Be the Boss that Employees Love

Small Business Edition

By Ritika Puri

According to Gallup's recent Employee Engagement Survey, only 31.5 percent of the workforce is engaged. Even more troubling is the trend that employee engagement has been hovering around 30 percent for the last several years.

The reason? Of course, the answer varies from employee to employee. But there are some underlying causes for why team members feel frustrated and begin to distance themselves from their work. One involves drudgery: people feel exhausted when they're stuck doing work that they dislike. Another is interpersonal conflict: office politics can cause major stress in making workplaces feel less enjoyable. And then there's perhaps the biggest reason: bad management. Some work cultures are so toxic that it's impossible to get any work done.

The bottom line is that people want to work for strong leadership and well-run organizations. As a small business owner, you're in a strong position to empower your employees and create a work culture that keeps team members happy. You also have little choice but to maintain a positive office environment, since you don't have funds to splurge on Google-esque perks and you can't afford to waste resources dealing with employee turnover.

Here are some subtle tips to keep you on the right track:

Keep Your Stressors to Yourself

Small business owners are often under a lot of pressure—financial and otherwise. If you're running a company, you know that these stressors are a normal part of doing business. Your employees, on the other hand, don't have the same perspective that you do. They're worried about stability, paying their mortgages, and supporting their families. Any sign of turbulence may feel alarming.

As a small business owner, you need to keep your stressors to yourself. Your team members are close to you, and if they feel your stress, your company's productivity—and retention rates—may suffer.

Understand Their Professional Ambitions

Even though other companies may offer perks, you may be able to provide the ultimate benefit: career advancement. As a small business owner, you're in a great position to let employees self-direct their paths forward. Allow space for teams to pursue passion projects, and work closely with each of your colleagues to set and achieve goals. Keep providing positive reinforcement, and employees will stick around for the long haul.

Know What's Happening in Your Employees' Lives

You may find peace in working odd hours, but your employees likely won't. Team members need flexibility to live their lives out of the office, and as a small business owner, you're in a good position to offer flexibility.

Be attentive to whether your deadlines and meeting schedules are interfering with employees' much-needed family time. Know whether a kid might be sick, have a special event coming up, or be passionate about a new extracurricular activity. This awareness, empathy, and understanding will be the ultimate perk that you have to offer—more than any corporate slide, free lunch, or on-site massage.

Many of your employees will want to one day become the boss. Even more want to work for a great manager from whom they can learn. Be the leader that your employees want to see—set an example, and remember that people all around you are eager to be a part of your journey. Be the boss you wish you always had.

About This Author

Ritika Puri is a freelance writer focused on business topics that include data and technology for publishers like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. In past lives, she built large-scale frameworks for marketing and ad tech data.


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