Are you about to be a boss for the first time? It’s exciting, exhilarating, re-affirming, and…scary! If you have your own business, then the livelihood of others—perhaps a lot of people, if your business is big—depends on the success of your business. That is, of course, a frightening thought. But do keep in mind that your employees also drive the success of your company. Their livelihood isn’t entirely dependent on you—they have some control over it, too. If each one does a great job, then the place should thrive. Nonetheless, there are inherent stresses that come with running your own business, and one of those is employee management. You were once an employee, and at that time, you just go to commiserate with your coworkers about the boss. So, you know that that happens, and now you are the boss. Here is how to walk the line between being a tyrant and a pushover boss.
Hire great people from the start
You can prevent a lot of headache if you are diligent about the hiring process, from the start. Call references. Make sure they give raving reviews. Hire individuals who appear to always go above and beyond, rather than just doing the bare minimum.
Do each employee’s job
Make sure you take the time to do each employee’s job, at least for a few hours or half a day. You should know, firsthand, what goes into a task, and how long it should take. Then, you’ll know if an employee is inflating her hours—or if an employee deserves a bonus for doing such a great job, at such an impressive speed.
Know the going rate
Familiarize yourself with the going rate for each job. What could each employee make for that same job at similar companies? This helps you accurately respond to complaints about salaries or hourly rates. And, if you do pay a little more than other companies, then you know you deserve the absolute best work from your employees.
Recognize (i.e. incentivize) hard workers
Recognize and reward the great employees. That could mean a small bonus or an extra vacation day. This will incentivize other workers (who may have been slacking off) to clean up their act.
Practice what you preach
If you want your employees to exhibit certain work behaviors, then you must exhibit those. That can mean no personal phone calls while you’re working, or it can mean taking the time to cheerily greet every customer who walks in the door.
You can prohibit personal issues at work
Sometimes, employees will run late/ask for a last-minute day off/simply do a poor job, and blame it on their personal life. Their mother is ill. They’re going through a divorce. Here’s the thing: you have to explain to these employees that, while you feel for their plight, everyone in the office has personal stuff going on. Those who do a good job don’t do so because they have nothing worrying them at home—they do a good job because they leave those things at home.
Empathize, but remember your goal
It can be very tough to let someone go. You may watch someone try very hard, but simply fall short of your needs for a certain job. Neither of you win by keeping this person on. You can show empathy—you can explain that you know the job is hard—but you must keep your eyes on your goal (namely, the success of your company). You cannot let your company fail or decline, because you are too sensitive to let a weak employee go.
Allow for mistakes
Naturally, mistakes will happen. Do not be the type of boss who fires someone over one mistake. Don’t even yell or show anger over one mistake. Mistakes are just that—mistakes, and unintentional. Being an angry boss causes nervousness in the work place, which leads to more mistakes. Forgive mistakes.
Don’t allow for dishonesty
What you should never forgive is dishonesty. If one employee messes up, and then blames another who clearly didn’t do it, you have to let that person go. Showing a willingness to lie once indicates an ability to lie repeatedly. Lying is one “mistake” you can fire someone for—the very first time they do it.
If there’s a repeat mistake, learn
If you notice your employees making the same mistake over and over again, and you know they aren’t incompetent, learn a bit about why the mistake is happening. Maybe you need to give clearer instructions. Maybe the way the chain of command is set up is causing a miscommunication.
If it still happens, let the person go
If you’ve worked out the kinks in the system, and the mistake continues to happen, it may be time to let that individual who repeatedly makes the mistake go. You can do your part to teach an employee something they don’t know, but you can’t force someone to be a good listener.
There’s casual and there’s disrespectful
It’s alright to have a casual, laid-back vibe in the work place. It’s alright if you want to let people joke around a bit, and even use curse words (just not in front of clients and customers). But know there is a difference between employees being casual and being disrespectful. If they take a rude tone with you, you can tell them that is not okay. It’s important that they also know there’s a line—no matter how cool of a boss you are. Also know that if you’re going to draw that line, you can’t fully be friends with your employees.
Do occasional nice things for the staff
Throw holiday parties for the crew. Or, better yet, give holiday bonuses. Do whatever is within your budget to show your appreciation a couple times a year.
If you’re doing someone else’s job, replace her
If you find that one employee is slacking so much that you’re essentially doing her job for her—or someone else is—fire her. You hire someone for a reason—to do a task. If other people are doing it for her, then her salary is a waste of money.
Remember, you’re creating income
Always keep in mind—no matter how upset or discontent employees may become—that you are creating income. You created jobs. They didn’t have to take this job. You make a stream of income for someone, and that’s amazing.