Positive Employers Make Positive Workplaces

Positive Work Series Contents:

My Workspace
Being a Positive Employee

So far, we've talked about making your workspace a breeding ground for positive energy and how to be a positive employee. We're going to switch gears slightly and talk about the employers out there and how you can help your entire organization be a positive working machine.

Most people think that it's the employees that make or break a business or organization. While that is partly true, it's important to realize that employers have the power to set the tone and attitude for the entire group. They're leaders and they can have tremendous influence on those that work for them.

The stereotypical boss is demanding, stressed, ungrateful and only cares about the bottom line. While these people certainly exist, it's worth noting that there are really all kind of employers in the world. I've had the extreme fortune of being able to work for some amazing people through the years. While not every boss I've had has been ideal, the majority of my employers have been gracious, encouraging, intelligent and humble. Here are some lessons I've learned from them and have taken with me into management positions as my career has progressed.

  1. Praise in public, criticize in private. This is crucial. No one is perfect (not even your all star employee) and everyone has things they need to work on. Whether it's something big or small, whatever the thing is, it's best discussed in private. Criticizing, ridiculing and yelling at someone in public is not acceptable. If it's something that needs to be addressed, go into an office, close the door and discuss the issue. If it's urgent and an office isn't available, take a quick walk away from the group for some privacy. But when it comes to giving praise or recognition for a job well done, this should be done in public.
  2. Lead by example. You should never ask your employees to do something that you are not willing to do. Being "above" menial tasks or other things that come with the job that many people do gives off a feeling that you're snobbish. I've had plenty of employers that don't mind making copies, starting up the coffee or giving credit where credit is due. They were the leaders in my mind without a doubt. They also demonstrated the kind of attitude that they hoped their employees would demonstrate.
  3. Lead, don’t manage. The phrase "manager" often leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths. When you manage someone, you're controlling their actions, making sure they fall into line with expectations and doing a specific list of tasks. Leaders don't manage. Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, makes some great points on this concept. Leaders allow their group to grow, offer new ideas, and test theories. If you want employees or team members who love to come to work, let them take ownership of their jobs. It will help with everyone's attitudes.
  4. Your team’s performance is a reflection of you. When things go right, it's easy to stand up and be recognized. But when things go wrong, the blame game inevitably starts up. The best employers are the kind who pass on credit but accept responsibility when they need to. Since your team's performance is a direct reflection of your leadership make sure you are empowering your team to reach their goals and end each day with a job well done.
  5. Open door policies should include an open mind. Just because you say you have an open door policy doesn't always mean that you're open to what the person who is walking through it has to say. What really matters is what happens after someone comes to you. Are you truly listening? Are you looking for both sides of the story or are you jumping to conclusions? Has this person come to you before? Are they emotional? It's easy to get distracted by office politics when it comes to conflicts or concerns, but the more you remain upbeat and objective, the easier it will be to find a solution.
  6. Keep your word, keep your team’s confidence. When you tell someone that something is confidential, it should stay that way. When you say that you will follow up on a policy or discuss an issue with someone else, you should do that. Yes, everyone gets busy and sometimes you forget to do things. But the more consistent you are in following up on things, the more your team will trust you to get things done.
  7. Remember you’re no better than your team. This goes back to #2 and #4, but it's worth repeating. Everyone has to start somewhere. And never forget that the person you're training could one day be your replacement. What is at the top of an organization travels down to the rest. This includes attitude. Set the tone that everyone is equal and your team will grow stronger together.
  8. Know when to say no. Some people say no all the time; some hardly ever say it at all. Learn to find the balance of when you should say no to people, to ideas, to projects and to change. Ask yourself why you would say no in a certain circumstance. Is it fear? Is it conflicting with other plans? Would it take you in a direction that you don't want to go? Saying no to someone all the time will crush their spirit, but never saying no will give people free rein to do whatever they want when the team should have a cohesive goal.
  9. Teach others to lead. Some employers are so afraid of others trying to take their jobs that they don't let others take the lead and learn new skills. What these people don't understand is that when they teach others to lead, they not only alleviate some of the pressure off of their own shoulders, but the empowerment of their team fosters a positive attitude.
  10. Fill your team with successful and positive people (then hang on for a wild ride). The more positive and successful people you have on your team, the stronger you will be as a group. But it should be a combination of the two traits. I'd rather have a positive and unsuccessful team member any day over a negative and successful person. A great attitude is more valuable than success and when the two are combined the results can be explosive.
  11. Bonus: Care about your people. Not just about their work. Here is another key. When an employer takes the time to really learn more about their team and their lives, a personal connection is forged and a team becomes stronger with each passing day. Yes, employers are there to make sure people stay on task and that a business is growing in the right direction. But workers are people and they have lives. Caring about both the work and the worker shows that you are a compassionate boss. Remember little things like their kids' names, their favorite restaurant, their birthday or anniversary... it all adds up.