Unless you’ve been extremely lucky, you’ve experienced what being in a bad workplace feels like. Working in a hostile environment decreases morale, efficiency, and drags the whole company down. If you’re now in a position to be hiring others, you may be wondering how to create a great work environment.
So how can you make sure you create the best place possible to work? If you’re putting serious thought and effort into treating your employees well, that’s a great start.
1) Focus On Who You Hire
There’s nothing more important than finding the right people. With the right people, guiding the ship is easy. With the wrong people, it’s practically impossible not to crash into the rocks. There are a few ways to select the right people and weed out the wrong ones. They all involve being direct and to the point.
- Look For A Fit With The Company Culture: A flashy, bold person may seem the most exciting in interviews, but if your work requires tons of collaboration and sensitive listening, they may not be right. Whoever you pick needs to work with the existing team, they won’t exist in a bubble.
- Make Expectations As Clear As Possible: Don’t leave job searchers in the dark. Let them know what the day-to-day is like, so they can accurately tell you if they’re the right fit.
- Be Honest About The Workplace: Although the interviewer has the vast majority of the power, interviews should be a two-way street. If there’s a tough or unpleasant aspect about the job, don’t conceal it in the interview. Let people know, so they can make an educated decision about whether or not to come in. If you tell them upfront what the difficult parts are, they will be way more inclined to problem solve once they have the job. Plus, they won’t feel blindsided, so you won’t lose trust with them.
2) Provide Clarity & Consistency
I’m not going to say having employees is like having kids, but I’m not not going to say it’s like having kids. And just like having kids, or teaching a class, so much of success comes from how you initially communicate with them, and what the general rules are.
- Make Sure Everyone Knows What Is And What Isn’t Their Job: Nothing feels worse than trying your best, thinking everything is covered, and then getting chastised for something you didn’t know you had to do. Creating a great work environment means making it extremely clear what everyone’s responsibilities are, and repeating yourself often. This also helps create internal accountability; if there’s no way a person didn’t know they had to do something, it’ll be much easier for you to hold them responsible for a slip-up.
- If An Expectation Is Set, Make Sure It Doesn’t Shift Without Warning: No one wants the rug pulled out from beneath them. People can’t read minds, and they want to be able to figure out if they’re doing a good or bad job. If they achieve something only to have the bar raised higher without even receiving praise, they’re going to become resentful and lose trust in the stability of the job.
- Use One Set Of Rules For Everyone: Everyone can see how you’re treating others, and they will compare it to how you treat them. If you’re cutting some people slack, but not others, resentment will build. If you’ve hired family members, this is especially crucial.
3) Decide How You’ll Respond To Situations Before They Happen (And If Appropriate, Let People Know)
There are some workplace situations every boss encounters. Lateness, missed deadlines, poor attitude, etc. It will help you and your employees if you already know how you’ll react to these scenarios. It also allows employees to know if they’re doing a good or bad job.
If you communicate that being late more than once a month is a problem, anxious people won’t worry about that one time they were late six months ago, and tardy people will have to accept that you’re not being unreasonable.
4) Don’t Ignore Interpersonal Problems
Unless your workplace is you and a bunch of robots, you will have some kind of interpersonal clashes or problems. And even if it is just you and the robots, one of them will probably piss another one off at some point. It’s up to you to decide when and if to intervene, but if things get bad enough, you’ll have to.
Yes, we all know it’s unpleasant and not in your job description, but human beings are still animals with emotions. Simply ignoring every conflict no matter how bad it gets is not going to be the best decision for your workplace. Sometimes creating a great work environment means dealing with awkward situations head on.
- Use Conflict Resolution Techniques: If an interpersonal conflict is causing significant workplace problems, start by sitting down the employees and using conflict resolution techniques. Yeah, they’re cheesy and can seem forced, but addressing things in a professional manner is your best bet for fixing the problem.
- Recognize When You Have A Toxic Employee: Toxic employees are one of the worst things that can happen to your workforce. If you’ve established that one person is bringing in toxic negative energy and is responsible for the lion’s share of multiple conflicts, it’s time to either get rid of or isolate them.
5) Develop Awesome Boss Skills
You’re not the perfect boss. Maybe you know this already, or maybe you have a tough time hearing it. No matter how much experience or success you have, you should always be working to improve your leadership skills.
- Work On The Way You Communicate: What are your weak communication points at work? Chances are they’re similar to the ones you have in your personal life. Do you have a problem giving bad news? Sharing praise? Being attentive? Continue to push forward on these blind spots, so that you can improve your own life as well as your employees’.
- Give Yourself Slack; It’s Not Easy Being A Boss: You already had to gain the skills to succeed in an entire career that probably didn’t have anything to do with managing people. Now you’re being asked to do that as well, and it’s a huge undertaking. Don’t wallow in self-hatred, or blame yourself for not being perfect. Just continue to move forward and try to improve at a rate that feels good to you.
- Be Firm, But Human: Don’t let people walk all over you, but understand that people have lives that require things outside of work. Don’t punish people for having an occasional urgent family matter or medical event they need to attend to, but don’t try to be everyone’s friend and never hold them accountable either.
- Take It Less Personally: The more you can remove your emotions and realize people are doing the best they can, the better.
6) Find A Healthy Balance Of Personal And Professional
‘We’re more of a family than a workplace,’ sounds nice, but in reality, it can create some unpleasant implications for you and your employees. It’s extra tempting to adopt this attitude if you’re just starting out expanding your team and especially if you are hiring family members or friends.
The upsides to this mentality are obvious; you want people to feel comfortable and have a good time while working. The downsides, however, can be severe and often hidden to the employers.
The reality is, no matter what it feels like, you’re running a workplace, not a family. Which means people do have a personal life they have to get back to. Creating an intimate dynamic can make it hard for employees to get the healthy boundaries they need.
Do you all eat lunch together every day? Maybe this is creating a great work environment, but there’s no way for you to know for sure. Consider that it could also be making some employees feel pressured to fit in, even if they would rather decompress by themselves. When dynamics are so close, it can feel impossible for the employee who wants alone time to verbalize it. Even if you wouldn’t take it personally, they have no way of being sure.
Are employees expected to be as invested in the success of the company as you are? Are they expected to answer calls/texts/emails at any point of the night or weekend? Unfortunately, there’s no way any employee can be as devoted as the owner, and putting pressure on employees can make them feel awkward, and without any way out.
7) Treat People With Respect
Ultimately, there’s no way to create a great work environment without respecting your workers. If this is a top priority, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
- Listen To Ideas: You never know who’s going to have a killer idea or half idea that leads the team somewhere great. It’s not enough to simply know that you’ll listen to ideas that come your way. You have to create room for them. Verbalizing that you want to hear ideas, or directly asking people periodically what they think about things are great ways to open them up.
- Grow People: As a boss, you’re helping to grow the workforce. Whether it’s with your business or another, these are the people that will change the economy and decide the future, even if in a small part. Great bosses make sure they’re leaving people better than when they arrived at the company. Investing time and energy into people also makes them feel valued, which will make them work harder for you.
- Give People Individual Compliments: Everyone wants compliments, everyone deserves at least one, and they really improve the workplace dynamic.
- Trust Their Judgment And Expertise: Ideally, you should be hiring people that know more than you in certain areas. Learn when it’s time to back away and let your workers succeed on their own.
There are many different pieces that go into creating a great work environment, but they all have some common threads. Being emotionally aware, honest, and respectful are all at the top of the list.
Never forget that as a boss, there’s a distinct power dynamic. While things may feel great to you, your employees are most likely trying to please you all the time; their ability to feed and clothe themselves depends on it.