How NOT to Manage an Employee

As a psychologist and executive coach, I am always interested to observe the way people demonstrate either good or bad habits in the way they conduct business. I remember well a time I was shopping at a well known chain store when I witnessed first-hand how those in leadership should NOT manage their employees.

The customer service specialist who was assisting me ran into a snag while trying to complete my transaction. After having pushed almost every button, she exhausted her personal knowledge base of solutions and had to request assistance from her store manager. By this time, it was obvious that she was feeling embarrassed and moderately anxious.

When the manager arrived he had a scowl on his face and looked put out by the request for help.  Without acknowledging his employee, or me (the customer spending money in his store), he abruptly punched some numbers into the computer, made a poorly veiled critical comment to his employee and stomped away. It was quite evident that the employee was even more embarrassed by the poor performance displayed by her “superior”.

The manager fixed the technical problem, but may have created a much more serious interpersonal/morale problem in the process. Not only did he humiliate his staff member, but he gave me a very negative impression of the way his store was run. The attitude of the boss is almost always reflected in the attitude of the employees, and frankly I would prefer to do business in a pleasant, helpful environment – wouldn’t you?

If I were this store manager’s supervisor and had observed his behavior I would have provided him with some timely coaching.  Here are five very basic management and customer service principles I would have shared with him:

1. Rise above your circumstances in order to consistently display a professional attitude and demeanor. Everyone can have a tough day at times, but one of the qualities of successful leadership is the ability to set aside your knee-jerk emotional responses and remember the position you represent.

2. Take time to greet your customers with a sincere “hello” and genuine smile. People who are treated with respect and appreciation are more likely to return as loyal customers. If your attitude suggests that the customer is a problem, you will send them to your competitor.

3. Never criticize an employee in front of other employees or customers. Not only does this injure the employee, but it makes you appear vindictive, petty and insecure. Demeaning someone on your staff publicly is guaranteed to backfire. Your employees will appreciate you as a boss who helps them grow through healthy, constructive, private correction.

4. Turn “problems” into opportunities to advance your employee’s learning. Sometimes making mistakes is an effective teaching tool because it shows what NOT to do. Explain the reason your employee should handle transactions the correct way, and they will more likely remember proper procedure.

5. Make an effort to put your employee at ease when they are experiencing noticeable distress. When someone is flustered and anxious, they are not able to focus on solving the problem because they are too wrapped up in their own feelings. Helping your staff work through frustrations will foster an attitude of confidence in their problem-solving ability. A little patience goes a long way toward developing your staff into star performers.

We can all have “off “ days when the demands of the workplace mount, but if you are in a leadership role in your company do your best to always treat your employees and customers with the value, respect and professionalism they deserve. If you react harshly, apologize quickly. Your employees and customers will have more respect for you if you admit your mistakes than if you always need to appear “right” – even if you aren’t.

Employees who are treated as valued members of your team will out-perform those who are ducking criticism. Your business will run much more smoothly with confident, loyal staff!

How about you? Have you had an experience with a boss that made you feel either valued or demeaned? If you’re a boss, what is the best way you have found to correct employees without damaging their morale? We would love to hear from you!

Live, Work & Relate Well!

Dr. Todd


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