Is it so hard to be nice?

My friend often complains about his boss. The complaints are not about workload, hours or responsibilities. Mostly they’re about feeling under appreciated. This got me thinking. So I asked around and in an admittedly small sample size my very unofficial poll confirmed what I already knew. Employees want to feel valued. Simple. Although you can’t see it, everyone of us has a sign on our backs. The sign says “be nice to me.” This is a very basic human trait. It is NOT a weakness.  Why then do bosses, managers and supervisors not get it?

You Get More With Honey Than With Vinegar

Have you heard that one? It’s true. It seems to me that bosses are afraid to show empathy because they believe, wrongly,  that doing so will erode their authority. It won’t! It will make you seem human, which you are. Sure, you’re the boss. Your employees have to do what you say.  After all, you hold a very sharp sword over their heads. You can fire them. But beware. Brandishing that sword overtly will create resentment and fear. Is that really what you want?  I’m not talking about becoming everyone’s personal friend. That has its own set of problems. Here is what I am talking about:

  • Say please  – yes, I know it’s their job to do as you ask.  Say please anyway
  • Say thank you – yes, I know its’ their job to do as you ask. Say thank you anyway (I just said that)
  • Be consistent – complimenting employees today and criticizing  them tomorrow sends a mixed message. If your employees never know if they’re getting the “mean boss” or the “nice boss”, they’ll hold back for fear of getting the “mean boss”.
  • Be sensitive – you make more money than your employees do. Don’t talk to them about your vacations to far away places (unless they ask). Chances are they can’t relate and will end up resenting you.
  • Praise more, criticize less – okay this one is really Human Relations 101 and we’ve all heard it countless times. Bosses/managers/supervisors listen up! You can’t praise enough! I’m guessing that if you’ve never had children, you won’t get this one.

Fear and Resentment Will Work … Temporarily

So here it is in a nutshell. The “mean boss” and the “nice boss” will both get the same results from their people. But here’s the crucial difference. One approach creates a culture of resentment and fear and the other creates a culture of mutual respect and cooperation. The first can’t last. The second can’t lose.

And Now Back to You

I really need help with this one. If you’re an employee, does this resonate for you? Have you worked for the “mean boss” or the “nice boss” or both? What was your experience? If you’re a boss, does any of this make sense to you or am I missing something?

Photo credit: robinsonelizabeth76

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