Good Versus Evil

IN THE WORKPLACE, MANAGERS GET A BAD RAP. The butt of endless water cooler jokes, bosses—be they spa directors, spa owners, or managers—are more often than not characterized as the workplace villain and are maligned for simply existing. How then does a boss transcend this collective disdain and find that delicate balance between managing as a tyrant like Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada or as a pushover who is taken complete advantage of?

Here is some practical advice to help managers at all levels—bottom, middle, and at the top—hone a style that serves everyone's best interest and, as such, fosters positive perceptions among their staff.

Give credit where it's due. Among the biggest complaints about managers is that they are "glory hogs." One of the fastest ways for a manager to become disliked and disrespected is by taking recognition for others' work or taking exclusive credit for a team effort. Great leaders are recognized for their ability to share the glory with others. Learn to praise those who have helped create successes and improve the overall spirit around you. Staff members will be appreciative and pleasantly surprised when they notice you sharing the accolades that will ultimately further their career growth as well. Remember, if your employees look good, you look good.

Good Boss/Bad Boss Quiz
Good Boss/Bad Boss Quiz

Have an open-door policy. Let's face it, most managers have to work hard to keep up with daily demands and expectations. Meetings, scheduling, emails, number crunching, planning—all of these tasks can keep managers separate and apart, both physically and emotionally, from their team. It's important to remember, however, that one of a manager's primary jobs is to know what his or her staff is doing at all times and to help them do it better. The best way to accomplish this is by staying visible and accessible with staffers. Don't just welcome them into your office. Walk around the spa and interact with employees in a less formal way and in their territorial comfort zone. Make a recurring appointment on your calendar to allow yourself time to get out into the spa regularly. If you have staff in other locations, use that time to get a little more personal by calling them simply to check in as opposed to only when there's a problem.

Appreciate face value. Today's professional is decidedly wired, with email, voicemail, teleconferencing, and web conferencing taking the place of good old human-to-human interaction. The most effective managers communicate with their staff in person whenever possible. Although remote communication is admittedly efficient, technology is not entirely effective when it comes to getting people energized or feeling like they are part of a team led by someone who cares about what's on the collective plate. There is simply no direct substitute for having face-to-face dialogue—not a monologue—with staff members if you want to get things done while also cultivating a positive spirit within the organization. Finally, research is clear that people are prone to dedicate themselves to a leader they feel they know and who shows his or her passion occasionally. No number of memos will create that sense of care.

Be firm but fair. Every office has its "suck-ups" and "brown-nosers," and everyone knows who they are...except the boss. If your team thinks you are allowing others to have special privileges or that you are too naïve to recognize when you're being manipulated, you will lose their respect very quickly. Once lost, respect is a virtue that is hard to regain. To avoid this, debrief your team as often as possible so they understand why you do things a certain way or have made a certain decision and so they consider your decisions fair in a business context. Regularly scheduled meetings with an agenda allow them to see you in action and present an opportunity to show you in the best light.

Find and maintain a "whole life" balance. We've all heard about the person with the great title, corner office, fancy company car, and trophy spouse who's miserable in his or her personal life. Managers can often find themselves becoming similar versions of that individual if they don't have a game plan. Busy times and demanding jobs can cause managers to lose their humanity—those other things in life that make it all worth it. It's okay to burn some midnight oil once in a while, but everyday demands at the expense of your personal or family life is a recipe for disaster. High stress levels and low energy, attention span, patience, and tolerance levels make for a less-than-lovable boss. This, of course, leads to low morale and decreased team productivity coupled with increased staff turnover, all of which play into a vicious cycle of both professional and personal unhappiness. When you are frustrated and wound tight, your staff truly feels your pain. Creating a personal action plan lets you shoot high and know when you are making progress on all fronts. Like a company action plan, it alerts you to make course corrections, which keep balance on all fronts—career, personal, and financial. —John McKee

John McKee, founder and president of Business, is the author of 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot (Wheatmark, 2006) Contact him at (720) 226-9072 or [email protected] or visit his website at