How not to be a chamomile boss

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in The Savvy Office Manager

Are you nothing more than a soothing cup of aromatic tea, all friendly and inviting?

You know, the kind of boss that is more about offering comfort than giving commands. You believe in more honey, less lemon.

If so, you’re probably well-liked, but also marginally respected and easily manipulated.

Such a boss eventually becomes one of the “group,” and then loses his or her authority. What happens next is the workers, or at least a handful of them, are in control. You no longer are. Productivity takes a hit and upper management has you in its cross hairs.

You’re a chamomile boss and you need to change that fast.

Here’s how.

Stop apologizing for everything. It’s one thing to say you’re sorry when you’ve screwed up and you really need to own up to the mistake. But you need not apologize just because you, say, dumped a little more work on someone because the office got a little busier. It’s enough to say, “Jill, the client called and wants the report Friday, not Monday. Please have it ready, and I appreciate your effort. Thanks.” Adding “sorry” to all your commands gives employees reason to think you are responsible for their misery. You’re not.

Avoid the long explanations following “no.” Somehow, you feel you owe a long-winded reason when telling a subordinate that he can’t work from home on Friday. “Well, Joe, Friday wouldn’t be a good idea, uh, well, see, Becky already asked me if she could work from home, and I uh, I uh can’t have you both not here. Hey, I promise, you—next Friday you can.” Employees can see you sweat the explanations and you look weak. Furthermore, they’ll expect an explanation for everything you do or don’t do. Who’s in charge here? “No, Joe, I need you here Friday” is enough.

Ask less, tell more. Need something done? Tell, don’t ask. If you give your employees options, what do you think will start happening? “Debbie, do you have time to double-check these figures?” What if Debbie says “No, I don’t have time.” Then what do you say to her? Try “Debbie, please double-check these figures. Thanks.” The orders need not be barked. A professional tone will tell her that this must be done.

Let them know where your line is. Employees need to know the boundaries. The boundaries are where your employees sense your firmness. It’s where sometimes they feel the sternness. It’s where they know that it’s possible to get chewed out. It’s where they need to be reminded who’s in charge. And you should not be concerned if their feelings are hurt because you’ve showed them where the lines are. You’re the boss. Act like one. Your employees will respect you for that.

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