Have you ever noticed how many articles are written that show you how to become more successful? What you never come across is an article aimed at the people who are already at the top, the bosses, telling them how to treat their employees in a manner that encourages productivity and success.
Until today, I’ve been working since I was 12 years old and have had lots of jobs and bosses along the way. From paperboy to busboy, stocking shelves to filling this magazine with my words, I’ve weathered all types of bosses good and bad. I thought it might be nice to take what I’ve learned and write something that you can slip under the boss’s door anonymously that might make your life at work more bearable. Since bosses like lists here’s my “Top Five Tips.”
1. Trust your employees.
The day you had a position open, you posted it online and received hundreds of applications. You sifted through, brought in a handful of people for interviews, and after careful deliberation hired someone for the job; we’ll call her Sally. Now that Sally is trying to actually do the job, you constantly second guess her work and talk to her like a four-year-old trying to learn the alphabet. And it’s not just Sally, you do this with everyone who reports to you. Do you want to be a successful boss? It’s simple. Hire good people and let them do their thing. Trust them to represent you and if they do make a mistake, have their back and encourage risk-taking. Right now you have people giving a half-hearted effort because they know you’re going to change their work anyway so what’s the point. You hired them so trust them.
2. Encourage success.
The best way to get the most out of your employees is to applaud them when they succeed. Don’t be jealous if a project they worked on got the attention of the big boss; be proud. There is nothing that will drive employees to quit or shop for a new job faster than a boss who swoops in at the last minute and takes credit for a subordinate’s hard work. You look petty and desperate, my friend, so encourage success – don’t try to steal it.
3. Promote from within.
You ever wonder why someone’s resume looks like a road map littered with jobs every two years? Sometimes it’s an employee who likes to jump around but more often than not it happens because workers want more for themselves and realizes they aren’t going to get it where they are. Of course, you should fill an open position with the best qualified candidate and bringing in fresh blood from the outside is a good thing, but look hard first at the people who are already working hard and paying their dues for you. Promoting from within encourages diligence and loyalty.
4. Reward them.
I will never understand why bosses refuse to reach into their pocket and do the smallest things to reward hard work. I’m not talking about a fat Christmas bonus (although that would be nice). I mean buying a five-dollar gift card to Dunkin Donuts and leaving it with a note for a worker who went the extra mile. Don’t have any money? OK, how about telling an employee who has been staying late without compensation to go home early on a Friday afternoon. It costs you three hours of productivity but that nickel you spend often comes back dressed like a dime. If nothing else, be grateful. You’d be surprised how far a simple "nice job" will go toward making someone feel good about working for you.
5. Listen and act.
If an employee has a grievance, listen and take their concerns seriously. Don’t be passive aggressive two minutes after they leave your office or label them a “troublemaker.” It takes courage to knock on the boss’s door and say, “I think we have a problem.” I suspect if more people did that at G.M. they wouldn’t be recalling millions of cars right now. The alternative is a bunch of workers who not only don’t trust you but are secretly rooting for the company to fail. You probably have a couple of them outside your office right now and they are a cancer to your work environment.
The best bosses are often the best people. They trust, encourage and reward hard work and leave jealously at the door. They understand that when an employee does well it reflects, not just on the worker, but on the boss, too. And trust me if you put together an office full of overachievers you won’t have to steal anyone else’s credit. The people at the top will notice and wonder, not just how you did it, but why you aren’t in charge of more people. That’s the ironic part, Mr. or Mrs. Boss; by helping others, in the end, you’ll help yourself. That’s what I think, anyway.
John Gray is weekely columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.