1. Complaining about your job, workload or company
Who wants to listen to their boss complain about their workload? NO ONE.
There is nothing wrong with expressing your feelings, however, if you do feel the need to vent about work, vent to someone who is on the same level as you, or better yet – someone who isn’t involved in the company. If you are constantly bringing down the company you work for or complaining about your workload, you are subconsciously telling your team that A. it’s okay to complain and negative attitudes are acceptable and B. your workload is unmanageable and the company you work for is responsible for this.
Another reason not to complain to your team is you may spark some resentments without intending to. You never know who secretly is wishing they had your job and the perks that come with it. You may look ungrateful to your team, and leave a bad taste in their mouth.
According to this survey, one of the top traits of a great manager was “having a positive attitude”. Don’t forget that negativity is contagious, and the easiest way to avoid it is to pay attention and adjust your own thoughts, words, and actions.
There’s nothing worse than your boss delegating something to you, but not really letting you own it. Instead of trying to control everything your team does on a project, set clear boundaries and expectations of what success in this project looks like. After that’s done, let them get on with it. If a boundary is broken or they aren’t delivering on the expectations, you can then sit down and figure out how to help.
Harvard Business Review wrote a great piece on why we micromanage. It says that managers want to be more connected to their team, and want to stay in familiar territory, so they stay close and control things they don’t need to. The good news is, once you are aware of it, you can work to do the opposite.
3. Asking loaded questions
A loaded question can also be described as a trick question. It’s when your assumption of the answer is alluded to in the question. You are basically setting the person on the receiving end up for the answer that you have assumed to be true. It’s a form of manipulation and can put people on the defence really quickly. Loaded questions in the workplace may look like:
“Did you understand the task I gave you last week?”
“Why have you been so short lately?”
“Did you not get my email?”
“When did you start regularly leaving work early?”
You may be asking loaded questions without even realising it. This is why it’s important to prepare for your 1-2-1 meetings ahead of time. Think about what you’re going to say before you speak to a team member about their performance. Ensure you’re not assuming anything, and when in doubt, adopt an attitude of openness, honesty and curiosity.
4. Giving passive aggressive answers
Passive-aggressive behaviours are those that involve acting indirectly aggressive rather than directly aggressive. This could include avoiding direct communication, withholding important information, or withdrawal and sulking. Psychology today says “The goal of a passive aggressive person is to cause others to feel frustrated and act out the anger that the passive-aggressive person is harbouring internally.”
Again, adopting an attitude of openness, and honesty with your team is your best bet. If you find yourself feeling angry towards a co-worker, but afraid to communicate it, check in with yourself and ensure you’re not acting in a passive-aggressive way. Once you have identified your feelings, you can practice communicating your needs openly.
5. Telling them how they should feel
As leaders, it’s important we are listening to our team and doing what we can to support them. This could mean listening to a team member tell you something you don’t want to hear. Maybe they’re unhappy with the amount of work they have. Maybe they’re having trouble bonding with the team. Maybe they’re feeling down about something non work related. Their feelings might be all over the place, but your job as their manager and leader, is to listen and to accept what they say as true. When you tell them how they feel, you’re interfering with a chance for them to open up to you.
We need to remember that our feelings and thoughts are the result of a million different factors, including genetics and unique experiences over time. Your team member may not see things the same way you do, which means they won’t feel the same way you do either. By telling them how they feel, as opposed to asking and listening, you’re taking away the opportunity for them to express themselves freely.
6. Not giving them your full attention
In your regular 1-2-1 meetings with your team members, how do you signal to them that you are present? Do you put your phone away or do you leave it on the table, checking it occasionally? Do you make eye contact, or bury your head in the report? Do you notice their body language and name what you see, or do you ignore it?
If you are distracted or only giving half attention, your team will sense it. To show up for your team means to give them your full attention when they are speaking. This sends your team the message that what they have to say is important. Feeling important helps a worker to be more accountable, and more productive as a result.
7. Leaving out the explanations
Giving good direction to your team is necessary for clarity and productivity in your workplace. If you have to give your team a task, ensure they know why they’re doing it. Frustration will quickly follow aimless tasks, and your team will either disengage immediately or resent you for “making” them do it. Your team wants to be informed so they can be better at their jobs. The better they feel, the better they will do. While clear, concise communication is key when giving any “orders”, the same can be said for your tone. Make sure you’re checking in with how you’re communicating with others.
8. Not involving them in decisions that affect them
Just like not knowing why they have to do something would frustrate any worker, so will feeling left out of important decisions that affect them or their department. For you to get the best out of your team, they need to feel like their opinions matter. If decisions are being made about something that they know more about than you, the best thing you can do is get them involved. This helps take the pressure off of you, empowers them, and is ultimately better for the company if decisions are being made by those who are the most experienced in that area. Even if their desired outcome isn’t possible due to bigger picture views, they will feel trusted by you and are likely to take the news of the change easier knowing they were involved in the decision making process.
9. Taking your frustration out on them
How well do you manage your emotions in front of your team? Can they easily tell when you’re frustrated, sad, or stressed out? Is that because you make your emotions known through your actions, words or tone? We’ve all done it. You snap at someone who just asked you a question, because you’re stressed out. You blame someone else for something going wrong, because you’re embarrassed to admit that you forgot about it. You punish the whole team for something one person did, because you don’t want to admit you didn’t train them properly.
These things are usually obvious to the people around you, and won’t win you any fans. To be able to manage our emotions so they do not affect the people around us benefits our relationships, and your reputation.
10. Saying one thing but doing another
In a post by Fast Company, Art Markman writes, “A leader who talks about the importance of treating everyone equally before retreating to the executive lunchroom is undermining the belief that the workplace is fair. The leader who talks about the importance of hard work but promotes only people in his or her inner circle is causing employees to question their workplace’s fairness.”
Actions speak louder than words, they say, but when actions and words are consistent, that’s when the real trust can begin with your team.