How to Stop Being the Manager Everyone’s Afraid of


Plays well with others. This category appears on quarterly reports at many schools across the U.S. It’s a measure of how well school kids are doing on the social front. Maybe the topic should come up more often in the workplace.

In her discussion about workplace jerks, Christine Porath’s text is accompanied by an illustration of Steve Jobs. His legendary jerkiness and inability to get along with others was tolerated because of his other qualities. The man’s brilliance led him to develop groundbreaking ways to use new technology. The result was a company with the highest market capitalization in the world.

Most leaders who don’t get along well with team members also lack technical brilliance. This dilemma means they’re going to have a tough time surviving in corporate America. Porath cites her own research to support this claim. “People viewed as civil tend to occupy more important positions in networks.” In one of her studies, “demonstrating respect was the most important leadership quality for garnering commitment and engagement.” In other words, jerks aren't doing well.

Some of these findings amount to common sense. If you tell employees their ideas are stupid, they’ll likely disengage. They’ll start worrying about what kind of mood you’re in every day. They’ll hesitate to bring problems and ideas to your attention, because they fear you’ll do something irrational like fire them. Just imagine the hit to a company’s profitability once this kind of fear culture takes root.

A better way to interact is to thank employees for sharing. If you feel your anger rising because you don’t like what you heard, remove yourself from the scene. Wait until you’re able to rationally discuss the topic before you start the conversation again.

Your tone and word choices in meetings, in everyday conversations and in email messages set the standard in your organization. When your employees hear you yelling at one of their colleagues, they figure it’s part of the company culture. Managers might have successfully operated this way decades ago, but there’s a new awareness about leadership behavior. You need that awareness. Before you open you mouth or click the send button, think about what you’re going to say. Choose your words carefully and maintain an upbeat and positive tone.

When you treat team members well, they respond the way you’d hope. They’ll be happier and they’ll work harder.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.