How even less assertive business owners can avoid being taken advantage of
Being a nice boss is an amazing asset. Genuine kindness and positivity improves morale, employee trust and engagement, and your overall company culture. Meanwhile, harsh, angry, or bullying managers cause employees to leave in droves. But too often, managers and business owners think they are “being nice,” when in fact, they need to learn how to stop being a pushover.
Whether it’s because you need everyone to like you, you despise any sort of conflict, you enjoy having your ego stroked, or boldness just isn’t a personality trait you possess, pushover tendencies can creep up on a lot of people. This happens a lot with small business owners. The size of their business necessitates that they take on a lot of the managerial responsibilities, even when they don’t have the right training or attitude to do so. What follows is all-too-often a surefire way to lose your best employees.
The notion that “employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers” is completely accurate. Studies have shown that bad management is the #1 reason why employees leave their jobs.
So how do you know if you’re being a pushover?
- You’re never negative, even when it’s warranted.
- You always over-apologize to employees, even when just asking them to complete basic job requirements.
- You don’t resolve conflicts well (or at all), and have lost quality employees as a result.
- You try to take on too many tasks because you don’t want to upset your employees.
- Employees have learned how to manipulate you and take advantage, often by becoming overly friendly or complimentary.
- Standards have slipped because high expectations aren’t being properly upheld.
If this describes you, you’re not alone, but there are absolutely steps you can take to turn it around, and gain the respect needed to run your business well.
1. Learn the power of “No”
Never saying “no” leads to burnout and employees taking advantage of you. “No” doesn’t have to feel rude or mean-spirited, but it does have to be said with an assertive emphasis to be effective. Without the ability to firmly say no, standards and expectations invariably drop and performance and service goes down with it.
If you still don’t feel comfortable shutting someone down immediately, then you can transition there by first working on finding creative solutions to problems instead of giving a direct answer. It takes more effort and thought than simply saying no, but it will at least help to increase your perceived effectiveness and authority.
2. Establish strong professional boundaries
People need to be led, and as a business owner it’s your job to do so. If no one is ever required to improve themselves because the boss seems apathetic no matter their effort, then quality of work will always go down. Sometimes this can be achieved by calling a meeting to reestablish the rules and expectations, stopping apologies for every request you make, shifting your relationships with employees from one where they consider you a friend to one where you take on the mantle of becoming a mentor, or forcing yourself to take on a more active role in conflict resolution.
You might despise the tension of conflict, but without asserting your authority and tackling these issues early, you will be seen as weak, ineffective, and often lose your very best employees as a result.
3. Set your Priorities
What has to get done? What will actually support and grow your business? And where can you best lend your expertise? These should be your focus; everything else needs to fall off your list if your day is already packed. Taking on too much just means that no one thing will ever get done well, so you need to break down how you spend your day and week and work to cut the fat.
So this means you need to…
4. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
I’ve talked about this before because it’s so important and learning the power of proper delegation is a particularly essential skill for business owners with pushover tendencies. Once you’ve begun to say no when necessary and now employees aren’t unloading their responsibilities on you, you can work to thoughtfully delegate more duties to them. This isn’t meant to overwhelm them, but empower and bolster their confidence and creativity. People want to push themselves; it’s your job to help them (and your business) grow.