Are you being too nice to your employees? Happy employees are productive employees, so naturally you want to keep your employees as happy as possible while they’re at work. But it’s entirely possible to be too nice of a boss – and it can get you in some hot water. No one wants to be the bad guy at work, but experts say that being too nice to employees can hinder them from progressing in their career in the long term, and can even cause legal problems for employers.
Some employers operate by “softening the blow” when it comes to employee feedback in order to avoid uncomfortable situations or confrontations. Maybe they want to spare an employee’s feelings during a performance review, or maybe they just don’t want to be seen as the “mean boss.” Perhaps they fear being accused of favoritism if they are harder on one employee than they are on others. Sometimes employers even opt to blame economic trouble for having to let an employee go, rather than confronting the employee on their subpar performance. These nice guy employers might find themselves in legal trouble as a direct result of being too nice when letting an underperforming employee go.
Quite often, in discrimination claims brought on by employees, their age, gender, disability, or race had nothing to do with their termination. However, if an employer avoids having difficult conversations about work performance, and the employee claims that they never received a bad review, the burden of proof falls on the employer to defend their decision. Without any “bad” performance reviews to validate the claim that the termination was indeed performance-based, that discrimination case will be hard to fight. Suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a good idea to be the nice guy anymore.
Instead of trying to be nice and spare feelings, you should be clear and consistent with expectations. There is still room to be caring, but having difficult conversations benefits both the employer and the employee in the long run. It’s a delicate balance between being too nice and being too mean. Here are four ways you can give employees feedback that fall perfectly in the middle:
- Constructive Criticism: Not everyone can be the perfect employee right off the bat. If you notice poor performance, or a mistake, address it as soon as you catch it. Approach it constructively, letting the employee know you appreciate their effort, explaining where they went wrong, and sharing a solution to help them fix the issue.
- Check in Consistently: Don’t wait for your employees to make a mistake that could jeopardize their job or impact the company negatively. Check in often, offer your availability for any questions or issues, and offer feedback.
- Communicate Clearly: When or if performance becomes an issue, be clear on what the issue is, and create a performance plan to improve it. If no improvement is made and a termination is necessary, present the employee with a short written summary of the reason(s) for termination, keeping a copy for yourself of course. Clear communication through the entire process is key to avoiding any misunderstandings that could lead to litigation.
- Connect Compassionately: Being less nice doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have compassion for employees. While life outside of work should not affect an employee’s performance at work, sometimes it does. It’s the employer’s job to listen to the employee, evaluate the situation, and offer the employee the tools they need to continue to perform as expected.
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NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of their clients.