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Bosses – stop thinking you have to be liked and think about being respected

August 6, 2013

We’ve all had bad days at work. Days when we are not at the top of our game. Days when we’ve missed stuff we should have spotted, been unneccessarily harsh, been unable to see the wood for the trees. But sometimes some people seem to have more off days tham on days. And some people don’t appear to have on days at all.
Sitting at the chef’s table in Maze a few months ago we were in the heart of the working kitchen watching people work whilst we enjoyed ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly caught the head chef talking to one of his staff who was holding a tray of food. I do not know what the issue actually was or what had happened but what I could hear was a refreshing directness from the boss. “It’s not good enough. Exactly what have you done to sort it out?” He wasn’t shouting a la Gordon Ramsey (although it is his restaurant) but it was clear he was angry and what had happened was unacceptable and that this staff member now knew that he was utterly responsible for the cock up and had to ensure it was rectified.
During medical training there were numerous times that Consultants would indulge in ritual public humiliation when I didn’t know something or did something incorrectly. It was awful. Not all Consultants by any means, but enough. I used to feel sick in anticipation. And it made me sharpen my game. It was the last thing I wanted to happen and I knew I had to step up. Similarly, this underling in the restaurant could have been in no doubt he needed to improve if he was going to keep his job.
In contrast, I often see poor work performance allowed to pass by seemingly unnoticed. And I’m not talking in state run institutitons where people stereotypically think it is rife. No, successful private comapanies. Yet they let some people get away being shoddy and lazy. Repeatedly. Until people just shrug and say “Yes, he’s crap isn’t he?” but just accept it.
Is it because we don’t like confrontation? I do not manage anyone so don’t have these dilemmas, but I think it is often because bosses want their team to like them. I mean really like them. They don’t want to upset their team or make people think they are unreasonable or nasty. Which is commendable.
But as a boss surely you have to distinguish between being liked and being respected? Great if you can do both of course, but I think the respect is more vital to work relationships than being liked. Because whilst they are tippitoeing around the underperformer, the rest of the team are getting pissed off carrying this passenger and will start to resent the boss for not doing anything about them. It is demotivating to have a slacker as part of a team as others gradually start to question why they bother to pull their finger out if others get away with doing nothing and it becomes a vicious, lazy circle.
In contrast a high performing team engenders greater performance from each other as everyone strives not to be the weakest member. And the leader of that team will be not only be respected but worshipped for creating such a fantastic working environment.
The other possible fear that managers have is that there will be a complaint against them or the lazy worker will go off sick with stress and then sue them for unfair dismissal or somesuch. I agree complaints are stressful, but unless you have been a bully or completely unreasonable then you are likely to be able to show evidence of the incapability and poor performance. And if you cant then that reflects poorly on your capability as a manager.

Then let’s say they do sue the company. Firstly most people don’t and of those that do, many will not be found to have been unfairly dismissed. Then there is the money. I am not a lawyer but my understanding is an absolute max of about £85K. Worth it I’d’ve thouight not to have a drain on morale and performance. And if you don’t dismiss them you’ll be paying them the equivalent to do nothing well….

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4 Responses to “Bosses – stop thinking you have to be liked and think about being respected”


  1. Great post. Couldn’t have said it better. There is much truth in being respected versus being liked.

    I’ll take respect of being liked any day of the week.

  2. Sarah N Says:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself – hope the right people are reading it.


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