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Playing Well With Others

Being the boss is tough. Do your employees wish you'd get an attitude adjustment?

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This story appears in the February 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When we went searching for an entrepreneur who was, shall we say, challenging to get along with, James W. Caruso's employees rushed to nominate their boss for an attitude makeover. According to them, Caruso, 47, is a brilliant guy who can be condescending at times to his four employees at MediaFirst PR-Atlanta, his PR company. "I'm probably not as verbally reinforcing [as I could be] when someone is doing a good job," admits Caruso. "I'm a very self-confident person. I don't need to be told I'm doing a good job-but there are people who do." Other sources of conflict included his not meeting deadlines for his employees (i.e., when they need him to OK a press release), sometimes not communicating with clients (leaving his employees in a difficult spot) and sometimes not listening fully to employee ideas before dismissing them.

Gloria Dunn, an organizational behavior expert and president of Wiser Ways to Work in San Rafael, California, spoke with Caruso and a few of his employees and suggested a multipronged solution. First, she suggested he meet individually with employees to discuss how they wanted to be communicated with. He should ask each person: "What can I do to improve our work relationship? What's important to you about your job?" He should take notes about what each employee asks and either tell them what he's willing to change, or arrange another meeting to discuss it later. And he should schedule time in his calendar to compliment them on specific things they did well. "It doesn't cost anything," says Dunn. "Say 'Hey, great job!' or 'I know you worked really hard on that.' Just a little of that once in a while, and morale goes sky high."

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