05 Feb 2018 21:06 IST

10 things to never say — or do — to your team!

Angry Boss Communication Leadership

Treating your subordinates with respect is hardly a favour, it’s the least you can do

A lot has been written about what makes managers effective and what they should do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team. In fact, Peter Drucker is often attributed as having said: “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do, but we don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop!” Therefore, I would like to focus on things managers and leaders should never say or do to their team members.

A significant amount of coaching often involves telling leaders what to do less of or completely give up. This is hard to do, given that many things mangers do, whether right or wrong, would have become their habits! Here is an illustrative list for those who wish to grow and win hearts, minds, and souls:

~ Copy me on all your mails! In my last corporate assignment as Global Chief People Officer, I came across a senior leader who insisted that everyone reporting to him should copy him on every single mail they sent. When this was brought to my notice, I decided to coach him out this deep-seated sense of insecurity. His logic was he should not be surprised by anyone on his team. Little did he realise that this expectation became a major irritant to his direct reports.

~ Send me a mail! When your employees approach you with a challenge or anxiety, asking them to send you mail could put them off big time. They expect you to spare some time and hear them out. Not doing so is often viewed as “refusing to pay attention” or “not treating people with respect.” You may not be able to solve the problem right away, but the gesture of listening can send a very positive message of you being a caring manager.

~ Entrusting the same task to more than one person: This often tops the list of a manager’s bad habits because this conveys a very powerful, albeit wrong message. When you do this, you are signalling mistrust. Even the junior-most direct reports find such behaviour disgusting.

~ Adding two cents: During discussions, when people make suggestions, some managers are tempted to add their two cents by their supplementary comments. This has the insidious effect of demoralising the people who feel their views are whittled down. Managers do not necessarily have to have the last word on everything discussed.

~ Saying “no, no” even when you agree with what is being said: I have earlier referred to this habit of managers as “smart man’s disease” and have verified this in many programmes run for managers. I ask them how they typically respond when they agree with what is being said by a team member. We often say, “no, no, I agree.”, when we should ideally be saying “yes, yes, I agree.” So, even when we agree, we like to prove our superiority.

~ Dismissing an emotional situation: There are times when our people look for empathy and an emotional response rather than a rational explanation. Feelings are what make us human and denying this does not make us more mature or smarter. Learning to respond to feelings with feelings helps create a connection better than learning to respond feelings with facts. Facts follow the feelings, not the other way around.

~ Overdoing with humour that borders on insulting: Many a time, managers do not understand the difference between “being humorous” with “hurting sentiments.” While juniors may not react immediately, they will either carry a grudge or be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Learning to draw a line between being funny and offensive will go a long way.

~ Demanding people work from home after you leave: This is another bad habit that so many managers seem to have that it is probably a habit handed down as a culture. There can be nothing more sadistic than doing this. People soon become sick and tired of such managers and flee the company. And since a reputation — good or bad — cannot be kept under wraps, these managers seldom attract good talent.

~ Undervaluing a junior’s ideas just because they are below you: The best way to kill initiative is to keep doing this to people. The mindset here is one of “I know better because I have more experience.” Smart managers learn from juniors all the time and consciously avoid the trap of being a “know-it-all.” Remember, age is important only if you are wine or cheese!

~ Treating every direct report as an office boy! This is still prevalent in organisations where “command and control” is practised. Treating juniors with the respect and dignity they deserve is just a basic leadership attribute, not a favour you are doing to them. From taking a printout to sending a courier, some managers tend to treat every junior as office boy! This does not, in any way, help them earn the respect of the people working under them.