I am a manager at a medium sized company and am struggling with the fact that certain members of my staff disregard directions and deflect my feedback. I recognize that I tend to micromanage the team, which sprouts resentment and disrespect from a couple guys in particular, but I don't see any other way of handing the situation when people act incompetent and lack self motivation. Do you have any suggestions on how to better motivate difficult employees? -- Struggling Boss
It totally makes sense that you're struggling. It sounds like your needs aren't being met and you don't feel very respected by your team. It's not easy managing others and the role itself can trigger negative emotions in certain individuals working beneath you because of the power differential. However, there are easy ways to create a shift in the attitude and behavior of your staff by incorporating minor changes to your management style.
Before you change tactics, ask yourself some important questions first: How do I come across to my team? Am I open minded or do I ignore their feedback and ideas? Do they see me as too demanding and bossy? Am I disappointed all the time? Could they be ignoring my directions because they've figured out a better way to do something? Or do my directions come across as confusing or difficult to follow?
Then ask yourself if you feel disregarded, disrespected or disappointed in other areas of your life. If so, could this feeling be carrying over into your professional world? Could you be overcompensating by behaving super controlling at work? It's important to remember that when people feel disrespected, they tend to act disrespectful in return. Being a leader and in a position of power is never an easy thing. But one of the tenants of great leadership is inspiring others to do things as opposed to demanding them.
You mentioned that you micromanage your staff because you feel that people are incompetent and lack motivation, but the underlying message you give off when doing so is "I don't trust you." Enrolling people in your vision requires making them feel like an essential part of the picture. It's important to create a dialogue about shared vision and how to get there. You can say, "I'm going to offer direction about the best way to accomplish this, but I want to create an atmosphere where you feel like you can talk to me about your ideas."
If I were a member of your team, I might have a hard time feeling I can do my best in an environment where my boss doesn't recognize or make room for my contributions because she believes there is only one way to do things; her own. I might also feel a lack of motivation if all I ever hear is what I do wrong as opposed to what I do right. Fostering an environment of collaboration as opposed to control is extremely important to getting good results.
Being really clear with your staff about your needs and expectations and then giving them ample room to meet them on their own terms is paramount. If they don't live up to your expectations, be frank about what's not working while still finding aspects in their attempt to appreciate. Appreciation is a wonderful motivator. Building people up as opposed to tearing them down is one of the quickest ways to see a change in production and attitude.
If people still don't live up to your expectations after you've been curious, consistent and clear about what's required, then it's time to consider hiring different help. And for the next person you interview, make sure you are up front about your expectations and let them know that if they can't follow suit, then the job isn't for them.