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7 Things A Boss Should Never Ask Employees To Do

Posted by Ian Davies on 4 December 2013

They’re bosses. They’re in charge. They have the power. But while some tasks are obviously out of bounds, others are less so — which is why bosses also shouldn’t use their powers to:

1. Make employees feel they should attend “social” events.

No matter where they happen to be, whenever employees are with people they work with, it’s like they’re at work. Whatever happens there doesn’t stay there; it comes back to work. Embarrassing behaviour aside, some people simply don’t like to socialise outside work and that’s their choice. Unless a boss does something to make them feel they should attend, then what was probably intended as a positive get-together becomes anything but.
And keep in mind that “pressure” can be as simple as saying, “Hey, Joel, I hope you can come to the Christmas party…” While all you may be doing is letting Joel know you enjoy his company, if he doesn’t want to attend, this is what he hears: “Joel, if you don’t come to the party I will be disappointed in you.” The best outside social events have themes that work for employees. Maybe it’s a kids’ Christmas party. Or a picnic at a theme park. Or taking anyone who wants to go to a sporting event. The right move is to choose one or two broad themes that cover the majority of employees interests, and let that be that.
Bottom line: never try to force camaraderie or togetherness. It doesn’t work.

2. Don’t do the “support my kid’s fundraiser” thing either.

Bosses should never make employees feel that what they do with their money is the company’s business.

3. Don’t ask an employee to do something another employee was asked to do.

You assign Jenny a project. Then you find out Jenny hasn’t finished and probably won’t. You’re frustrated with Jenny, and you really need to get it done… so you plop it on Sarah’s desk because you know Sarah will come through. And she will, but she’ll also resent it. She might be gratified to know you feel you can count on her, but she definitely won’t be thrilled about having to pull another person’s weight. Leave Sarah alone. Deal with Jenny.

4. Cause employees to go without food at mealtime hours.

Say you go to a 5 p.m. wedding. If there’s a reception afterwards you expect a meal to be served, right? Bosses shouldn’t invite employees out for after-work drinks at 6 p.m. The time makes it a company dinner, not company drinks. Lunchtime meetings are the same. If it’s a working lunch, provide food. Some employees go out to eat, so if there’s no food they’re stuck. And always err on the side of caution. If you order pizza for a group and you run out, some employees won’t remember they had two great slices, they’ll only remember they wanted a third… and you were too “cheap” to provide it.

5. Ask employees to evaluate themselves.

An employee who does a great job always question the need for self-evaluations. Doesn’t the boss already know they do a great job? On the flip side, employees who do a poor job rarely rate themselves as poor, which turns what could have been a constructive feedback session into a potential argument. Self-evaluations may sound empowering or inclusive but are almost always a waste of time. If it’s feedback you want, ask the employee what you can do to help further develop their skills or their career. That’s information every employee will be glad to share.

6. Ask employees to evaluate their peers.

I’ve done peer evaluations. They’re no fun. “Peer” means “work with.” Who wants to criticise people they need to work with? Claim evaluations are confidential all you want, but people always figure out who said what about whom. Bosses should know employee performance inside-out. If they don’t, they should never use employee peers as a crutch. Great bosses dig in, pay attention, and truly know the people they lead.


7. Ask employees to do something they don’t do.

Not something a boss “wouldn’t” do, but that a boss doesn’t do. Would is irrelevant. Actions are everything. So lead by example. Once in a while, help out on the crappiest jobs. Not every time, but definitely some of the time. Employees may never care as much as their boss, but they will care a lot more — and will be willing to do whatever it takes — when they know their boss is also willing to do whatever it takes. Once in a while, “all hands on deck” really should mean “all.” Think it doesn’t matter? It’s been twenty-five years but I still remember the plant manager helping us load trucks at midnight in an attempt to meet a critical customer deadline. We worked our butts off because we weren’t just told how much it mattered — we could see how much it mattered.

Author: Ian Davies
Tags: Advice

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