The Jeff Havens Company
First off, I’m sorry nobody respects you. It’s bad enough to need employees in the first place, since all they seem to do is ask for money you would much rather spend on nicer things for yourself. But to have to deal with that and their lack of respect is really more than any human being should have to suffer.
Now it’s possible that you are a truly contemptible person, in which case this article will be of no use to you. However, on the off-chance that you aren’t a puppy-kicking tyrant, here are 7 reasons your employees don’t respect you.
YOU ARE TOO NICE!
If this describes you, then you will do anything you can to avoid anything that even remotely resembles a confrontation. When you try to have a conversation with an employee about something you want them to change, you end the conversation by telling them their behavior really isn’t that big a deal, that you’re sorry for bringing it up in the first place, and that they will soon receive a small raise or extra vacation day as compensation for having to listen to your idiotic complaints. You ever see a shrieking, wailing child in public and think, “Wow, that kid could use a good spanking?” The same is true of your employees. The only problem is that spanking them is almost certainly illegal – and if it isn’t, it’s still really weird. However, the point remains. If you are always nice and forgiving, they will learn that they don’t have to worry about anything that bothers you. Except it does bother you, doesn’t it? But you’re too nice to say anything, so you’ll just quietly seethe until you rupture a blood vessel that everyone will chalk up to your bad diet. Bottom line – if you never get angry or disappointed or frustrated, it’s possible you’ll never get the respect you’re looking for.
YOU ARE WAY TOO MEAN!
The occasional reprimand is a normal part of our interactions with every single person we spend any significant amount of time with. The constant railing of an impossible-to-please demonlord, on the other hand, is a bit excessive. Sure, people might do what you want them to just to avoid getting yelled at, but they won’t be happy about it. If your problem is that your employees are productive but not enthusiastic about being so, then you might be shouting more often than is healthy. Try saving your hourlong tirades for your home improvement projects instead. Nobody will fault you for shouting at grout when it DOESN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE STUPID CRACKS!!!!!
YOU HAVE NO ACTUAL DEADLINES!
Some jobs need to get done today. Some need to get done by the end of the week. And some just need to get done, you know, whenever you can get around to it, if it’s not too much trouble. The truth is that a lot of our deadlines are arbitrary. Does your website have to be redesigned by the end of the month? Probably not. But if you don’t impose some artificial urgency from time to time, then no one will worry too much about getting anything accomplished. If you’re not sure how to do this, go on a road trip with children. They don’t really have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW PULL OVER NOW NOW NOW, but they sure do a good job of getting you to do what they want.
YOU DON’T THINK YOU DESERVE TO BE A LEADER!
One of my favorite things to say when I’m delivering a keynote is that I believe all of us, at our core, worry a little that someday the world will realize that we are a complete fraud. I remember the first time someone called me a ‘man,’ instead of a ‘boy’ or ‘teenager’ or ‘munchkin’ or whatever other words grandparents use. It didn’t sound like a word that should be applied to me. The same thing happens when I see 20-somethings with kids. “What are you doing, you’re children, you can’t raise a baby, you’re idiots, 3 years ago you were in college doing kegstands without any pants!” And the same thing occasionally happens when we’re placed in a position of leadership. It’s very common to wonder if you deserve the authority you’ve been granted, but you’d better start telling yourself that you actually have earned it. Because if you don’t think you should be the boss, nobody else will either.
YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND ALL THE TIME!
The two things I hate the most about groups of people are their complete inability to decide what restaurant to eat at, and their equal inability to decide which movie to go see. “Sally wants Italian, but Brian had that last night, and there’s the new Thai place but Marion doesn’t like spicy food and Joe’s lactose intolerant so we can’t do the pizza place….um…you know what, screw it, I’m going to Taco Bell.” Similarly, many managers – especially overly nice ones who don’t think they deserve to tell anyone else what to do – find themselves asking for certain things and then changing the requirements when they see their employees struggling. The impulse here is very noble, but the outcome isn’t. Employees need to be pushed, at least a little. A good manager is like a good personal trainer; he or she forces you past the point you thought you could get to on your own. If you continually change the goals that your people are trying to achieve, it is going to be hard for them to pay a lot of attention to whatever you tell them to do next, since it’ll probably change next week anyway.
YOU’RE AFRAID TO ADMIT MISTAKES!
You can’t lie to me. I know you’ve occasionally put your pants on backwards. I know you’ve walked into glass doors before. I know you’ve occasionally given yourself an electric shock by trying to change a wall outlet without cutting the power to it – and by ‘you’ I mean that I have done that multiple times. Seriously, I shouldn’t be trusted to babysit someone else’s fish. The point is, we’re all idiots. You are an idiot, at least sometimes. But if you never admit that, if you pretend that you’ve never done anything wrong and then find ways to excuse your failures or blame them on others, you’ll lose the respect of every employee who has learned how to accept the fact that all of us are idiots. Failure is only failure when you don’t learn anything from it, and you can’t learn anything when you pretend that you’ve never screwed up. And just so you don’t think you’re alone here, I’ll get us started; I am a failure at applying sunscreen to myself, since I have been horribly burned on more than one occasion. That I am still alive is a testament to how hard it is to kill people, and to how minor most mistakes really are.
YOU THINK YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO!
You know why most people are terrible at the piano? Because all of us quit taking lessons when we were 7. You know why most high school relationships don’t last? Because none of us listen to older people when they tell us what we should pay attention to when choosing a boyfriend or girlfriend. This is the reason that the human race will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again until we finally figure out how to merge with computers. If you are not in the habit of learning all the time, and if you are also in the habit of assuming that there’s not much left for you to learn, then your employees are almost certainly in the habit of thinking that you’re full of yourself and therefore unworthy of their admiration.
The best leaders are smart enough to know more than their peers, humble enough to know that they have more to learn, and interested enough in their employees to teach their employees how to improve.