Two years ago, I wrote an article for iMedia Connection called "7 reasons your employees hate you." It was a story about how to be a better manager. Based on the hundreds of tweets and dozens of blog posts it inspired, it seemed to have resonated with people. Every one of us can relate to a story about a manager we've hated -- and every manager out there could stand to look in the mirror for opportunities to perform a bit better.
You start out in your job as a doer. You do tasks. If you do them well, you become a manager. Then it's your job to get other people to do the tasks as well as you once did. For the official "manager," those people are your employees. What about the rest of us?
I've got news for you: We are all managers.
They may not be employees, but in the course of our jobs, we all have the need to compel other people to do things. You can't do your job well unless your co-workers do their jobs well. They don't report to you, but you still need them to act in a certain manner in order to be successful at your job.
If you're a producer, you may need to compel your design team to meet their deadlines. If you're a designer, you may need to compel your producer to get you more time to deliver a great product. If you're a waitress, you may need to compel a bartender to get your drinks.
Not only are you a manager, but you're also a manager at a disadvantage. Why? A manager has two kinds of power: role power and relationship power.
Role power works great in the short term and is actualized in the following sentence: "You work for me. Do as I say because I can fire you." Sometimes, role power is necessary for a boss to use, but in the long term, role power becomes less effective. If you threaten to fire someone every day, they will hate you. They will make a show of doing what you say when you're around, but won't be emotionally committed to doing what you say when you're not around. Eventually, they will quit.
Next, there's relationship power. Relationship power comes from having...you guessed it...a relationship. When a manager has a relationship with their employees, they don't have to bark orders. They can ask. They can empower their employees to make choices -- and when an employee feels empowered, they perform better. If you know I have your back, you'll have mine. If a manager has a relationship, they can ask an employee to work the weekend. When they say yes, it'll be because they don't want to let you down -- not because they hate your guts.
Now, let's return to you.
You are at a disadvantage. You do not have role power because the people you manage -- your co-workers -- don't report to you. The only tool at your disposal is relationship power. Yet, so many of us squander relationships and act in ways that make our co-workers' skin crawl when we walk in a room. They cringe when we open our mouths and flip us the bird when we turn our backs. We're not bad people, but they hate us with a venom that would drop an elephant.