By Jared Weitz, Young Entrepreneur Council
CREDIT: Getty Images
Every boss wants to be trusted and obeyed. If employees are doing what you say and staying loyal, you are very lucky. Myriad entrepreneurs experience tremendous difficulty in both departments. So many things can undermine authority, which ultimately prevents employees from performing to the best of their abilities.
You may ask: Why aren’t my employees going the extra mile? Why don’t they listen to me when I say something is urgent? The most logical reason is that, whether you intended to do so or not, you have given your employees a reason not to trust you or take your words seriously.
Here are three commonly overlooked mistakes that may be undermining your authority:
1. Lack of Professionalism
Professionalism refers to a company that simply feels like a “real” company. Employees have all the basic benefits (health insurance, retirement plans, etc.) and therefore do not question whether their boss truly cares about their security. But benefits aren’t the only requirement for professionalism. The company must operate in a manner that suggests the boss and superiors know exactly what needs to get done and why. Work is not assigned only to be forgotten shortly after. Superiors don’t say one thing this week and another thing the next. When someone disagrees with a superior, the superior provides a valid explanation rather than simply telling employees to do what they are told.
A lack of professionalism makes employees uncertain about the future. They get the impression that their boss views them as expendable lackeys who do not deserve to be treated with respect. Like countless other entrepreneurs, I often struggle to stay organized and on top of everything. But that should never prevent me from making sure my team knows that their hard work is valued.
Employees might be willing to put up with unprofessional tendencies in a business’s early stages. But that doesn’t mean they are used to it. So, rather than pretending the problem doesn’t exist, acknowledge such errors to employees and let them know you are working on clearing them up.
2. Personal Transparency
The increasing transparency between employers and employees is a blessing and a curse. It allows employees to get to know their bosses on a deeper level and connect as people. This can do more harm than good, however, for bosses who make significantly more money than a great deal of their team. You can’t blame lower-level employees for not mimicking your work ethic when they won’t reap the same rewards. Even the most visibly distressed bosses will have trouble garnering sympathy if it’s widely known that they jet off to Italy or St. Bart’s every few months.
Many bosses try to avoid these outcomes by keeping their wealth a secret. Rest assured, your employees know just how well you’re doing. Ignoring the elephant in the room will only insult them. Don’t convince yourself that employees should be as motivated as you when some of them have very little to show for their work. Let them know that you were in their position not too long ago and, contrary to what they might think, can actually relate to their hardships.
3. Harshness as a Motivational Tool
Bosses who follow the old-school rulebook like to be extra harsh on their employees for the sake of motivation. They might set unrealistic goals, make subtle threats or throw major tantrums over minor mistakes. Such tactics will only work until your employees figure them out. Once they discover that there really wasn’t a valid explanation for your behavior, they may dismiss any future notions of urgency, frustration or disappointment. They won’t believe you when you critique their performance or inform them of an imminent danger to the company’s survival.
There are much more effective ways to increase employee enthusiasm and output, all of which emphasize honesty. In the past, employees might be grateful to have been pushed so hard, regardless of whether it was necessary or not. But in 2018, this will only diminish the trust employees have in you and cause them to wonder what else you’ve said to them that might not be 100 percent true. Being hard on your employees when it wasn’t your only option will not achieve the same results as generations’ past.
Adapting to change means recognizing the new requirements for success. One of those new requirements in today’s business world is trust. If your employees aren’t working as hard as you’d like them to, put yourself in their shoes. Is there anything you are doing that would give them a reason not to see a future under your helm? Prioritize strong leadership and you will never have to worry about not offering more glamorous perks or salaries again.
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