As a project manager, I’m in a rather unique position when it comes to observing the dynamics of how people interact with each other on a team. I get to see what annoys the workers about the boss, and vice-versa. And the thing is, I notice the same incidents happening over and over again, across teams and industries, which leads me to believe that they’re common human problems, not specific to any one person. Of course, if you knew you were annoying people, you wouldn’t be doing it. So without further ado, here’s three ways you’re annoying your subordinates, and how to fix them. 

Unclear communication

What you’re doing:

This is easily the most common problem that comes up in teamwork, outsourcing, and delegating. Everyone is guilty of it from time to time–including myself! It’s incredibly easy to forget that not everyone else lives in your head and knows what you know. When you get frustrated because something isn’t done right, go back to the original communication (in your head, if you have to) and ask yourself how clear it was what they needed to do. Oftentimes, what happens is that we think we’re clear, and they think they’re clear, but our definition of clear and their definition of clear are two entirely different things.

What you should do instead:

Obviously, you shouldn’t talk to anyone on your team like they’re an idiot. That said, when you write out instructions or give them verbally, you need to review the instructions and ask yourself: is this stated so simply that a random person off the street could understand what I mean? If not, you might want to think about redoing your instructions. It’s better for something to be stated too simply than be stated vaguely and risk things not being done correctly.

Devaluing their work

What you’re doing:

Nobody likes to feel like their work isn’t important. And most of the time, people don’t set out to intentionally devalue others’ work. But when you only see the end result of someone else’s work, it can be easy to assume that it didn’t take them that long or that it’s simple, and when you have that attitude, it’s going to come through in your communications and make your team members feel unimportant. Another way you might be unintentionally devaluing someone else’s work is by treating them like a lackey and giving them jobs that are far below their skill set–an extreme example of this would be sending someone to get coffee when their job is programming and coding.

The last but potentially most annoying way you might be devaluing someone’s work is by devaluing their input. There’s not much that annoys a service provider more than someone asking for their opinion, the service provider taking the time and effort to put together an educated response, and then their educated response being ignored entirely.

What you should do instead:

These are all simple solutions:

  • Go out of your way to express appreciation for the work of your teammates and subordinates, especially when a job is well done. (For bonus points, try and learn a little bit of what they actually did to get the work done–you’ll probably appreciate it even more after that.)
  • Make sure you don’t fall into the bad habit of treating people like lackeys or giving them work far beneath them.
  • Don’t ask for someone’s input if you aren’t interested in actually hearing it and making an informed decision based off of it and the other resources available to you.

Interrupting their work

What you’re doing:

One bad habit that teams get into all too often is dealing with things as they come up. This looks like:

  1. Something comes up that needs to be addressed quickly.
  2. An email gets sent out to team members telling them to drop everything and work on this problem ASAP.
  3. Team members drop what they’re doing and work on the emergency item.
  4. Since team members keep delaying the work they should be working on, the cycle continues – their delayed work sets up another emergency for next week.

This also shows up as calling them repeatedly during the workday without warning, or stopping by their office without warning (if you all work in the same office).

What you should do instead:

The best way to deal with this problem is to set up workflow and communication systems so that there’s no reason anyone would need to have their workday interrupted with fires to put out. Once you set up those preventative measures, then it’s time to set and enforce new work boundaries–for example, no unexpected calls or office drop-ins between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. People need uninterrupted work time to get into the flow state, which is where the best quality work is created (and created more quickly!), but they can’t do that if fires are consistently springing up or they’re being interrupted on a regular basis.

Now that you're not annoying your subordinates, you might find this useful: How to Turn Yourself Into A Powerful Leader

Featured photo credit: tim caynesvia Flickr

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