Don’t make them cry

If you’ve been in the corporate or business arena for any period of time, chances are that someone has done something to you that was unthinking or insensitive, making you feel like you didn’t matter. This can be particularly upsetting if that someone is your boss. I shed a lot of (silent) tears because of some of the insensitive ways I was treated by some managers:


  • The first day I returned from maternity leave, I walked into my office and found someone else sitting at my desk. My manager had forgotten to let me know that an office had opened up across town where my client base was, and my stuff was packed into boxes and shipped to that spot in my absence.


  • Another manager reorganized his responsibilities while I was on Christmas break. While at a Christmas party, I learned from a friend that I would be reporting to someone new when I got back to work. Similar to the situation above, the manager “forgot” to let me know that I would be coming back to a big change.


  • A new boss made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t interested in the work I was responsible for. When we had meetings it was obvious he wasn’t listening by picking up the phone (and often talking at length to caller while I sat waiting for our meeting to resume) or interrupting our meetings for someone else who came to the office.


I’m sure you get the idea; there are other examples, but I’ll spare you. These incidents were all wake-up calls that it was time to move on, and I did just that. In each case, a sincere and heartfelt apology would have made me feel better but all I heard were excuses.


I never felt that these managers were horrible people; they were just insensitive. They were unaware of the impact of their actions on myself and others.


Stop. Think. You are a leader, and leaders make others feel like they matter by:


Communicating more than you think you need to: You may not communicate things that seem insignificant to you but they might be important to others. Even if those you lead matter to you, your actions can make them believe otherwise. Err on the side of over-communicating to the people who are impacted by your actions.


Listening: Do you remember a time that you felt you weren’t listened to? If so, you know how important it is. Turn and face the person you are listening to, look them in the eyes, and get rid of distractions. Listening to them is one of the most important things you can do.


Appreciating: Make sure that you consistently tell those you lead that you appreciate the work they are doing and you appreciate them too. The next time you do something insensitive, your gratefulness will help to smooth things over.


Pay attention to actions and decisions you make that might matter to others. When you make people feel like they are important by communicating, listening and appreciating them, they become invested in your leadership and your organization. That’s what leaders do.


Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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