Treating Employees Like Your Kids

Treating Employees Like Your Kids

Because I’m reaching the “vintage” where the most junior
employees I work with are now the ages of my own kids, I’m now recognizing this
management phenomenon in the workplace more than ever before. 

Do you treat your employees like your own kids? 

On the surface it sounds preposterous.  But then again, I treat my own kids pretty well.  I care for them, guide them, give them my precious time and energy, and yes … I love them.  So, why not the same for the employees you work with?  Well, all except that last one. 

“Most of the evil in this world has been carried out by people with good intentions” – T.S. Eliot

Let’s take a look at some behaviors/actions I’ve seen from
the leadership ranks where they treat their employees like their kids, and breakdown
the pros and cons of each action:

You protect them and
don’t let them take risks
– Ever heard the following?  “I’m providing a safety net just in case they
fall”, “I’m keeping the wolves at bay (fighting their battles for them)” or
“I’m making certain they taste success and don’t have to endure any pain of
failure”.  Pro: You are investing time in their success. That’s way better
than a manager who’s not accessible and supportive.  Con:  Most of us learn most by trying, failing,
correcting course and trying again.  This
is the oldest and most proven learning cycle ever.  If they don’t fail then they don’t
learn.  You may be creating a dependency
that will be harmful to them, and to you. 

You consider their
success your success, and vice versa
– Again, shared accountability is a
double-edged sword.  Pro:  It’s great that you
win/lose as a team.  Everyone has a role,
yours is to set the expected outcomes and be there to support them if/when they
need it.  Con:  A wise mentor of mine
once told me, “if you’re leading a parade and no one is behind you, it’s not a
parade”.  Don’t be too bought in.  You can’t be the whole parade.  And if failure is unacceptable because of
your own reputation, that’s going too far.

You are explicit in
what you ask for, and assume they will make the same mistakes you did

We’ve all been there.  You don’t ask
questions, you don’t allow for input. 
You know what you want/need and so you tell them the answer, explicitly.  Pro:  You are giving clear direction.  All employees (particularly those who are
junior or new in their role) really like that. 
Con:  Employees (and your kids) generally like some
level of autonomy and independence.  Give
it to them and then sit back and see what they can deliver.  More often that not, you’ll be pleasantly
surprised.  Really pleasantly
surprised.  You may not like this (I know
I didn’t) but they are smarter than you were at their age.  Don’t limit what they can deliver by what you
were able to deliver.  Provide expected
high level outcomes, then cut the reigns. 

You may have that inner voice of yours telling you “I was a
good parent, I’m being a good boss”.  But
the two are different.  There are things
you can (and should) do for your kids that you shouldn’t do for your
employees.  Remember, you might have to
terminate, suspend or demote an employee. 
Or maybe stack rank each of your employees or place them into a “managed

Do you do that with your kids? 

For the snarky reader who just answered that question in their head with a “h*ll yeah”, shame on you. And, I’ve got a dirty little secret to share with you … that crap isn’t good for your employees either.

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