Working for US President Donald Trump is not easy. Aside from the constant stream of controversies he continually spawns with his sporadic tweets and offhanded remarks, he also tends to publicly contradict his subordinates, issue public criticism of them, and show them nowhere near the loyalty he expects them to give him. While the lack of support Mr. Trump affords his underlings is accentuated by his bombastic ways, he is hardly the only one to do so. Government and business are filled with bosses who do the same. In fact, there are plenty of leaders in every aspect of life who fail to provide adequate support to those they lead.
One of the most important responsibilities of a boss is to ensure subordinates have what they need to succeed. Clearly, this means the tools and supply required to do the job. It also means a sufficient income to ensure the employees’ interests are addressed and do not interfere in the affairs of the business. Business owners and upper management must, however, also provide for the non-material needs of the job. Subordinates need the support of their bosses. This is particularly true when problems arise. It easy for the boss to ignore problems until they become so noticeable that they cannot be avoided or play the blame game, but these reactions will not solve problems nor offer employees the support they need to fix what is wrong.
New, poor performing, struggling, troubled, and other dysfunctional employees need support in the form of guidance. Attempting to micromanage employees tends to create resentment and friction in the workplace. Training, however, is the kind of support that new and dysfunctional employees need. Training is the gradual shaping of a person’s behavior through targeted corrections in response to undesirable behavior and positive reinforcement in response to desirable behavior. Left to “self manage,” people will
still train themselves. Depending on their work ethic, skill level, and personality, some will train themselves in good workplace habits, but most will train themselves in bad workplace habits.
Unfortunately, shaping the behavior of employees is time consuming. Most business owners and upper management must, therefore, rely on lower level managers, formal supervisors, and other workplace leaders to act as mentors and trainers. To be successful mentors and trainers, the top bosses must support the efforts of their subordinates leaders. This means delegating the responsibility of training and supervising subordinates to workplace leaders, who are capable of shaping the behavior of others, as well as the authority to correct the behavior of dysfunctional employees. Trainers must have workplace proficiency, situational awareness, high standards, and a willingness to respectfully confront employees when they engage in undesirable behavior.
That said, highly proficient subordinates and subordinate leaders need a different kind of support. When the boss does not give subordinate leaders the opportunity to make decisions, exercise their authority, and discipline their subordinates or back their authority to make decisions, it is a essentially a “no confidence” vote. It is a failure to provide support, which undermines the ability of subordinates to perform and improve the performance of others. One of the hardest things for a boss to do can be to relinquish control, especially when the boss is the owner of the business. The boss cannot do it all, so it is necessary to delegate responsibility to those who can be trusted to do the job. Oversight is always necessary, but the boss must have confidence in his, or her, employees.
Clearly, it is far easier for the boss to make a show of confidence when things are going well. When problems arise, how the boss reacts says a lot more. Relationships are very important in the workplace, because they determine how employees interact with each other. Relationships are, however, built over time through one interaction after another. A boss who avoids problems then overreacts to pass the buck is not going to inspire trust or confidence. A supportive boss will foster an environment where employees feel confident enough to approach the boss with a problem. As important as it is for the boss not to overreact, it is essential for the boss to take action and/or empower subordinate leaders to fix problems. Moreover, to solve problems in the workplace and foster a highly productive workplace, bosses must support their subordinates.
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