What gets your HR department’s goat differs from organization to organization—yet, in a broad sense, any form of behaviour that indicates disrespect calls for a reprimand, as do remarks about gender or race. And if you are the boss, looking for long-term harmony and productivity, make sure you avoid these kinds of situations and behaviour at all costs.
1 Undermining employee confidence
A harsh comment from a boss can reduce the employee’s sense of self-worth. Madhavi Lall, head of human resources, India and South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, says the bank advises senior executives to never tell employees: “You should work better”. “Managers need to communicate expectations clearly,” she adds. Also, saying “Just do as I say” or “How dare you question my judgement” is to be avoided. “Good leaders never need to threaten to get their way,” explains Lall. Saying “this is how we’ve always done things” just crushes your team member’s initiative, says Lall. She adds that subtle pressure to work 24x7, such as “I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?”, is a good way to burn out your employees.
Low on confidence: Good leaders never need to threaten.
When one is spending 8 hours and more at the workplace, sensitivity to your teammates is critical to ensuring a pleasant work environment. Sonika Chaturvedi, director, human resources (HR), Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, says a boss needs to be careful about insensitive remarks such as: “You don’t deserve to be here”; “You will not go anywhere in life”; and certainly not abusive comments.
Rajesh Save, vice-president, human resources, Syntel, Mumbai, an IT and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) solutions firm, stresses undermine employees have to explain their behaviour to HR. At Syntel, says Save, bosses cannot say “This will never work” when an employee presents an idea, no matter how unrealistic or irrelevant it may be. “We discourage heads of sections from telling employees ‘Do what you are asked to do’. We believe learning stops when employees stop questioning a process,” he adds.
Deepak Kaistha, director, Planman Consulting, New Delhi, says bosses should refrain from saying “I don’t have anyone on my team I can delegate to”. As the manager of a group of any size, it’s your job to create a team to which you can delegate. So work to build your team’s confidence and experience.
“I meant to have that done, but didn’t get to it”—that too is a huge no-no statement, especially coming from a boss. Kaistha emphasizes that a boss’ reliability is instrumental in building trust, which is critical to building a strong and productive team. Tread carefully as a boss because you have the power to shatter an employee’s confidence with careless remarks.
2 Being biased
What could be more demotivating for an employee than a boss who favours some employees over others? Be impartial. CSS Corp., Chennai, a global information and communications technology company, has clearly spelt this out to its managers. Kumar Ekambaram, chief people officer, says the company instructs its senior managers to work to an individual’s strengths and delegate tasks accordingly. It also asks bosses not to let subordinates wait unnecessarily for approvals, feedback or inputs. “Top management or senior people sometimes thrust opinions on their subordinates. We do not want personal differences to reflect on professional feedback,” says Ekambaram.
3 Humiliating team members in public
The most easily acknowledged yet most often ignored rule is to not berate employees in the full glare of the team. Raising one’s voice at colleagues and subordinates, no matter what the provocation, is just not on, says Shourya K. Chakravarty, senior vice-president and head, HR Aptech Ltd, Mumbai, a global learning solutions company. “We advise higher-ups in the organization to use accepted means of expressing dissent; refrain from using foul language, even in jest; to not forward mails which have any cultural bias and never let out company information unless it is explicitly authorized by the head of the organization. Employees are discouraged from speaking ill of colleagues and doubting the credence of the boss.”
A boss should also not advise an employee in public. “It is desirable to advise and counsel employees in private,” says Prakash V. Bhide, president (corporate HR), JK Organization, New Delhi. “Bosses should practise a transformational leadership style rather than transactional leadership style. They need to share their vision and create passion in the team for achieving the same. Walking the talk and being a mentor are the two essential qualities of the successful leader in future.”
4 Making provocative personal remarks
If your boss keeps telling you things such as “I pay your salary”, that’s not acceptable at most places. Divakar Kaza, president, human resource development, Lupin Ltd., Mumbai, says bosses should be careful about making remarks related to salary (it is perceived as misuse of power), performance reviews (seen as loose talk), work-life balance and personal issues (a good boss should not say “Did you have to plan your leave at this time of the year?”) and gender and race (“You are not flexible because of your personal priorities...”). Managers or team leaders must learn to accept criticism, refrain from adopting an indolent attitude at work (“That’s not my job!” or “Was I hired to do this?”) and avoid bragging (“This job is so simple... Anyone can do it”).
5 Behaving unscrupulously
Whether in the office or outside, a boss is being watched by employees, says Elango R., chief human resources officer, Mphasis, an IT services company based in Bangalore. “We tell our higher-ups that they are always on stage where the employees are concerned—be it in office or outside. A boss cannot ask the staff to do any personal favours or run errands. Employees are advised not to do things like giving proxy attendance, fake bills and hold two jobs at a time—like selling insurance or products while working at the workplace.”
Dishonesty can damage your professional reputation. When honesty is shortchanged at the workplace, HR departments come down heavily on the individual. Affirms Shalini Kamath, managing director, HR and corporate communications, Ambit Group, Mumbai: “It is a grave offence to fudge expense bills—be it the employee or boss.” She says they also ask managers not to convey negative messages without spelling out how they can be corrected; bosses also cannot commit to promotions/a salary increase. The company also does not allow employees and managers to give gifts to each other and discourages lavish gifts to any of its clients. If clients give gifts to any manager or employee at Ambit, the gifts are pooled and shared with the administration.
And you thought there were rules only for some!
Illustration by Raajan/Mint
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