To anyone who has managed people, it’s no surprise that doing your job and remaining an empathetic, respected, and trusted coworker can be a difficult needle to thread. There’s a pervasive culture in the world of modern management that says, to borrow from Machiavelli, it’s better to be feared than to be loved.
This difficulty combined with a general expectation of self-direction in many management jobs can often lead to burnout, stressful and combative workplace environments, and distrusting, disloyal coworkers.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
A little mindfulness and a few simple rules can go a long way toward creating a productive and mutually trusting and loyal work environment.
First, stop thinking “employees” and start thinking “coworkers.”
The only person in a business that has the right to think of others in that business as employees is the owner. Period.
And even then, this rule can be beneficial to owners and managers alike!
You see, no one likes to be thought of as property (duh) and everyone, without exception, values knowing that they’re part of a team and are contributing to a larger goal.
Referring to your coworkers as employees, even mentally, creates a mindset that is doomed to slip into thinking about people as units, wages, and even problems to be solved.
The truth is, even you, as a manager, are a part of the same body of people working toward the same goals. The people around you, regardless of who sits where on the ladder, are important and valuable parts of that body.
The sooner you start to think about, and treat, your coworkers this way, the sooner you’ll start to see respect among your peers and productivity rise. What’s more, you’ll even begin to foster a culture of loyalty and goodwill that will pay dividends for years to come.
Second, admit when you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
It’s well-known that managers have a tendency to protect their egos to their detriment.
It’s understandable, really, when the larger culture values maintaining a dominant social position as manager, something most people I know who work for a living have experienced.
The problem is, no one really cares about your ego. What you may interpret as deference to your position (or ego) is, in all likelihood, a fear of retribution or job loss.
And, while fear can be an effective short term motivator, it’s almost always a bad investment in your image and will foster a toxic, resentful work environment.
Better to fess up to your mistakes and say your sorry. Do this often and before requiring prompting and you’ll display the real qualities of leadership and respect.
The truth is, everyone screws up. As a manager, you’ve got more on your plate than most and it’s nearly guaranteed to result in a few balls dropped. And for the most part, that’s just fine.
The problems arise when you refuse to admit your mistakes, deflect blame, and intimidate those around you who, understandably, want to see you own your wrong doings.
Do yourself, your boss, and your coworkers a favor. Admit when you’re wrong and say your sorry sincerely, and as quickly as possible. You’ll reap the fruits of displaying humility, and leadership, nearly instantaneously.
Third, get off your ass and do some work.
Look, everyone knows you’re the manager. It’s no secret and most don’t expect you to be pulling shifts on the line or doing sales calls all day.
But getting out from behind your desk, making a few of those sales calls or relieving someone on the line so they can take a break keeps you grounded and shows your coworkers that you’re willing to work wherever needed to help get the job done.
It’s a common mistake for a manager to think of themselves as above the fray, so to speak. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You are a manager, hopefully, because you’ve displayed a knack for understanding the business, all aspects of it, and being able to execute with some proficiency, most if not all of the specific tasks that need to be done.
Don’t forget this.
Your coworkers are going to have busy days and slow days, good days and bad ones. As a manager, you should always be asking when and where you can help, sometimes even jumping into the fray without having to ask.
The amount of respect and goodwill this will engender can not be overstated.
So, finish your emails and get up, walk into the kitchen or the factory floor, and see what you can do to help for a few minutes.
After all, these are your coworkers, not your subordinates.
You’re all paddling the same boat and showing that you’re willing to put in the sweat alongside your coworkers is an important step in showing leadership capabilities and, generally, respect for the hard work your coworkers are doing day after day.