Are You Treating Your Employees Like Kids? Maybe You Should.

Being the boss can be as thrilling as it is frustrating. As tiring as it is rewarding. As inspiring as it is terrifying. In other words, welcome to parenthood.

Think about your own parents. What did they do to bring out the best in you? Where did they fall short? Chances are, their parenting styles shaped you into the person you are today.

When it comes to managing employees, we can definitely learn from the vast amounts of research and literature on how best to do so. But instead of hitting the business books, we’re going to take look at Psychology Today’s top 10 tips for parenting to see how they stack up.

Ready? Let’s do this thing.

Top 10 Parenting Tips (from Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.)

1.) Identify your child’s strengths. You can use these strengths to build your child’s self-esteem, helping to provide the confidence he or she needs to tackle whatever seems difficult. Children will be more willing to listen and understand how to correct adverse behaviors if their dignity is intact.

Bingo! Hopefully you’ve done a good job of this during the hiring process by carefully creating an accurate job description and asking all of the right questions. Sometimes, though, you end up with a great employee in a wrong position. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. Putting that person in a position to succeed will make everyone happier.

2.) Punishing a child isn’t as effective as using praise and rewards. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, find ways to assist your child in developing to his or her full potential. When encouraged, children will acquire talents to compensate for any deficiencies. 

True again! If you have employees who are underperforming, don’t rush to call them out in front of their peers or put them on probation. Recognize what they’re doing well and have an honest conversation about what things might be holding them back and how you can help develop their skills and reach their goals.

3.) Avoid negative emotional reactions, such as anger, sarcasm, and ridicule. If your child has problems with control, negativity will only make him or her feel worse. Use short and mild suggestions to remind your child to focus.

This is always a good rule for workplace etiquette, especially when dealing with employees. And while short, mild suggestions may or may not work, strategic re-directing questions can get your team members back on track. Questions like, “What do you need to make this work better?” or “How can we get this project going again?” will re-focus negative energy toward problem solving solutions.

4.) Don’t compare siblings. If a child thinks his or her brother or sister is favored, it can create a rivalry that may last the rest of their lives and cause problems in your family. Make sure your kids know that they are loved equally.

Ding! Ding! Ding! If this is ringing bells for you, it’s for good reason. Comparing or ranking employees may sound like a good idea in theory, but it can definitely cause problems in your work family. You don’t need to declare unconditional love for everyone on your team, but you do need to make sure all staff members know that their work is valued and important.

5.) Get support if and when you need it. Life with children is a roller coaster ride. Understanding that there will be negative aspects to child rearing and getting some professional advice when necessary will help you maintain your sanity and enjoy the experience.

Expert advice… Take it! Even the best leaders need help sometimes. Make sure you have professional mentors and advisors you can call when things get rough. Whether it’s a fellow business owner, HR professional, legal counsel, or some other trusted advisor, surround yourself with people who care about you and the success of your business.

6.) Children need positive attention. If they do not receive positive attention from family, they may choose to seek out negative attention. This is because negative attention is still attention, and any attention is better than being ignored. Remember to communicate with your child.

Remember that guy in the basement with the red stapler? The one who was totally forgotten? Let’s just say it didn’t end well. Giving employees the freedom and autonomy to do their jobs is a good thing, but failing to check in with them, answer questions, and tell them about things that are happening in the organization will make them feel uninvolved, unsettled and unappreciated. It could also lead to negative behaviors and consequences.

7.) Monitor your child’s use of the Internet. The stuff kids can access in cyberspace can be dangerous. Get a program that will let you see the web sites they visit and monitor their chats.

Chances are your employees are old enough to know the dangers of the Internet, but that doesn’t stop some of them from putting your company at risk. Defining your social media policy and setting clear guidelines about how your brand is communicated online have become increasingly important. One bad post or tweet can do a ton of damage. Make sure your employees know what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not.

8.) Accept that life changes when you have a child. Lazy Saturday mornings in bed are replaced by soccer games and recitals. Remember, you still need to make time for each other – date nights and weekend getaways are important for your relationship.

Ah, yes. How life changes when people are depending on you. If your business isn’t successful, nobody wins. And if your leadership team is too busy in the day-to-day grind to spend quality time thinking about the vision, goals, processes, and direction of the company, it’s going to be nearly impossible to innovate and improve. Get your leadership together regularly to foster a healthy, team mentality and drive continued success.  

9.) Parent by example. Think of your kids as little bipedal copy machines who will mimic everything you do. If you behave badly, you are giving them permission to act in the same ways. Check in with yourself, and don’t lose it in front of the children.

Yes. Yes. 1,000 times yes. Gone are the days of “Do as I say, not as I do.” As a leader or manager, you set the tone for everyone in your organization. Clearly identify and articulate the company values and demonstrate them in all you say and do. When things get frustrating, remain calm and lead the team through it. The example you set will be reflected back to you. Make sure it’s a good one.

10.) Don’t give up on your child, ever! All of your child’s problems can be worked through with humor, goodwill, and perseverance. With proper parental support, even the most troublesome teens can become amazing people.

Ever? As in, never ever? While attempting to work through issues with humor and goodwill is a pretty darn good strategy, this is one area where parenting and managing are, in fact, different. If you’ve got an employee who is clearly causing problems in your organization, you can and should let them go. And you should do it without guilt. Troublesome employees aren’t necessarily bad people. Often, they’re just not a good fit. Set them free so they can find an organization that feels more like home.

It’s a huge challenge

But it can also be hugely rewarding.

You’ve taken on a great responsibility agreeing to nurture and develop your employees. There will be good days and bad days. Days where you’re brimming with pride and days where you’re intensely disappointed. Know that it’s all part of the journey. Seek out advice as needed, and do your best to keep a sense of humor.

If all else fails, try milk and cookies. It never hurts.


Photo by rawpixel