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Trying too hard

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Will, a manager at a tech firm in Illinois, talks about his challenges in dealing with his employees.

Because my employees continue to treat me like some kind of freak and my boss (who works off-site) doesn’t seem to care, I’ve weighed my options. At first, I was thinking of quitting. I figured I could find better people to manage elsewhere.

But then the economic mess worsened, and I started to worry that other jobs would dry up. So for now, I’ve decided to stay put and make the best of this.

I asked a friend for advice on how to deal with employees who don’t seem to like me for whatever reason. And he said, “Well, make them like you.”

So I’ve started doing more of the things that a good manager is supposed to do. I bring treats to work most mornings like doughnuts or fruit plates. I spring for pizza on Fridays. I praise people when they do good work. And I try not to judge how people act—their sloppy dress, the long breaks they take, their musical taste, etc.

The “new me” hasn’t exactly been a hit. My staff still keeps its distance. They can probably tell that I’m trying too hard to be liked.

I don’t sense that they’re whispering behind my back about me. But as much as I try to be this warm, welcoming nice guy, I don’t see them responding in a more positive way. They seem to have made up their mind about me, so my efforts to butter them up aren’t doing much good.

When I come across workers chatting about their weekend or Saturday Night Live or whatever, I join in. I want to show interest in the same things they care about. But the tenor of the conversation changes instantly, and it’s obvious they don’t feel comfortable around me.

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