You Set the Tone
Managers set the tone for their work groups or departments. Employees figure that if the manager acts a certain way, that is acceptable — if not expected — behavior. This is modeling: You are what your employees may strive to become. Seeing yourself through their eyes, are you who you want to be? If you're not, don't panic. Everyone is capable of change!
Victoria, the director of a small company, was unpredictable and often abusive. When she was being kind, she could make a criticism sound like a compliment. The rest of the time, she was monstrous. She berated vendors over the telephone in conference calls for not understanding, or not carrying out, her explicit directions. And while she told her employees that she valued their contributions and encouraged their collaboration and teamwork, she was just as quick to single out an employee in front of the others. No one worried about trying to stay on Victoria's good side because she really didn't have one.
It was more than many team members felt they should have to put up with, but to whom were they going to complain? Certainly not to Victoria! So instead they left, sometimes two or three in one month. Eventually Victoria grew tired of spending all her time finding new employees and she left, too.
Job satisfaction surveys typically place “getting along with the boss” high on the list of factors that matter to employees. Inability to get along with a manager is one of the most commonly cited reasons for leaving a job.
Her replacement, Clarence, was just the opposite. He was soft-spoken, respectful, and collaborative. He consistently asked employees for their comments and suggestions, in meetings and throughout the workday. He treated vendors as though the company's very existence depended on them. (Imagine that!) Whenever upper management made a decision that Clarence had been unable to influence or that was out of the department's hands, he let everyone know. Then he helped his employees strategize about how to live with it.
When the department received new project assignments, Clarence brought people together to solicit their ideas. He then identified team members and roles and determined how each would contribute and why. Clarence set completion targets, making sure each person was able to identify hurdles and concerns. And he helped the department set up a review process to make sure work that needed approval or input from other employees received it. Everyone knew what to do; there was little discord among team members.
Both managers, Victoria and Clarence, shaped behavior in powerful ways. The difference between them was that Victoria's approach drove productivity down and people away. Clarence's approach built rapport and confidence. The department's members began to work together with efficiency and creativity, boosting productivity.
Childhood bullies often grow up to become workplace bullies. They constantly belittle and criticize others, often targeting one or two people who are particularly intimidated by such behavior. The workplace bully becomes an especially dangerous individual when he or she is a manager. At a huge expense to companies that must continually recruit needed talent, an increasing number of people are leaving jobs they love because of bully bosses.
Managers set the tone and the standards for attitudes toward workload, customers, the company, and coworkers. What messages are you sending? If you arrive 40 minutes late, take two-hour lunches, and habitually arrive 20 minutes late for meetings, you're letting your department know that timelines and schedules are arbitrary. If you do things when you get around to them, so will your employees.
Conversely, if you're a workaholic who doesn't see a problem with taking home a couple of hours of work most evenings and going into the office for a few hours on the weekend, you risk establishing this as a performance standard among your employees — formally, informally, or simply by example.
Yet your employees might not agree with your version of a work ethic. You might need to modify your expectations to be sure you don't transfer your expectations in this regard onto them. If there is no reason for your employees to work on weekends, that shouldn't be the standard.