8 Important Things Your Team Wants to Tell You (But Won’t)
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8 Important Things Your Team Wants to Tell You (But Won’t)

Do you have any interest in finding out what your employees and freelancers really think of you? Do you avoid sites like Glassdoor? If you’re in a position of power over other people’s livelihoods, do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) enjoy reminding them of it?

Even if you just said to yourself, “Hey, I’m not a monster!” think about the last few years. If nobody has ever volunteered information that made you reflect or take a close look at yourself, that’s probably not because you’re perfect — they’re afraid to speak honestly.

But just because they don’t say it to you doesn’t mean they’re not saying it all over other places. Career networking groups on Facebook have become a go-to for people to post their issues with bosses and clients — oftentimes cloaking their own name but sharing details on the company.

Glassdoor, also, is a place where people feel increasingly comfortable sharing every detail from exploitative interview processes to alleged sexual misconduct in offices. And the loudest people actually post their negative work experiences on Twitter or LinkedIn, in hopes they’ll go viral.

Whether it’s for your corporate reputation, the health of your business or just because you don’t want to be a tiny tyrant, read through this list (pulled from online groups and workplace review sites) and consider carefully.

What your team will never say to your face…

changing directions too many times frustrates employees

1. “You’ve changed directions on this so many times, it’s impossible to complete anything on time.”

Designers, web developers, producers and video editors struggle with this behavior from clients and bosses more than anyone else. After all, they’re the ones responsible for creating visual elements and a lot of people hang the potential future success of a campaign on what it looks like …without knowing exactly what it should look like.

Clients/bosses who “know what they like when they see it” but cannot explain what they like are not giving creative leeway — they’re denying their visual design and production team the information to do the job.

Add in the tremendous pressure many bosses feel to get something just perfect, but without the follow-through to believe in it or support it through the mid-stretch, and you’ve got a perfect storm through which no creative team can navigate to execute a winning campaign.

Even if they do manage to finish their part and launch it, other components (e.g. distribution) probably won’t line up, because the boss lost enthusiasm and moved on six projects ago.

2. “Please stop micromanaging everything.”

This is a difficult thing for small business owners and involved bosses to control in themselves during the era of social media. When a tweet or Instagram post can go viral and attract tons of positive or negative attention to your business, it’s hard to let even microcopy go through without reading and analyzing every word of it.

For that matter, it’s hard not to read the comments and analyze your community manager’s replies. But at a certain point, if you’ve hired people because you believe in their subject matter expertise, you need to step back and let them flex it — with regularly scheduled check-ins.

If you’ve hired people because you believe in their subject matter expertise, you need to step back and let them flex it — with regularly scheduled check-ins. #leadership #management Click To Tweet

constructive criticism is essential to keep employee morale up

3. “You just were very insulting of my work, and it hurt my feelings.”

There really isn’t a fine line between constructive criticism and insult. It’s more of a broad zone with gradients of harshness on one side and softness on the other. Therefore, people who are habitually insulting either don’t care when they damage others’ self-esteem or they have a propensity to focus on things they don’t like.

As someone who tends to call out the things I don’t like before mentioning everything I do like, I make a conscious effort to reread all messages that contain feedback on my team’s work. If it doesn’t start with a compliment or acknowledgment of the things I did like, I rewrite it.

Otherwise, I tend to send messages like: This all is fine except the background of Slide #4-5 look really mass-murdery.

(Seriously, a real first version of a feedback email to a designer. The rewrite was “All of this presentation looks great — no changes except could you please lighten the color on the background of slides #4-5? The red is a bit dark and overwhelms the content.”)

4. “These reported results are not accurate.”

If people responsible for overseeing agency and platform results can’t actually point out when something is likely fishy in the reporting, you’ve got a real problem.

Yet, social media and digital marketing professionals constantly run into issues where an agency or consultant (often the previous agency, but sometimes the entrenched one) is reporting results that don’t seem right, and the boss simply will not acknowledge it.

Here are some regular issues like this that crop up on social media management boards:

It looks like the previous social engagement agency bought a bunch of fake followers, and that is why the engagement on the account is so low.

It looks like the previous social agency was using a follow-unfollow service, because the company accounts keeps following bot accounts, and I know I’m not doing it.

It seems like an agency is buying views or Likes, because we are getting good engagement but no comments or shares.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

If you have a social media manager or SEO content expert on your team, and you trust them, it’s very important to sit with them and take in their feedback. With the algorithms constantly changing, these people have challenging jobs day-to-day, and above all should feel like you support them and don’t undermine them.

not offering the fair market rate for employee salaries

5. “You’re not offering people fair market rate for their contribution.”

This is a rampant problem in the gig economy. Rates are, to some extent, dependent on who’s willing to accept what. And the same quantity of output might require vastly varying amounts of effort — for example, one 500-word hot take requires way less time than one 500-word researched piece quoting two expert sources on an obscure topic. So, freelancers (consultants, agencies) are constantly in the position of having to negotiate their worth.

If you want to be an ethical person and pay people what they deserve, there are threads all over the internet (Reddit, Facebook and Twitter) that discuss rates.

Whether you’re hiring a coder, a caterer, a content writer or a nanny, it’s pretty easy to get a range of typical compensation. If you can’t fall in the range of what people in the profession find typical/acceptable, strongly consider adjusting the scope of work or finding another way to fill your need.

6. “This is not interesting.”

Everyone thinks their own ideas are the best, and this is exponentially true for company owners and senior leadership. They have the confidence, the vision and oftentimes the echo chamber of nervous underlings. When they don’t have oversight or candid advisors, the greenlighting process can get very… skewed.

The thing is this: An uninteresting idea can get all the way through development, execution and launch without ever being called out by other people in the company. But when it hits the public eye, it turns into a public failure: products that don’t sell or that cause a social media storm for being offensive.

Proposals that don’t win business. Events that don’t fill seats. PR campaigns that don’t get any results. Millions of videos and articles that don’t get any views. It’s true, there’s a lot of noise and a lot of competition for attention these days, so not everything will succeed — but if you’re a boss who has done things your way consistently for several months and repeatedly not gotten anywhere near the results you’d hoped for, it’s time to start introducing other people’s ideas into the mix.

no reimbursement for traveling factors into employee dissatisfaction

7. “I should have gotten reimbursed for those miles I drove/the travel expenses that accrued during this project.”

Many people don’t have a great system for negotiating expenses upfront, building them into budgets and then billing for them. In the moment, if a project requires something unexpected, a lot of people will just cover the expense and hope it’s reimbursed later.

And a distressing amount of clients will refuse. That’s basically punishing someone’s bank account for their problem-solving on the fly.

It’s okay to set clear parameters in advance, and it’s fair to require proof of all expenses. But if the needs change in the middle of the project, you may need to change as well.

Example: Telling a freelancer that you won’t reimburse a hotel for a 1-day project with a 90-minute commute time from their house to the location is acceptable if the project wraps at 6 p.m. However, if it runs long and they stay till 10 p.m. at your encouragement or request, they’ve got justification to ask that they stay at a hotel and you reimburse.

8. “I wish you would respect the relationships that I bring into this company.”

This is an amorphous and tricky issue in some ways — for example, if you are a writer and you refer other writers to an outlet, why should the writer and editor keep you in the mix? In this situation, most people agree that it’s fine for the people you bring into the situation to create their own relationship. Respecting that relationship is as simple as continuing to give the first writer right of refusal for assignments where they’re a good fit.

It just gets trickier from there, though. If one member of a creative team brings in the rest of their team and a client tries to only hire certain ones as a way to drive down costs, it becomes a Survivor-type of situation for the team. Moreover, it deters the original connector from bringing good people into the company in the future.

Most importantly, if you pay someone — a researcher, a PR person, a production company — to utilize their connections on your behalf, do not attempt to absorb those connections and ownership of them.

This deserves a caveat that there are professionals in those categories who will share select contacts because it’s expedient and/or they like the client. So if a freelancer or contractor sends a few emails connecting you to their contacts, or even shares a list with contacts, it’s, of course, fine to establish direct communications.

But if they don’t, don’t push for it. And if it gets to the point where they are questioning, “Can you loop me in here?” chances are, you’ve broken their trust and their terms of service.

In conclusion…

Could any of the above statements apply to you? What habits do you have, or what do you habitually not want to apply to yourself, that might cause employees to think these things about you? If you lurked on a candid conversation about working for you, which of these things might you see?

Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes the behavior that comes from caring the most about your work can present to others in a slightly uncomfortable way. People will often go to great distances to accept it because you’re the boss and they have to. But that doesn’t mean you should get complacent.

Don't be a tiny tyrant: If you've never heard any of this feedback, it may be time for a little self-reflection on your management style. #leadership #management Click To Tweet

You’re the best person out there to provide oversight on yourself and make your department as great as possible.

Lena Katz

About Lena

Lena Katz's credits as a development producer, casting producer and locations manager include cable TV (WEtv, Revolt, HGTV), and digital-first productions (WhaleRock, mikeroweWORKS, Tastemade). She worked directly for major brands including Suzuki, Hormel and Brown-Forman. Learn more about her company at Variable Content.

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