Manage With A Softer Edge

Don't be the boss that employees love to hate

Boss from hell: out. Kinder, gentler manager: in. Like fashion, management styles change with the times and the “take no prisoners,” hard-line boss went out with the go-go ’80s. Managers today are finding that their staffs are more productive in a work environment not racked with fear and intimidation. Follow the tips below and you’ll rule with a velvet glove rather than scare with an iron fist:

Focus on the company agenda, not your own. “It’s critical to nurture the corporate vision in your employees,” says social psychologist Ansley W. LaMar, Ph.D., a dean at New Jersey City University in New Jersey. “If they can’t see the big picture, they’ll lack direction and feel that their actions are futile,” he says. A singular sense of purpose builds a bond, producing a more harmonious work climate.

Offer praise as well as reprooff People accomplish more and are receptive to constructive criticism when they’re recognized for good performance. “First acknowledging things done right makes any criticism easier to swallow,” says LaMar.

Henry F. Brooks, president of Brooks Precision Inc. in Rockford, Illinois, believes praise and criticism should be handled in different forums. “Public praise is highly effective,” says Brooks, who oversees a staff of 58 at his machining and assembly firm. “Criticism, on the other hand, should only be doled out in private as soon as the infraction is made.”

Practice an “open-door” policy. “An effective manager makes time to be available,” notes Brooks. “This helps employees feel as though they are valued.” He also recommends monthly Q&A meetings where employees can express their concerns and you can keep abreast of their feelings. Besides your door, also keep an open mind.

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