How To Avoid Stifling Your Employees

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One survey found that about two-thirds of employees feel stifled at work.

That’s a lot of people that feel suffocated or hovered over on the job.

Usually the focus is on the stifling of creativity and innovation. But it could also be for seemingly less creative work. Stifling leads to stress, which often leads to poor performance, anxiety and a host of other side effects.

As an employer, you likely know that leading a team requires all kinds of balances. One balance is making sure things get done while avoiding the kind of stifling that affects performance.

If you’re getting the sense that you’re stifling your team, here are a few tips for getting things back to harmony…

#1. Goal + Guidelines + Autonomy

When you’re the owner or manager it’s easy to get lost in the goal of the company. You’re thinking about the goal and what you want to accomplish all the time.

It’s easy to think that others know the goal. But if there is an issue with performance the cause could be employees not having a clear understanding.

Communicate the goal to the team.

Then provide guidelines for accomplishing the goal. An example of a guideline that most companies have is that they want to achieve a certain sales goal, but they won’t do anything illegal to accomplish it.

Provide the goal. Set guidelines. Then let your team use their skills to find ways to achieve it.

#2. Privacy

One key aspect of a stifling culture is a lack of privacy. It’s one of the most important elements of human nature. But in today’s world there is a lot that isn’t private. That includes employees that feel that their boss or employer wants to know everything about their lives, including their digital lives.

Privacy usually stems from trust. And it really goes back to the hiring stage. If you’re hiring the right people, you should be able to trust them and respect their privacy in all aspects. Even when they’re in your office or using company property to accomplish tasks.

#3. Strengths + Weaknesses

One area that can lead to stifling is having someone in a position that is a weakness area for them.

Obviously we can all improve at certain things. We can learn new skills.

But most people have a specific set of strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to each of us to learn what they are for ourselves. It’s also important for a manager to learn strengths and weaknesses for each employee.

You want to put employees in areas of strength as much as possible. People are more likely to improve at their strengths than they are in their weaknesses.

And the more they succeed and improve, the more likely you are to trust them to be on their own.

#4. Improve Training

If you’re having to hover over your team, it could be a sign that there are issues with the training process. Employees might be getting thrown into the fire too soon. This can lead to micromanagement.

Look at what you control…

You control the hiring. You control the training. See if there is a better way to get employees up to speed and performing at a high level so you can take your hands off and let them do their job.

#5. Promote Your Most Trusted Lieutenant

Hovering over employees could be a sign that you’re in charge of too much. You might be stressed and taking on too much responsibility.

If you identify this as an issue, look for the people on your team that have strengths in areas that you control. Then promote these people to take over some of your tasks.

Maybe sales is your strong point. You can continue to leads the sales team. But promote someone with strong marketing skills and have them lead the marketing efforts. Connect with that one person for updates, but give the marketing team autonomy to make things happen without your daily oversight.

Final Thoughts

You know that a stifling culture isn’t good. But if you suspect that your company has one, there are certainly things you can do. The situation probably didn’t happen overnight. The solution may not be quick. But if you examine what you control, who you are and try the tips here, you can probably get things back on the right track.

Dayne Shuda
Dayne Shuda
Dad, husband, golfer, and bow hunter. Owner of Ghost Blog Writers.