Have you ever heard or read on the statistics of those who genuinely are depressed in their workplace, walk out from their job or just feel undervalued and how that really is just a product of poor management? Roughly 65-70% of people tend to leave their jobs because of their bosses.
Do you relate?
It seems as though sometimes the problems lie in the fact most employers / bosses take phenomenal employees for granted and don’t strive to work on their development, embellish their strengths and counter their weaknesses – instead, they leave no room for error and leave no challenge / too much challenge for their employee. That’s also just it – they feel like just an employee.
If there is one thing that running my own business has taught me, is there is no cookie cutter method to mentor, delegate and manage a workplace.
For me, I love every single person that walks through that door, genuinely. For one, I don’t hire based on skill and experience alone – I hire based on personality, attitude and drive. You can be the best artist in the world but have a negative attitude that drains everyone else, or have a terrible work ethic / strong personality that clashes with everyone else. It is true when they say “you are only as strong as your weakest link” so that’s where I come in and I help my artists turn those weaknesses into strengths, or help to polish their strengths to outshine the weakness. A table is great as a table – it can be used to display your items and hold things for you as well as be aesthetically pleasing – you wouldn’t sit on your table and use it as a chair, would you? No, because that’s not what it’s meant for and that’s recipe for failure. The same goes to trying to assume all “employees” are the same and perform the same.
These tips are based off my own personal experience are are my own personal opinions – everyone has their own teaching / managing methods but this is how I do it.
1. Always greet your employees and genuinely ask how they are doing. What have you been up to? How was that concert last night? Any tattoos you’re particularly excited for? I know people tell me countless times to never be friends with my employees, but honestly? They are some of the best people I know, I work worth them every day – why wouldn’t I be friends with them? I take genuine interest in their lives.
2. Learn to read them. I can confidently say, I know what’s up with ANY of the girls who walk in the door. I can immediately detect when something is wrong – that is when I drop what I am doing and approach them to check in on them. If they have an issue or are stressed out, I hear them out and offer any advice that I can. Sometimes people just want to vent and be heard – be that person.
3. Never let them fail, ever. If you see someone struggling – whether they’re overwhelmed, stressed out, not understanding their task, falling behind, facing numerous errors – step in and just help. If you see someone drowning, throw them the life line. It’s up to them to grab it and pull themselves out but if you see an employee falling behind in their work, don’t just turn a blind eye, offer to help. Provide them with some advice, figure out what areas they’re struggling with and help them find a solution. You’re a team.
4. Don’t be quick to pull the trigger – one thing I always say is: it’s easy to fire someone, it’s harder to recover them. Nothing in life that is worth while, is easy. If someone isn’t performing right or if they’ve been running late and falling behind – address the issues, clearly communicate expectations, hear them out and help them find their drive again. Delegate tasks that pique their interest, give them some 1 on 1 coaching, praise them for their positive behaviour and success instead of focusing on their flaws. An underperforming employee is usually a byproduct from fear of failing, feeling unappreciated and unmotivated.
5. Find what motivates each and every person, and use it when you can. Motivation has to come from within – you can always provide someone with all of the tools they need to succeed, but only they can choose to utilize them. So find something that will make them want to utilize them, and see if that yields better response. For example: one of my artists felt unmotivated lately, felt they weren’t getting much better and didn’t feel challenged. So I purchased them art hooks to help them study their area of tattooing, I challenged them to draw more pieces in their style and make prints of them and also to enroll in art seminars at the tattoo convention and I would join them. Try and show your employee that you’re in it together and you want them to grow – plateaus happen, so work together to overcome it and find solutions together.
6. Understand that each and every employee is important and has their place.
One thing I can NOT stand or tolerate, is a lot of this “artists come and go” behaviour from various shop owners. One in particular I worked for, let’s call him Steve – would always refer to his artists as “assholes” and “cancer”. He threatened to fire every single one of them if they didn’t do as he wished, he also always reminded them that their positions weren’t secure and they were expendable.
None of those employees work for him anymore. Why would someone want to work for someone who clearly just wants to make money off them and have them be another face in the crowd? That is absolutely no way to treat an employee or make them feel valued – because they are.
Remember this: the employees are the oil, the company is the engine. The engine can’t run properly without the oil. You can’t have one without the other.
7. Change “I”, “me”, “mine” to “we”, “us” and “ours”.
8. Small gestures go a long way! You have a group of people literally dedicating their lives to working for you and supporting/helping your business grow. I appreciate the girls at my shop so much and if I have to do a few small gestures a year to show them that, then absolutely I will. We remember everyone’s birthday and throw mini parties, I try and give them Christmas gifts, Valentine’s Day gifts and random surprises and write them heart felt cards especially when they’re feeling down. Why wouldn’t I put that effort forth into the most important people in my life?
9. Incentives! Offering incentives is a great way to drive healthy competition in the work place and always give everyone that drive boost they need to be more productive and proactive. For example, this year I am finally rolling out the gold star system. Yeah, you heard me – I am making a chart with everyone’s names and a bunch of different categories ranging from attitude, cleaning, customer service, to helping fellow colleagues and going above and beyond. Each month the person with the most starts will get a $25-$50 gift card to a place of their choosing.
Also offering birthday incentives is a great idea too! I always let the girls take their birthdays off, but if they choose to work them then they get 70% commission cut for the tattoos they do that day.
10. Giving them time off – this one I find is a big one. A lot of employers are absolutely reluctant to provide their employees with approved time off. I always hear about my friends being unable to book dates off or take time off even if ample notice is given. I basically approve everyone’s time off requests (as long as we aren’t left short staffed and they notify me ahead of time) because they don’t live to work. You can make money anytime in your life – though you’re limited on time to experience life.
11. Sick days – I won’t ever ask for a doctors note from my employees. Why? Because if they feel sick enough to not come in, that’s their judgment call. Even if they don’t feel well due to PMS reasons, mental health reasons, or straight up don’t think they can handle the work day – that is absolutely fine by me. More often employees call in fake-sick when they aren’t motivated to go into work. I leave an open forum with the girls so that they feel comfortable enough to tell me if they can’t handle coming in or if they’re just having a bad mental health day. I absolutely support taking personal days and focus on self healing.
12. Don’t belittle them or yell at them in front of customers or their peers. I can’t stress this enough – nothing is more stressful and embarrassing than your boss calling you out or yelling at you and making a scene in front of your coworkers or worse – customers. Any issues you have with your employee, take it up with them personally and in an isolated space. Don’t attack them – approach it constructively and head them out. You will absolutely ruin a good relationship with your employee if you embarrass and shame them publicly.
13. If you are constantly having problems with an employee, re asses how you approach them. Never go in guns a-blazing and hyper focus on everything they’re doing wrong. Always offer constructive criticism and suggest alternatives.
Instead of: I saw how you spoke to that client today Karen, I never want to see that EVER again, that will not be tolerated. If I see you communicate like that again you’re gone.
Try: I was listening in on your interaction with a customer today and I would love to offer you some suggestions for the future. Instead of speaking in that tone and coming off as aggressive, try uncrossing your arms and be more welcoming and lower your defence – sometimes customers can be frustrating but just remember, we want to make sure everyone who leaves here is as happy as we can possibly make them to the best of our ability. We can work on it together”
Or at least something along those lines.
14. Don’t penalize them every single time they make an error. Don’t make them feel like they’re walking on egg shells and that there is no room for mistakes – look, it doesn’t matter what field you’re in – there is forever a learning curve in every industry and mistakes happen. If you have your kid water before bed and he wet his bed overnight – would you punish him for having an accident or would you assure him it’s okay and help him clean up and know to not give him water before bed next time? (I can’t believe I just referred to employees as wetting the bed)
If you reign down on someone every time they made a slight mistake, it’s going to cause them to be overly anxious when they do, and also hide things from you. It’s best to help encourage them to take every mistake as a lesson. We are forever learning and growing, and honestly? Mistakes DO happen. Success is really just multiple failed attempts eventually gone right. Help them brush off, recover, and hope they take it as a lesson for the future.
15. Lead by example! If you aren’t willing to go scrub the toilet, don’t expect your employees to, either. If you want them to be positive and driven, you need to openly promote those traits.
16. Listen! Honestly, it seems so simple but this is so very often overlooked. If your employee comes to you to open up, whether it’s about their personal life or work life – just listen. If they have any concerns, pay attention to what they’re saying and address them as punctually and seamlessly as possible. If they are indirectly asking for help or advice, try and look out for them and have their best interest at heart.
17. Always value feedback. Nothing is worse than an employer / boss who can’t handle any form of criticism. Your employees are literally handing you the solution by providing you with feedback. Always accept tips and performance related feedback from your employees, because in the end you need them to respect you and also you need mutually respect them. Always be open to constructive criticism, take it as an opportunity to learn and grow together as well as a way to strengthen yourself as a leader.
18. Be generous with your resources and also be open to provide your employees with any necessities they may need to succeed.
This one is also big – the first shop I apprenticed at, my mentor “Steve” as I’m going to refer to him as, never wanted to put money into the business or the artists. They requested a colour printer to better help them have references for tattooing – the owner insisted they buy their own. Instead of providing safe, sterile and health board approved bandaging – the owner stuck to plastic wrap, the cheaper option. If the artists requested another arm rest or upgraded product, the owner refused or would take several months doing so. Sometimes it’s like employers forget that they too need to invest in the company and their employees futures.
At Ruby, I make sure I always have ample products in stock. I always make sure to cater to each artists individual needs and provide whatever they need to help them do their job seamlessly. Better printer? Got it. Higher quality paper? On it. Different cleaning product? For sure. I provide bottles of water so they stay hydrated, I sometimes provide snacks and I provide keurig coffees and copious amounts of art books, art supplies and so on.
19. Develop an action plan and know when to say goodbye.
As much as we want to keep some of our employees around forever – sometimes people don’t want to grow or change, simply put. Negative behaviour can absolutely be toxic especially in a smaller tight-knit group of workers. If someone is being overly negative and dragging down the entire atmosphere – communicate with them. Fine out what’s going on and see if there is anything you can help them with. Helping an employee tackle a problem / stressor dead-on also helps strengthen problem solving skills. Help curb that behaviour by encouraging and promoting a more positive environment, reward them for their positive attitude and be quick to establish boundaries when it comes to negativity. If you get to really know your staff, you will be able to understand them more and therefor have a stronger sense of communication with them.
20. Treat everyone like they’re special – because they are. Sometimes I take some of the girls on impromptu sushi dates, shopping dates at the mall, we go for walks around the plaza and talk or simply hang in my car to chat. I always leave an open invitation for them to contact me outside of work, even call me and come hang out. I will always be invested in them and their personal lives, always here to listen to them and if they need it – I will help them out of any situation. We are all stronger as one.
What it comes down to; is trial and error. No one is perfect and sometimes it takes years to be able to figure out how to properly manage. Everyone has their own styles and preferences – obviously sales jobs with many higher ups will have more stress and strain on employees, so this list is really just a rough guideline. I didn’t follow an algorithm, I just did what I felt was right and now here I am writing about it. I love the ladies at my shop and I can confidentially say I mutually feel the love back.