Why They Say It’s Lonely at the Top

It doesn’t take long as a business owner or manager to figure out why they say it’s lonely at the top.

Okay, it's not as bad as this, but......

Okay, it’s not as bad as this, but……

The downside of all that autonomy and the fancy office and the big bucks (proverbially speaking) is that you have to think a lot harder about how you interact with everybody else in the company. Of course, you know your team and have to exercise your own judgment, but there are three temptations business owners and managers face that they have to learn to resist.

Being Buddies with Employees. Let me begin by saying there are exceptions to this. If you’ve got emotionally mature, A-players working with you, and you know they take their work seriously and can put your work relationship ahead of your friendship, then maybe you can be friends. Otherwise you’re looking at a disaster. You don’t expect your boss to give you a break on missing the deadline because you and your boyfriend broke up or the dog was sick or you stayed out all night partying. You do expect that from your friend. If you’re the boss, the last thing you need is to have to wrangle someone’s behavior back in line because they overstepped the boundaries. If they overstepped them, you probably overstepped first. That can be the beginning of a slippery slope that messes up the work environment and brings an unpleasant end to your relationship. So no over-sharing about your personal life, relationships or indiscretions and don’t invite employees to over-share either. You know what’s appropriate. No matter how tempting it is in a moment when you feel especially great about an employee, don’t cross the line. For both of your sakes.

Griping About Another Employee. You all know how annoying Todd can be. Surely it can’t hurt to let off a little steam about him to Debbie while you’re at the coffee machine. It’s not a secret that he can be difficult and you just want to decompress a little before you actually confront Todd. No. No, because now Debbie:

A. Doesn’t know if you want her to do something about Todd
B. Wonders if you’re talking about her this way to other employees
C. Might go tell whoever she confides in what you said about Todd which will, of course, creep its way from ear to ear and raise doubts and probably eventually hit Todd.

Go call your spouse or significant other or mom or best friend who doesn’t work there. Type out your rage on a word document, then delete it. Start the process of writing Todd up. Do whatever you need to do, just don’t talk to your employees.

Excessive Transparency. Transparency is all the rage. Transparency is a good thing. But there’s such a thing as too much transparency. Have you ever been at the wheel of a car and admitted to someone in the car you were feeling a little sleepy? They watch you like a hawk because they don’t want to die. They tell you they’re watching you like that because they’re concerned about you, but really they don’t want to die. They want, actually, for you to let them drive. That’s what happens with too much transparency. You understand the company in a way that most of your employees don’t. You understand its resources, strengths and liabilities, how it will weather a difficult period or why it needs to take the influx of profits and inject them back into the business. Employees don’t see things the way you do. If there’s financial strain, they start to wonder whether you should be driving, or at least whether they should jump out of the car. If there’s success, they line up for raises. Those weekly update meetings can be great, just make sure you think about how the information would sound if you were an employee before you go sharing.

If you’re at the top, you really need other people with similar businesses, similar philosophies and preferably MORE experience to share with. You need someone to bounce things off of who is also at the top and has tackled the kinds of issues you’re dealing with. You need someone with whom you have a mutual agreement to be discreet and who has respect for the position you’re in. It’s only lonely at the top until you find peers to help you make great decisions. When you get comfortable there, it can be a really great place to be.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

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