rules, but a respectful team will usually tell them straightaway or else try to adhere to the bad rules for some time, fearing consequences or trusting abilities. If your employees aren’t following your rules, they don’t respect or trust you — in fact, they probably hate you.
Anyone of the above three behaviors is a sign of extreme dislike; if your employees are engaging in all three, you need to take significant steps toward winning back their approval and confidence.
Next, Focus on Earning Their Respect:
Often, business leaders lose the support of their teams because they intrinsically lack the personality traits, knowledge and skill necessary to be a great manager. Employees can sense a lack of experience and credentials — like middle schoolers do with substitute teachers — and almost automatically treat you differently because of it.
If you are new to business leadership, this might be your only issue. As such, you should take steps to arm yourself with better leadership skills and earn back your workforce’s respect in these ways:
Take courses in business leadership:
You can enroll in an online MBA program to bolster your hard management skills and practice your soft skills. As a bonus, your MBA will qualify you for even more advanced management positions and higher pay.
Don’t be a jerk:
Your first reaction to learning that your workforce doesn’t like you might be aggressive — but being a jerk won’t redeem you in their eyes. Instead, stay steady in your attitude, the tone of voice and behavior at all times, even when you are stressed.
Request honest feedback:
You should ask your employees what they like about their work environment and what they dislike. Try to avoid calling attention to their feelings about you, but probe for information about how you can be a better boss. You must listen to their responses and consider adopting their suggestions.
Your employees are people, and they will often need your sympathy. Pay attention to how individual employees are behaving and give them some slack when they need it.
Keep your word:
No one likes a chaotic work environment. If you frequently flip-flop, you will cause confusion and dislike. You need to set clear expectations and do what you say you are going to do, so employees know what to anticipate in the short and long term.
Finally, Find out What They Want and Give It to Them:
While the above strategies should slowly but surely shift your workforce into your corner, there is a way to quickly win the favor of most of your employees: bribery. You don’t have to bribe your workers with money, though certainly, a few well-placed raises won’t hurt; rather, you can shower them with perks and benefits to improve their mood and associate you with positive feelings.
Though the exact gifts will vary from the workforce to workforce, some powerful tools include:
- Free breakfasts and lunches
- Achievement certificates or trophies
- Casual days
- Flex time
- Event days (like bring your pet to work or crazy hair day)
- Wall of Fame
Being disliked isn’t a boss’s death sentence. You can turn around your employees’ attitude and improve your team’s productivity and profits — but earning back true trust and respect will take some time.
- 3 Tips on How to Communicate Better with Your Employees
- 8 Ways to Maintain a Positive Work Environment and Keep Employees Happy