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HR Soapbox

Are You a ‘Horrible Boss?’ 6 Ways to Build Back Trust

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Patrick DiDomenico

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in HR Soapbox

Come Monday, if your employees are looking at you a little funny, maybe they just saw the new movie “Horrible Bosses,” which opens this weekend. The black comedy tells of three friends who conspire to murder their mean, manipulating managers.

The bosses (Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell) display all sorts of bad behavior, from the lawsuit-worthy (discrimination, harassment, etc.) to your basic morale-crushing one-liners. 

Horrible BossesMost employees already know if they have a horrible boss. They don’t need a movie to point it out. But the movie will spark conversations—from the breakrooms to the bars to TV talk shows—about how mad as hell people are about their bosses and what they’ll do if they can’t take it anymore.

Nearly half (46%) of U.S. employees say they’ve worked for an “unreasonable manager,” either currently or in the past, according to an OfficeTeam survey of 441 people. Among those, most (59%) stayed in their jobs and either tried to address the situation or resolved to live with it.

Hopefully, most managers know to follow Google's maxim of "Don't be evil." But, beyond that, the main reason people hate their boss is trust or, more accurately, lack of it.

It’s difficult—if not impossible—to be a good manager without employee trust. The problem: Many employees are predisposed to mistrust managers, often because of bad experiences with bosses at other jobs.

So here are six ways managers can work to earn back the trust from their employees:

1. Speak and act with consistency. Employees look for management inconsistencies. So do what you tell employees you will do. Inconsistent words and actions create an impression of unpredictability.

2. Don’t live in your office. You may feel you’re too busy to communicate, but the resulting aloofness can breed suspicion and distrust. Silence from a manager typically leads to uncertainty. And uncertainty creates a void. Unless a manager fills that void with clear communication, employees will assume the worst. Negativity and rumors will fill in the gaps. Make communicating with employees a top priority each day. Talk to employees on their “turf.” It will help you become more approachable.

bosses-soapbox-july 63. Share your vision. It’s not enough to just be optimistic. It’s better to give your team something to be optimistic about. Share with employees your big-picture goals for them and the department. And constantly reiterate what it will take for both to be successful.

4. Involve employees in decision-making. Employees tend to trust managers who value input from subordinates. Create an environment in which employees feel free to voice their opinions. Listen patiently to employees and implement suggestions that increase efficiency and productivity.

5. Acknowledge their lives outside the office. Managers who get to know the person—not just the employee—have an easier time gaining the respect and trust of their workers. Know their hobbies, names of their family members and favorite sports teams.

6. Criticize privately. Allow employees to make mistakes without being humiliated. Offer constructive criticism in one-on-one meetings, not in front of others. Otherwise, employees may feel vulnerable to receiving criticism any time in any setting.

Finally, trust your employees. It encourages them to trust you in return.

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