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When I was running my last business, my best employee came into my office to resign. I was shocked, since just the day before, I had given her a glowing review and a big raise. She told me that she wasn't satisfied with her job and had found a better opportunity. Was our entire conversation the day before a lie? Which employees could I really trust?
Every small-business owner needs to realize that it's normal for employees to keep things from them. What separates a mediocre leader from a great leader is how you handle them. Here are 10 things your employees will never (ever) tell you, and what to do about them:
1. "I'm not really loyal to your company." While this may be hard to accept, most employees, rightfully so, will look out for their own best interests.
What to do about it: Get used to it and plan with this fact in mind. Keep checking to ensure that their career goals are aligned with your company's goals. This is the only way to retain any employee.
2. "You don’t pay me enough." No matter what they say, employees all want to make more money and aren't satisfied with their current compensation. Some would switch jobs for just 5 percent more pay.
What to do about it: Pay your best people above market rate to retain them, and fund this by firing the worst people who aren't getting their jobs done.
3. "I'm jealous of your success." They say to themselves that they work just as hard as you and should be making as much money.
What to do about it: As your financial success grows, give your best people more compensation. If they want to take the same risk as you, support their decision to leave and start their own company.
4. "I don't like our customers." As a result, they don't serve them well. This winds up being a “lose-lose” proposition for customer and company.
What to do about it: Poll employees annually to find out who the best and worst customers are. Plan to get rid of the worst ones that actually cost your company money by stressing out your employees.
5. "You don’t know what some employees actually do." They think you're out of touch and don’t understand what people do all day. You also don’t know who should be fired.
What to do about it: Walk around and find out. Ask who the best performers are. Eventually, you'll figure out who the worst people are, and when you do, you should fire them ASAP.
6. "I hate your meetings." They are tired of how much you like to hear yourself talk.
What to do about it: Shut up and listen more. Let others run meetings according to a predetermined agenda.
7. "Stop calling me outside of work and expecting an immediate answer." They think you don’t respect work boundaries and everything is urgent. As a result, they can never turn off work.
What to do about it: Before calling or emailing, think about whether it can wait until tomorrow at work. Remember, if everything is urgent, employees will never be able to see the things that are really important.
8. "Your latest 'team building' exercise was meaningless." It may make you feel good, but it does nothing for teamwork back at their desks.
What to do about it: Ask employees how they would like to spend more time with their team inside and outside of work, then have them plan those activities without you.
9. "Ease up on the pressure. It's not helping me get more done." This is not to say you're an intentional bully, but you put too much pressure on people to get things done at work. You may even unknowingly berate them in a public work setting.
What to do about it: Set objectives and inspect results. Privately talk about poor employee performance except in the most extreme circumstances.
10. "Stop taking all the credit for yourself." They work hard and never get credit for the company’s success.
What to do about it: Remember that it’s your company, so you don’t need accolades, just profits. Always give away credit to others inside the company. This should be done at least weekly.
Photo: Getty Images
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