High Turnover and a Toxic Culture? Why Your Leadership Style Might Be Hurting Your Company Are you a micromanager or a blame game boss? You must address the core issue: your lack of trust.
- Employees cite micromanagers as the biggest red flag in a job, and they're very likely to leave because of it.
- Active listening and support has to be a priority during the hiring process and throughout the tenure of your employees.
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According to a Gallup State of the Workplace study, half of all respondents from the United States have quit their jobs at one point in their careers due to one person: their "bad" boss. Poor leadership and ineffective bosses are intrinsically tied to employee unhappiness, high turnover and the quality of work produced.
I've had a few of these bosses myself, and as much as it pains me to say, I've been one. When I started my business, I frequently found myself getting frustrated that work wasn't being done with the intensity and passion that I would have put into it. Comparing an employee's level of dedication to mine as the business owner, I realized, wasn't fair. I had to stop shifting blame and start taking responsibility for my leadership style.
Are you a blame game boss?
When I was in my early 20s, I had a boss who was, simply put, a poor leader. I was still finding my feet in the workforce, eager to learn and be supported. However, every time I made an error, I felt very on edge. The fear of being scapegoated constantly caused me to lose a lot of confidence in my abilities. I was blamed instead of being guided and supported.
For example, once I sent a calendar invite out for a client meeting. The client wanted to change the meeting time the day of, so naturally, I updated the invite. I received a notification that my boss accepted the change. I arrived at the location on time, yet my boss was late. I rang him, and it went straight to voicemail. I boldly ran the meeting myself, pushing through any questions I couldn't answer.
Toward the end of the meeting, which was the original scheduled time, my boss showed up. I got a 15-minute lecture on how it's my responsibility to update him when meeting times are changed. I went silent and accepted the blame.
Fast forward many years later, now with leadership experience under my belt, I recognize that I could have handled that differently. I could have respectfully reminded him that I had updated the calendar invite, and he had accepted it. He could have taken a moment to think about it, realizing he did get the memo but forgot, and we could have moved on. For me, that was a leadership lesson learned.
Are you a micromanaging boss?
The bosses that I, and many effective and compassionate leaders, have struggled with the most are the micromanagers. Not only are they guilty of participating in the blame game, but they track your movements, looking for any opportunity to pounce and degrade your performance.
I've experienced a micromanager boss, and let me tell you, it is the worst. In addition to being a woman and a minority, being micromanaged unnecessarily added to the burden that accompanied just trying to do my job. This was, ironically, the very inspiration that made me want to never work for a corporate organization again. That chip on my shoulder is one of the reasons I wanted to run a company of my own.
If you suspect you might be micromanaging your team, then it's crucial that you address the core issue: your lack of trust. Employees cite micromanagers as the biggest red flag in a job, and they're very likely to leave because of it.
Being a better boss means being a better listener
Humans have a complex network of emotions and motivations. When you take the time to understand what makes a person tick, the better the outcome for everyone. I've learned that my job as a leader is to continue to put in the time, energy, and effort to get to know my team members.
This requires the skill of active listening. Let's say I have a young and motivated assistant. It's the early days of my company, and she's a recent college graduate and a key part of my startup team. As the years go by, the team grows, and her responsibilities increase. Eventually, she gets married. A couple of years later, she discovers a passion for gardening and rehabilitating horses.
Here's the key: at each of those crossroads, I set aside time for us to have a check-in. It shows that I've been actively listening and paying attention to her growth and development as a team member and as a person. At every new life chapter in which change takes place, we clarify which expectations might also need changing, whether that's more money, more time off, or a more flexible work schedule to allow them to start a side hustle or a passion project.
Hire people who care and trust them to do their job
Here's a hard truth that every entrepreneur will one day learn: no team member will care about your business as much as you. Bosses who expect to hire personal clones are in for a rude awakening. Unless the team member has an equal stake or equity in the business, you simply cannot expect them to care as much. The question to ask is, "Do they care the appropriate amount that aligns with a happy customer outcome?"
Hiring the right candidates obviously requires a certain skillset on the side of the team member, but it's also about the company culture that you want to create. A loyal, long-term employee is someone who feels seen, heard and treated like an individual with a life outside of work. Sometimes, the flexibility that you can provide will open up your talent pool in a way that provides you with loyalty and longevity.
This full-spectrum humanness has to be considered during the hiring process and throughout the tenure of your employees. Regular check-ins with my team, paying attention to what they're communicating, trusting them to do their job and listening actively aren't just good boss behaviors. They are crucial qualities of good leadership.