A Basic Guide to Not Being a Basic-Ass Boss

Alex Daniel for Zendesk

Congrats! You’re management now. You have underlings to do your bidding, and all you have to do is keep them happy, focused, and excited to come to work every day. Easy, right? Yeah not exactly.

Creating an effective team takes a delicate mix of careful planning and dedication, especially if you want to build a strong group of workers and help them prepare for their future. You can do it, though. By following a few guidelines, you’ll win over workers and even have fun being the boss.


Collaborate, Don’t Dictate

Your employees will feel much more engaged and eager to succeed if they feel they’re being helped to develop their role. Approach everything as a conversation in which they have input instead of assigning non-negotiable deadlines and expectations. Present employees with the end results you’re hoping for, and then collaborate with them on how they can achieve them.

Start this conversation early. When first taking on your management position, meet one-on-one with each member of your team, ensuring that each person understands where they fit into the group and the company as a whole. By seeing their work in this larger context, an employee will be better able to do their job in a way that’s productive for the whole team.

Maybe you just hired someone to handle the company’s social media. Instead of telling them “post eight times a day,” discuss why social channels are important tools for deepening connections with customers, and get their ideas on how this could be best accomplished. Instead of just doing as they’re told, they will be in the mindset of trying to find more effective ways to do their jobs.


Be sure to continue this collaborative approach as the weeks and months go on, encouraging your employees to come to you if they spot a new opportunity to drive more business or make your customers and clients happy — or even if they just have better ideas about how to do things. If you have an open-door policy and take their ideas seriously, they are more likely to feel personally invested in the work and, in turn, you.

Check In, Don’t Micromanage

Consistent management does not mean micromanagement. You want to cultivate independence and problem-solving among your workers. That means trusting their judgment, not expecting them to copy you on every email or ask about every decision. You don’t have time to do their job and yours. Instead, be clear about what decisions or issues are important enough that you should weigh in on, and let the employee handle everything else.


In that vein, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rather than worrying about your workers coming in 10 minutes late or are taking long lunch breaks, put your energy into assessing whether they are completing their responsibilities on time and at a high quality. While your workers should know that you are reviewing their work, you should also trust them to handle it on their own.

Reward Results

At the end of the day, the results your workers get are what’s going to matter (and what’s going to matter to your own boss). An employee who works harder or longer than others is not as valuable to you and your organization as one who works smarter and better. It’s your responsibility as a manager to ensure your workers are putting their focus on quality rather than quantity, and one of the best ways to do this is to reward results. Instead of applauding a worker for staying late to finish a PowerPoint, compliment how well the presentation turned out or discuss ways in which they could improve.


There is no shortage of rewards to choose from. Often just a sincere compliment can make an impact. Or try something thoughtful like a gift card or taking them out for coffee to show that you really appreciate their work. You can offer a reward to a team member who has the strongest performance over a particular period, or reward the whole team if they exceed a specific goal you’ve set that month.

Whatever you offer, deliver it regularly and sincerely. Workers respond to positive, timely feedback. Rewarding them with a raise at the end of the year is going to have less impact (and probably cost the organization more money) than giving them a cool gadget or gift card right when they have done something commendable.


Keep Them Growing

On top of ensuring workers are completing their daily tasks, it is just as important to make sure they are given opportunities for growth and advancement. Almost two-thirds of Millennials feel their leadership skills are not being fully developed — which could cause them to quit. If workers have proven themselves, suggest they take part in training workshops to improve their skills, or take a more active role in a company or industry event — say, moderating a panel or organizing a presentation.


If direct reports continue to take on more challenging roles, they will likely outgrow the responsibilities you have given them. That’s fine. When an employee masters certain duties, move the more mundane ones off his or her plate (say, by hiring an assistant or intern), so they can take on more advanced projects. Try to introduce them to executives or members of other parts of the organization, so they can better understand how the company operates. After all, if your workers aren’t growing, they probably already have one foot out the door.

Want more help? Relate helps you navigate every type of complicated work relationships. And Zendesk makes the relationships with your customers a lot easier. Try it for free.

Alex is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Zendesk and Studio@Gawker.

Share This Story