Employee 1: “So what do you think the boss will think if I take initiative and send this e-mail to the client on my own?”
Employee 2: “I don’t know, what are you worried about?”
Employee 1: “When I do things that I haven’t been given permission to do she gets that tone like I should have asked. But when I ask for direction on things, she acts like I should know already. There’s no right answer and no trust!”
If you haven’t honed your listening skills and are known for being defensive or critical when employees offer feedback, they could grow afraid to tell you what they’re really thinking — and that’s bad for business.
Being hypercritical makes the employees nervous and uncertain about their investment in the organization and ultimately can lead to the downfall of the team. Your entire team could be scared to make a move because no matter what action they take, or don’t take, they hear about it from their critical boss. This is very scary water to be swimming in, for everyone.
Here are a few thoughts that might be going through the minds of your employees as a result:
- How quickly can I get my resume updated and get out of here?
- Do I really need another job before I quit this one?
- I wonder if she will even give me a good reference.
- If she talks down to me one more time…
- How about a little respect?
And if these thoughts are going through the minds of your employees, it’s likely that you’ll see the following behaviors occurring in your organization:
- Employees aren’t following up on their tasks (lack of effort).
- No one is challenging or questioning any decisions you make. They agree with everything you say.
- No one is taking initiative on their own. They’re scared to get burned if the result was not exactly what you were thinking.
- Employees seem uninterested in stepping up to take on more when you ask them (apathetic)
- Employees become protective over their particular roles. No one wants to muddy up the job descriptions in an effort to keep the delineation of tasks clear. This feels safer.
If these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to asses your management style. Focus on listening, providing constructing criticism, and empowering your employees (no micromanaging!). It’s not easy to change your habits—and you may have the best intentions—but great leadership is challenging, rewarding, and it takes time to get it right.