The higher up the ladder you are in a business, the busier and more frequent the responsibilities become. All too often this will transform a once approachable individual into a terrifying force easier to ignore than to face. Employees stop calling, problems are covered up and the office culture takes a steep nose dive toward one of secrecy and deception where it once was honest, open and happy.
Such is the way of the unapproachable boss. Be they a manager or C-suite executive, not fostering easy and harmless communication channels is rife with upsets that will slowly but surely tear the company apart from the inside, no matter its size. If you want your workers to engage with you, you have to be open to positive engagements. Remember that it’s scary enough coming to a manager with a problem much less a manager that is unapproachable or even negative.
Set the Example
If you want your employees to be easily able to approach you about anything, good or bad, remind them how easy you are to talk to. The longer you spend sequestered in your office, the less time you interact with them casually. Soon they forget what it’s like to talk to you, holding on to the more memorable conversations. Because these are typically rooted in the negative talks, the staff then builds you up to be a scary person to approach. The only way to circumvent this is with regular, relaxed communications. Share stories or events with them. Check in on them during the day. Ask if they need help. Find out how their lives have been going. These chats don’t have to be long or involved, but they do need to be constantly consistent.
In business, many bosses think that setting an example by punishing a messenger is a great way to show power. In truth, this only works to permanently damage relationships. No matter what that employee did, if they are forced to take all the blame, both they and their friends within the company will now turn on you for your overreaction without first gathering all the details. Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t situations where immediate reactions are necessary, but the vast majority of issues are better solved by spending energy finding the problem and determining a solution over shouting at the person brave enough to break the news to you. If anything, be grateful the problem was brought to your attention at all. Regular explosions at even the slightest hint of bad news will all but guarantee you’ll never find out what actually is happening within your organization or team, reducing your ability to control anything.
As a leader within a company, your employees will come to you with a number of issues, ranging from negligible to very serious. Whether it’s about a fellow coworker or a personal story, confidentiality is key. You will only continue to receive their trust if you regularly show that you respect the information they share with you. Though most of the time this is personal, there will be work-related incidents. If, for instance, an employee is late on a project due to a very personal reason that they’ve only shared with you, the smart move is to take responsibility for the delay in public and alert your boss in private about the situation as a way to draw attention from the suffering employee. The bad choice is to openly denounce said employee, fostering a curiosity in others about something that was supposed to be information known only to the two of you.
Do What You Say
Because you are the voice for a group of people, they will come to you with hopes and dreams for their department. While you probably won’t be able to grant them the free trips to Bermuda they hope for, you can make compromises to show that you listen to their desires and do what you can to make them come true.
As a long time Rotarian, I find the Rotary Four Way test to be a great rule of thumb in leading your organization.
- First, is it the truth?
- Second, is it fair to all concerned?
- Third, will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?