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Communication Leadership skills People skills

Am I A Nice Boss?

Let’s be honest, 40% of the average person’s time is spent working. More than you spend (awake) with your partner or your children, for example. Or on your favorite hobby. If you don’t have a nice boss, you’re not going to be that happy. And if you take that not-so-nice-boss home with you, you suffer.

High time, then, for you to test if you’re a nice boss for your coworkers. Because if you are, you’re helping them be happy—and as you know, happy people perform better, and that’s also good for you and your organization! 

Is he getting married? What’s her name again?

To begin, you should show a genuine interest in your coworker. What motivates her? What’s going on in his personal life? Is she getting married soon? What’s his favorite hobby? Has someone recently passed away in their personal circle? What are the specific qualities which make a coworker good in what they do?

Of course, it’s difficult to remember everything, especially if your span of control is 25 or more—let alone if you also want to remember things about all the coworkers your direct colleagues guide in the everyday operation of your organization. You could use an aid such as a handy little app in which you keep the name, photo, and some highlights about each coworker directly and indirectly serving under your lead. I once heard about a director who learned by heart the names and faces of all 250 coworkers before he started working for a new organization. On his first day at work he knew everyone by name, from the front desk clerk to the cleaning staff and to every manager. The amount of goodwill this gave him was incredible, not to mention the pleasant working environment it provided.

A genuine conversation

As a leader, you will need to conduct annual ambition and assessment interviews; you will be in meetings and speak to people at the coffee machine. Will you really know what your coworker needs for their well-being and if those needs are being met? Especially when it comes to the three basic needs for connection, mastery, and autonomy? Are you able to engage in a sympathetic dialog? Do you command the necessary listening skills in such a way that you really uncover the emotions underlying your coworker’s motivation? If your answer is yes to all of these questions, you are already well underway to being a nice boss!

Be generous

Everyone likes to get something extra so now and then. Where the one would like to enjoy an extra education or follow a course, the other would prefer a raise, and yet another would like to be celebrated. It’s good to pay attention to such rewards, yet be sure it remains fair: everyone deserves a comparable slice of the cake. If your rewards aren’t perceived as fair, your generosity will work counterproductively and raise a negative form of competitivity—exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. The same goes for giving credit and attention: be generous with your attention and give compliments when something goes well. Also, ensure all receive this generosity—a coworker isn’t going to like being left out.

Keep your promises

As a manager, boss, or leader, you are primarily a facilitator. You facilitate a conducive environment so that your coworkers can function optimally. This means more than an eye for hygienic factors such as a comfortable and healthy workplace, adequate pay (let’s face it: people also work to earn a salary!), and sufficient opportunities for further development. It also means providing the resources they need to fulfil the task at hand, as well as bearing, room, and backup. So check regularly that you are keeping your promises!

Support your coworker

As a boss, you are the buffer between your coworker and the outside world—especially as regards the rest of the organization. You are their safety barrier, so cover their back, especially when they make a mistake. Dressing them down (even more so when doing this openly) immediately creates an unsafe environment. By all means, privately give appropriate feedback (preferably with a focus on mastery)—but in public, support your coworker without fail. Remember, trust is hard to gain but easy to lose!

And never forget…

At home, you are just you. As soon as you cross the threshold of your organization, you are the manager, boss, or leader. Yet don’t let that distract you! You are still the same person who is also nice to others at home. Take your sympathetic qualities to work with you! Being kind elicits kind reactions, making your work more pleasant and fun to do. And who wouldn’t want that?

A word of thanks to Ellen Sebregts for her inspiration and input for this blog!

Note: This post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on the 6th of March, 2020.