“Rule #1: The boss is always right.”
“Rule #2: When the boss is wrong, see Rule #1.”
Unfortunately, it’s a quote that accurately describes the culture of many organizations. Top-down leadership, command-and-control management styles, and the-boss-is-always-right attitudes are responsible, in no small part, for much of the dissatisfaction among workers and the stifling lack of innovation that has defined the country for far too long.
Of course, there are exceptions. Google, Amazon, and Apple are some of the most successful and innovative companies in the world. However, it’s no coincidence that they are also some of the best organizations to work for because they place a high value on their employees, and they create an environment that fosters respect, creativity, and open communication.
Now, a certain degree of top-down and command-and-control management may work best in some environments, like the military and correctional facilities. A battlefield is not the ideal place to conduct a straw poll on the best plan of attack, and allowing prisoners to decide when, how, and where to spend their time may not be the best idea. But for the average company, a heavy-handed, non-inclusive management style is usually counterproductive and negatively affects the achievement of the organization’s long-term goals.
For example, Gallup’s 2010-2012 State of the American Workplace report revealed that only 30 percent of the country’s workers felt engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs. The other 70 percent were either “non-engaged,” which means that they were just going through the motions at work, or they were “actively disengaged,” which means that not only were they unhappy, but this dissatisfaction was likely to manifest itself in lower productivity levels, absenteeism, and company theft, in addition to negatively influencing their coworkers and the company’s customers. Gallup estimates that lost productivity as a result of disengaged workers costs businesses anywhere from $450 billion to $500 billion a year.
In 2013, a new study by Harris Interactive revealed that 83 percent of Americans felt their jobs were stressing them out. Reasons for employee stress included insufficient income, an unreasonable workload, annoying coworkers, the absence of a work-life balance, no opportunities for advancement, and the fear of being fired.
While some companies may not be in a position to increase salaries, there’s a plethora of other ways that management can improve moral, increase productivity, and reduce stress.
Understand That Respect Is A Two-Way Street
If you don’t respect your employees, they won’t respect you. Sure, they’ll respect your title, but they won’t respect you. That’s why when some employees quit, the first thing they do is curse out their manager. They respected the title -- and the fact that the manager’s title gave her the authority to fire them -- and that’s the only reason they refrained from expressing their anger earlier.
If employees don’t respect you, they will only do what’s legally required of them. They’ll never go the extra mile for you, and secretly they’ll be rooting for -- or possibly plotting -- your demise.
Recognize That You Are Not Omnipotent, Omniscient, And Omnipresent
In other words, you’re not a supreme being who can know and do everything, and be everywhere at the same time. As such, you need to establish the type of environment that encourages your employees to tell you what’s going on as it relates to your organization. Since they’re in the trenches, they have a better grasp on reality than you do. They’re more likely to know what the customers want, what the competition is planning, why your product isn’t selling, and a lot of other valuable information that you need to know.
However, if you have an “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you” attitude, they will let you stumble around in the darkness. According to Edward Lawler and Christopher Worley in their book, “Management Reset,” sometimes leaders lead, and sometimes leaders follow. Let your employees know that you won’t even pretend to have all of the answers, and you encourage them to be creative and innovative.
Expand Your Company’s “Need To Know” Policy To Be More Inclusive
People talk, and they tend to share information that they shouldn’t. Just as your employees know things that you don’t, there’s information that you’re trying to keep from them. However, it just takes one manager (or one secretary who recorded the notes) to share the company’s secret information with a neighbor, brother-in-law, church member, etc.
Six degrees of separation ensures that one person will tell another person, who will tell another person . . . who will tell one of your employees. And to the employees, the only thing worse than the company withholding information is finding out that people who aren’t even associated with the organization know what’s going on before the workers do.
Embrace Criticism As A Gift – And Not As A Gift To Return
When people offer praise, you know what you’re doing right. However, when they offer criticism, you know what you’re doing wrong – and if you never know what’s not working, you’ll never be able to improve.
Allow your employees to tell you when they think something is a bad idea, if one of your processes needs to be revamped, or even if you need to work on your communication skills. You don’t need a bunch of “yes” men and women. As someone once said, “If both of us think the same, one of us is unnecessary.”
You’re No Superman, So Stop Treating Your Employees Like They’re A Part Of The Justice League
None of us are superheroes. We can only complete a limited amount of work within a set time frame. It’s wrong to expect your employees to work around the clock, skip lunch, and miss their kids’ first words, first steps, Christmas plays and other events. It’s unfair to require them to perform the work of two or three employees to meet unrealistic goals. You’re stressing them out, and the American Psychological Association says that workplace stress causes a myriad of health issues, including headaches, fatigue, anger, irritability and nervousness, in addition to inactivity, smoking, drinking, and overeating.
Create A Sense Of Purpose
Employees not only need to know what they’re doing, but they also need to know why. A 2013 study by Deloitte found that 68 percent of employees and 66 percent of executives didn’t think companies did enough to create a strong sense of purpose within the organization. However, there’s actually a link between purpose, performance, and profits.
According to the study, employees who felt their companies did indeed create a culture of purpose were also more inclined to agree that the organization did well financially, had a distinct brand that set them apart from competitors, and also had strong customer and employee satisfaction rates. On the other hand, employees who did not feel their companies had a strong sense of purpose were less inclined to agree with any of the other statements. And Punit Renjen, Deloitte LLP Chairman of the Board, concluded the study by saying, “As leaders, we need to change the conversation – to focus more on the impact our organization creates rather than the profit we make.