There is no ominous music playing when people enter your office. You don’t have an evil master plan sitting in the middle of your desk. There is no sinister grin frozen to your face signaling your desire to take over the world. So, why does your staff treat you like the world’s worst villain?
If you are in the leadership seat during a period of severe budget cuts, massive restructuring and ultimately layoffs, you will probably get some of the blame (whether it’s fair or not). There is a natural tendency to blame the leadership (administrators, managers, president, ceo, etc.) of the organization when restructuring takes place. What determines whether or not you will be viewed as a villain is how you handle those situations.
Here are some specific steps you can take as a leader to shed your image as an organizational villain:
This isn’t Hollywood – You aren’t a movie star and the rest of your employees aren’t the paparazzi. Stop hiding! Make yourself available for informal discussions about the current state of the company, school district, etc. It’s great to have a policy where people can call you via phone, but it’s better to give the option of meeting with you in person during a select time. To be most effective, you need to frequently reiterate your interest to meet with others and give your office hours more than once to ease employee apprehension about speaking with you (Note: Many people have apprehension about meeting with/voicing concerns with their boss – make it easy for people to meet with you).
Keep people informed – Do you want to know a quick and highly effective method for fueling fear, worry and gossip? The answer…SILENCE! Keeping your staff in the dark about potential layoffs will add stress to your employees and negatively affect their confidence in the organization. Just be honest. Let them know in advance the best-case and worst-case scenarios due to economic conditions so that people can mentally prepare for whatever future decisions need to be made (Note: Let all communication be as positive as possible, but show how the changes will help the organization as a whole stay afloat and become stronger).
Make firm/fair decisions (and live with your decision) – Don’t second-guess yourself. Make a firm/fair decision and speak with confidence (not arrogance) as you are articulating your decisions. People are analyzing you more than what you actually say.
Ask for opinions – Want to know the three ways to reduce waste in the company? Want to know the two key methods for bringing in more customers. Would you like to know the four ways to make your organization more efficient and streamline processes? It’s simple, ASK! People are ready and willing to share multiple ideas to strengthen the organization. The key is that you will have to go to them first. Encourage employees to share ideas but ensure that your motives are pure so the endeavor won’t appear as mere window dressing to pacify the masses.
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