CoolRide Blog

Respect vs. Fear: How Do Your Employees See You?

Posted by Steve Johnston on Mon, Apr 29, 2013

Build Good Rapport without Crossing Lines

being a good bossIn The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly (played to perfection by Meryl Streep) rules her office with an iron fist. When employees get wind that she’s coming to the office, they erupt into a hive of activity and fear. Blood runs cold, insults are whispered, and a cold sweat breaks out across the foreheads of every team member. And when she arrives, fake smiles are plastered on faces all around as everyone does their level best to avoid her wrath. While this scenario is great for entertainment, it really does beg the question: Is someone in your office writing the next big evil-boss screenplay…about you?

The Power of Fear

The moment you step into a position of power, your first concern is often how to command respect. This is especially tough if you’ve been promoted from within. All of your previous colleagues are now your subordinates. The guys you had beers with after work now report to you. The girls you gossiped with at the water cooler now take orders from you. When choosing how to force these contemporaries to see you as their boss, your first instinct may be to instill fear at your first opportunity. After all, how will they learn to respect what you say if they remember some of the pranks you pulled as a team member?

There are quite a few ways to inspire fear in even those who know you best. By taking away perks, barking orders during meetings, and refusing to listen to employee problems, you will certainly catch everyone’s attention. The problem is that fear does not equal respect. By showing your evil-boss side, you most certainly will become the butt of many jokes. Even worse, some of your best employees will begin to seek new jobs simply so they won’t have to deal with you every day.

In summation, fear is not the tool you need.

The Power of Respect

You can balance on the line between friend and supervisor, and it’s not as tough as you may think. The key to this balance is respect. Too many bosses think that respect is a one-way street, with all employees showing respect without receiving any. If this is your idea of a perfect environment, you should think again. Your employees don’t respect you; they fear you. For the possible downfalls, see above.

To make the most of your new position and get the very best work from your team members, you must also show them respect. Listen when they have something to say. Approach problems with a no-nonsense attitude but be ready to compromise. Make policies that keep their best interests in mind as well as those of the company. Most of all, don’t shout. Raising your voice is the fastest way to instill fear, and then you’ll be on an express train to losing all your employees.

When your employees respect you and know you return the sentiment, they are more likely to perform to their highest capabilities. Seeing your happiness with their jobs well done is all they’ll need to continue giving maximum output.

Finding Balance

When you keep that channel of communication open between you and your team members, you will run into problems finding balance. Part of you will still want to join them for a gabfest in the break room, and that’s okay. Spend a few minutes chatting with them each day and show them you’re still the same person. Stop by their offices or cubicles to ask about their family members or discuss their latest vacations. If they feel you’re open, they’ll be open in return.

If the time comes to discipline an employee, you may feel the pain of disappointment in them. But this is when you actually have a chance to shine. Instead of blowing your top, introduce a counseling session, in which you inform the employee of his or her mistakes and offer chances for redemption. You may experience situations where some team members just don’t care enough to give their very best, no matter how much they like you. Most of the time, however, your team members will appreciate the chance to make amends.

It takes time to find that balance, but when you do, you’ll experience productivity and workplace happiness like none you’ve ever known. Stop relying on fear to get your employees in line and start respecting their contributions. The time it takes will be well spent.


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Tags: Professional Development