If you've never been the person in charge, getting to be the boss can be challenging. Maybe you opened a small business, or perhaps you just got promoted to a position where you manage others. Both scenarios are similar, and offer numerous pitfalls where you can undermine your own authority or make your workplace inefficient or even uncomfortable.
A boss or business owner needs to do more than tell people what to do. You need to lead by example. And to do that, you need to avoid violating the rules below.
1. Don't forget you're in charge
It's reasonable at a small business, or in a small group at a larger company, for personal relationships to form. As the boss, it's OK to be professionally friendly with the people you supervise. It's important to remember, however, that you have power over their lives.
You can like everyone and be liked, but you can't get too chummy with people who work for you. You may someday have to make decisions that will feel like betrayals if you have close friendships with your employees.
You may have to fire people, discipline them, or turn down a request for a raise or for time off. You're part of the team, but not everyone's equal. That can be lonely, but keeping some distance helps you make effective decisions.
2. Don't act like a big shot
Just because you are the boss does not mean you're better than anyone else. Don't ignore people. Say hello and goodbye. Make time for conversation and to show that you are approachable.
Being the boss may afford you certain perks (along with certain responsibilities). Don't show off or flaunt what you get over others. You might, for example, be allowed to stay in more-expensive hotels or book pricier airfare because of your position. That's great, but keep quiet about it and don't make those below you feel bad.
3. Don't avoid pitching in
Being the boss may take you away from some responsibilities that the rest of your company or team do on a daily basis. It's one thing to skip certain tasks because you have other responsibilities. It's another entirely to not pitch in when you can.
When things are busy, roll your sleeves up and help out. Answer a phone; talk to a customer; help package an order. Whatever it is, you'll score points with the people who work for you by being willing to assist with the less pleasant parts of their job.
4. Don't play favorites
Back when I ran two different retail operations, I inadvertently made this mistake. I supervised people who were also managers. That allowed us the freedom to do things, like have lunch together off-premises, which hourly employees could not do.
I wasn't paying for lunch or offering any work advantages to these lower-level managers, but that's not how it was perceived. The rank-and-file workers thought I was playing favorites, and that led to resentment of the employees I occasionally had lunch with.
As a boss or owner, it's sometimes impossible to avoid the perception you have a favorite. You may have a sales manager or finance person you spend a lot of time with, and people will make their own inferences. Don't, however, fuel the fire by actually favoring, or creating a perception that you favor, any specific person.
Be the boss
Remember that being in charge means you have to make hard decisions. Solicit input, and value good ideas that aren't yours -- but in the end, don't be afraid to move forward assertively and take responsibility for your actions when necessary. That can be scary, but indecision can cripple a company. Be informed and recognize that you won't always be right, but don't let fear of being wrong stop you from acting at all.