Have you ever worked for someone who made you feel like a slave?
I was working at a fast food restaurant. Our manager, Mattie, was a real whip cracker. After all, she had a team of teenagers. She knew she had to keep them in line.
Things were pleasant if you did as you were told, worked hard, and worked fast. But if you lagged behind, Mattie would get in your face and yell. “You better get caught up and quit fooling around.”
That was usually enough to shame someone back in line.
Sometimes leaders have to use force. The question is what situation requires it?
If you’ve worked for someone who uses force as the way to get things done, I’m sorry. If you’ve used force yourself to manage, there’s a better way.
What a Toxic Boss Does
First, the toxic boss uses fear tactics.
“Do it or you’re fired.”
“You’ll do it, and you’ll like it.”
“If you can’t keep up, go home.”
What these have in common is the ultimatum. There is no freedom to do the work your own way. There is a system that dictates how it should be done. Break the rules and you’ll be chastised, maybe even fired.
This boss has lots of turnover in his workforce. They leave because they can’t stand him. Those who work there do enough to get by, job hunt at lunch, and watch the clock for quitting time.
Second, the toxic boss sees his team as units of production.
How would you like to be called “human capital”? You’re a cog in the machine. And if you break, you’ll be replaced by another cog. Does that motivate you to work hard?
Third, the toxic boss is fickle.
You never know what you’ll get from this person. If he’s happy, everything is sunshine and roses. But if he’s mad, you better stay out of his way – or get venom spewed in your face.
A Better Way
Here are three alternatives to using force.
Don’t let your emotions make your decisions.
Anger is explosive. It starts when your people let you down. You expected more, and they delivered less. Don’t forget that while people may know your standards, they can’t always reach them.
Recognize that everyone is in process.
We’re all doing the best we can. Some days are better than others. So long as we strive to get a little better, there’s a chance we can. It’s easy to think when someone makes rapid progress once, they always will. They won’t.
Count to 10 before you speak.
You can say something harsh in a second. The repercussions can last a lifetime. To avoid regret, think first.
When you plan, don’t just make a to-do list. Think about how people might feel about what you want done. Be prepared to sell them on the benefits. Can’t think of any? Sit there a little longer. If you were in your team member’s position, why would you want to do what you ask?
See anything you struggle with? Good. Seeing is the first step to change. You can. These techniques are a great place to build your future as a great leader.
What is your greatest emotional struggle as a leader? How has it affected your leadership? How might you be able to use these techniques where you work? Share in the comments!