Employee Satisfaction at Your Own Peril

In trying to hire and retain the best people, organizations are focusing on employee satisfaction. One way to satisfy employees is by projecting warmth, rather than leading with toughness and skill; however, there are downsides that come with aiming to please your employees. Of course, all leaders should act with kindness and empathy, but sometimes leaders fall into certain traps that can have negative influences. For example, managers may allow misbehaving employees to get away with inappropriate behavior, or they might avoid confrontation at all costs because they fear negative interactions may upset workers. Such managers are approaching leadership with a “people-pleaser” strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not a strategy for success.

The “people-pleaser” will work at all costs to make sure they keep a reputation as a kind and caring boss. Leaders fall into this trap because they want their staff to like them. There is a big difference, however, between being liked by your employees and being taken advantage of by them. When managers are lenient with misbehaving employees, those employees may become convinced that they can do whatever they want, since they will not be confronted. 

This fear of being disliked and disappointing employees stems from a fear of employee attrition. Leaders do not want to hold employees accountable because they fear losing them to a different organization. It’s important to focus on employee satisfaction and engagement, but if you are doing so at the expense of what is most important from a business perspective, then you are taking it too far. 

One of the biggest issues that comes with employee satisfaction is the avoidance of tough conversations, including helpful situations where employees may need honest and productive feedback. If leaders cannot have honest conversations with employees about their work performance and areas of improvement, then there will be no growth and the company will suffer.

In Dare to Lead, Brene Brown explains that there are clear consequences to avoiding such conversations, including a lack of clarity, diminishing trust and engagement, and an increase in passive-aggressive behavior. It’s a frustrating cycle: you avoid tough conversations so that you can keep useful employees, but that avoidance results in a stagnation of the growth of the very employees you are trying to retain. Now the employees are staying, but their talents are diminishing.

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to learn this balancing act. Be kind, but take authority. Create trust, but don’t let people take advantage of you. It’s challenging, but having employees who both like and respect you will create a work environment that encourages healthy change, growth and retention. 

Do you ever find yourself in the position of a people-pleaser? Are you struggling with the balance of being a kind, yet authoritative leader? I’d love to hear about your experiences, and what you’ve done to counteract these issues. You can reach me via my website, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *