Each month, “The Balance Sheet” provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that’s important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. My employees say they like me because I'm an easy boss. I think they appreciate the fact that I'm not demanding, and am more like one of them. I think they respect me more for it. Do you think I'm right?
A. You probably won’t be a successful boss if you are unwilling to make tough decisions or be firm when necessary. If your employees are productive and dependable, chances are you’re doing fine so far. But consider whether, in an effort to be liked by your employees, you participate in behaviors that diminish your effectiveness. For example, do you share gripes with your employees about the organization, or criticize upper management, particularly your boss? It is not unusual for employees to participate in venting sessions, but when supervisors join in, they lose credibility. Some supervisors look the other way when work rules are violated, model inappropriate language and conduct on the job and participate in other activities not related to work. Many of these supervisors pride themselves on “being one of guys,” but it is unlikely the employees they supervise respect them for this behavior.
Q. I became a new supervisor six months ago, but have discovered that I am too bossy. I am trying to change, but it’s a struggle. I tend to have an “I am the boss so do as I say” approach. Perhaps I fear I won’t be taken seriously. How do I change?
A. Most people who become supervisors are chosen for their position because they are good workers. They develop supervision skills on the job. Many supervisors model the supervision style of their last boss at the start. Was your last supervisor autocratic? If so, that may explain your approach. If not, you may have turned to this approach because it “works.” It’s a sure way to get employees to respond. Of course, this style of supervision has many negative consequences for you, your employees and the workplace -- therefore, change is a good idea. Your awareness of the need for change is a big step. BJC EAP can help you identify some of the underlying issues that perpetuate your supervision style and help you identify and develop strategies to make the changes you desire.
Q. My employee and I are not getting along, but maybe it’s not her fault. Maybe I am too overbearing and this causes problems. Some say I am too controlling, but how can I tell for sure? What behaviors would indicate that I need to “let go” a little bit?
A. Give yourself a hand for being willing to examine your supervisory practices and discover what improvements will make you a more effective and balanced supervisor. To determine if you are “over-supervising,” ask yourself whether you often tell your employee how to handle the details of her work. After delegating assignments, do you feel the irresistible urge to take them back the moment your employee runs into a problem? Do you continually provide “one last piece of advice” because of fear that the end product of an assignment won’t be exactly as you envision it? After delegating an assignment, do you too frequently check to see “how it’s going?” When your employee runs into a problem, do you rarely ask, "What do you think you should do?” If you struggle with making the changes you want in your supervision style, consider talking to BJC EAP.