How to Stand Strong With Employees and Clients
Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, people always say, generally followed by understanding nods and knowing smiles.
Pushovers. We see them; sometimes, we are them.
As a business owner, you walk a fine line: you need to care for clients and employees, but you also need to care for your business. You can’t be taken advantage of; you need to offer concern and stand your ground.
Layci Nelson, owner and chief consultant at Nelson Management Strategies, explains four reasons why, as a manager and leader, it can be difficult to say no.
Lack of Structure
With the immediate need of providing the best possible medical care for patients, solid office policies might be overlooked, leading to confusion and frustration for business owners and employees alike.
“Often, small businesses don’t have consistent or written policies around vacations and paid time off,” Nelson says. “This leaves owners shooting from the hip every time they have an employee who makes a request.”
Take the time to create (and share) clear policies. Without it, you set yourself up for an emotional disaster and mental exhaustion.
“Invest the time in creating a comprehensive employee manual,” Nelson says. “[Without it, you’ll suffer from] the perception of favoritism and frustration and worse, it can feed staff drama.”
Conflict-Avoidance Personality Types
Nelson says that people with deep dislike for conflict struggle to initiate direct conversations with clients and employees.
The fix, she says? Just do it.
“The practice of having hard conversations literally lays down new pathways in our brains,” Nelson says. “No amount of reading about it or studying it can do that for us.”
Additionally, Nelson notes, it is important to reframe the situation in your mind.
“Clarity is kindness. When we avoid these conversations, it does not improve the situation at hand. It probably makes the situation worse as everyone operates off of assumptions, half-truths, and blanks we fill in with our fears,” Nelson says. “The conversation is hard, but avoiding or delaying it often has worse consequences.”
Presenting Problem Behavior as Character Assessments
As a leader, it’s crucial to frame behaviors as behaviors, not as character flaws. This can be challenging, Nelson says, but incredibly important.
Nelson gives an example of an employee who chronically runs late.
“‘Hey Chad, for the last week, you have not started on time. When that happens, it messes with the flow of the day and sets us all behind’,” Nelson explains. “That’s much easier for an employee to hear and not get defensive than if you say, ‘Chad, why aren’t you taking this position seriously?’”
Even if you really want to, don’t make the problem about an employee’s character.
“Chad will be much more open to hearing you out and making some real changes if he isn’t busy defending his character,” Nelson says.
Keeping an Employee on the Bus Longer Than Appropriate
Sometimes, people don’t fit in your business or on your team. This, undoubtedly, causes friction and problems.
When you’re wondering if an employee needs to go, be willing to ask yourself the hard questions.
“If you knew what you know now, would you still have hired them?” Nelson says. “Sometimes, there are situations that can’t get turned around. Or worse, an employee is toxic to the culture you’ve worked hard to build. So, firing sucks. A lot. What sucks more is the damage that happens if they overstay.”
Grow Your Own Emotional Intelligence
In addition to the four challenges and solutions listed above, Nelson says that developing emotional intelligence works wonders for your management and leadership abilities.
In a September 2019 article in the Yakima Herald, Nelson explains two action items to increase self-awareness and grow emotional intelligence.
First, she suggests, make a list of the 10 people who know you best and ask them for an honest review, encouraging them to give feedback regarding your strengths, weaknesses, and how you relate to and influence the people around you.
Second, take a personality test like Meyers-Briggs or the Enneagram to further understand your own personality and leadership styles. A good test will highlight your strengths but also point out areas you need to work to develop.
You don’t have to be taken advantage of; you DO have to do the work in order to first, understand who you are, and second, handle sticky (and sometimes uncomfortable) situations with employees and clients.