How to balance the managerial with the personal
By Jacey Gibb, Editor-in-chief
Growing up, I never saw myself as boss material.
This is the same dude who would practice juggling red peppers in the kitchen walk-in and once showed up to an opening shift in the previous night’s clothes—for bonus marks, I’d spent the night partying at my boss’ house. Despite all my shenanigans and shortcomings, I somehow always found my way into senior positions. I was a supervisor at Cobs Bread when I was 16 and I once closed the bakery down several hours early so I could go see Transformers. Damn 16-year-olds, amiryte?
I always assumed these promotions were rooted in chance or luck, but I’ve learned something during my time as Editor-in-chief of two publications: I have a decent approach to managerial duties. I know when to get things done and when to have a bit o’ fun. I try to make myself as accessible as possible, while respecting a bit of distance. Not that my next step is to write an ebook on what I think are good suggestions, but I thought I’d share some of my strategies with you. I’d also like to note that my style won’t necessarily line up with yours; they may not be the greatest habits in every scenario, but they’ve worked for me thus far.
As the head cheese, there’s probably a lot relying on your approval. While I love taking on projects and guiding them to the finish line, it’s all too common for me to get bogged down with too many side quests. It’s better to focus on a fistful of things and nail them than do a lot haphazardly. Chances are the people you work with want to see things succeed too; don’t be afraid to ask other people for help so you can get back to rocking your own stuff. Nobody likes a micromanager. Learning to let go of minor tasks is a completely valid method of doing things; by delegating extraneous projects you’ll find yourself being stressed less often, which can have a trickle-down effect on your staff.
Depending on what you do, emailing may be a significant part of your routine. I can understand why some scenarios might require you to maintain a professional tone, but I tend to disagree. Until the day comes when we’re able to type with a particular tone, writing a “professional” email will always come across as robotic or stern. Be as critical as you want but I’m always open to using smiling emoticons or exclamation marks to disarm what could otherwise give the wrong impression.
Let me use a fairly universal example: you can get an email from your boss saying “I need to talk to you.” Of course you’re going to freak out, assume you’re getting fired, and begin Googling possible ways to fake your own death. But would the email illicit the same fear if it was “I need to talk to you. :)”? I probably get more flack on this than anything else I do as a boss, but I think it’s effective—though maybe leave the emoticons out if you’re actually firing someone.
This next strategy should go without saying but I can guarantee you it gets overlooked a lot: if you’re looking to develop a friendlier relationship and break down that manager/employee barrier don’t take the power of small gestures for granted. Are you meeting a co-worker at a café? Buy them their coffee. Have a marathon of meetings planned for the afternoon? Buy some cookies/donuts/sugar-laced treat to help sweeten the deal. I’m not saying people should come to expect some form of delicious treatment from you on a daily basis, but it’s a friendly action that can go a long way. As long as they’re normal human beings, it’s also likely they’ll start to reciprocate the kindness down the road.
And now for the tricky part: how to manage in a senior position when you’re technically your friend’s boss. It’s actually not as tricky as it sounds—as long as you acknowledge it right away. Ideally you should be friendly with everyone, regardless of whether you get drunk with them on the weekend or not, but you should also recognize when to take a managerial tone. Even if it’s in a situation where it’s just you and your friend (like when sending an email), sometimes you need to wear the professional pants and act like the boss you grew up hating. Avoid mentioning things like “I know you’re my friend…,” as they should go without saying. Any reasonable person will register that you have to keep the work and personal spheres separate at times—and they will respect you for doing so.
The main thing someone in a managerial position can do is recognize there is no universal style that can magically be applied to every workplace. Once you accept this intimidating truth, you can start developing the style that works for you.