March 6, 2017

Losing Control? 4 Tips for Staying In Charge as a Manager


Imagine this scenario. We’ve heard similar stories many times when talking to clients of ours:

Mike is the manager of a local coffee shop that’s completely gone haywire. Even though his staff count is pretty small, he has lost all control of his employees. How did this happen?

Mike made every effort to approach his job not as a manager, but as a friend. Unfortunately, this backfired, leading to many of his employees taking advantage of his politeness and leniency. They pretty much walk all over him; breaking his rules, coming into work late all the time and making a mess of the place every day.

Mike considered simply firing the unruly employees and starting from scratch, but the costs of finding new employees and training them to jump in would surely put his coffee shop in a huge hole.

Is there hope for Mike and his coffee shop? Sure there is.

It’s never too late to regain control of your workplace as a manager. Here’s what you need to do.

Start During the Hiring Process

Don’t simply wait and see if your employees are going to be behaving the way you expect them to behave. You need to start setting expectations for them right away. The hiring process should be used to not only identify the right people for your business in terms of skills and culture but to set goals and objectives for them right away.

Be very open and clear with every new employee about what is expected of them and what type of company culture you want to promote. To make sure that you are onboarding new team members the right way, it’s not enough to tell them what tasks you expect them to perform. You need to be able to let them know right away what type of behavior you want to see and what type of actions will not be tolerated.

Be sure to speak very openly with your new employees about their jobs, how they fit into your team and what their specific roles will be. Make sure to set goals and provide them with a roadmap that will highlight and clearly state what is expected of them, both as a worker and as a teammate.

Many inexperienced managers and budding small business owners tend to take a “play it by ear” approach when it comes to educating their staff members and creating a positive and productive company culture. In reality, these policies and expectations need to be predefined well before you start hiring employees.

According to a study recently performed by Glint, new hires who reported a bad onboarding experience were less engaged and less likely to recommend their company to others as a good place to work. The less engaged and motivate your employees are, the more they will act out and defy you.

manager speaking with employees in a casual setting

Establish Clear Procedures, Rules and Boundaries

No matter how “cool” or “modern” your business is, rules and regulations need to exist. Even the most relaxed startup and small business cultures need to have clearly defined behavioral boundaries in order to succeed.

Make sure that you have created a document or training program that clearly defines not only your workplaces rules but the consequences that can result from breaking them.

If you’re having a problem with employees coming in late or leaving early all the time, then install some type of employee time clock monitoring system so that you can enforce your rules properly. By having all of the data on the clock in and clock out times at your disposal, confronting your employees about their poor time and attendance behavior is both much easier and effective.

Simply having rules will not help you maintain control of your workforce if you are not enforcing them and holding employees accountable for violating them. Like Mike, many new business owners will do everything they can possibly do in order to avoid being the bad guy in the eyes of their employees.

This type of approach is inherently self-defeating. If your only goal as a manager is to avoid stepping on employee’s toes, then you’re never going to be seen as an authority figure by your team, no matter how many rules you set.

However, when the time does come to reprimand an employee, this needs to be done in a professional manner as well. If your staff members are coming into work late on a regular basis, displaying behavior that isn’t acceptable for work or breaking any of your other company rules, you need to set up a time to speak to them privately and let them know that this behavior won’t be tolerated or deemed acceptable and that there will be unavoidable consequences of these actions.

Don’t Ignore Troublesome Employees

Small business managers are sometimes very hesitant to let go of employees who are unruly and underperforming, simply because they don’t want to deal with the process of having to find replacements. Sometimes managers tend to try and wait it out in the hope that these employees will make a turnaround on their own, but that rarely ever happens.

There are times when letting go of troublesome employees right away is the best thing to do. But if you are looking to give them a second chance to prove to you that they really want to keep the job, you need to stop ignoring the negative influence they are having on your workplace and speak to them about it.

If the employee simply lacks direction and motivation, then making sure that you are clearly defining, communicating and enforcing the aforementioned procedures and rules that you have set. If the problems persist, you’re going to have to cut ties with that employee and search for a replacement.

The time and money you spend finding a good employee to replace the bad one might be significant, but it will look like pocket change compared to the money you’ll waste by keeping the poor employee on board for a prolonged period of time.

office worker making notes on reports

Conduct Performance Reviews

One of the best methods of staying in control of your workplace is keeping the lines of communication between you and your staff open and constantly evolving. Employees desire feedback. They want to know what they are doing well and where they could stand to improve.

By scheduling and performing employee reviews, you will be able to provide employees with the feedback they demand and help guide staff members that tend to need more mentoring and direction to succeed.

The employee review process does not have to be an incredibly formal one either. You can set up very informal meetings over coffee every several months to simply talk about each employee’s general performance.

Make sure to set and track goals for them as well. By doing this, you can encourage professional development and make it easier for your employees to experience a sense of accomplishment once work goals have been achieved.

A big part of the process of maintaining control over your workplace is establishing yourself as not only an authority figure but as a mentor and teacher as well. Employee performance evaluations can go a long way in confirming your status as both a leader and someone who cares about their personal and professional development.