So, you want to become a better leader? If you're willing to invest your time and effort into becoming a better boss, you might just find that your employees will perform better and will be more satisfied with their jobs.
In fact, science is on your side: Implementing a few research-backed changes can help you engage your employees, reduce workplace stress and turnover, and build a stronger, better team.
Here are five simple, proven ways to be a better boss.
Be nice, not tough
It's a common misconception that being a tough, distant boss is the best way to get respect from your employees, but research shows that being nice can be far better for business.
According to the Harvard Business Review, tough bosses often put pressure on employees, thinking that it will lead to an increase in performance, but the reality is that this pressure actually increases stress, not productivity. Increased stress can affect your employees and your business more than you might realize. For example, a study in the journal BioMed Central found that health care expenditures for employees with high stress levels were 46 percent greater than those for employees without high stress levels. And a study from the Institute of Naval Medicine found that high work-related stress can also result in increased turnover. Putting less pressure on your employees and being a more caring, understanding boss can help prevent issues like this.
Research also shows that acts of altruism can earn you a higher status among your team, and that leaders who project warmth are more effective because employees are more likely to trust them, the Harvard Business Review reported.
Of course, you need to make sure your employees don't take advantage of your niceness, so you'll want to keep some boundaries in place. But overall, it looks like the old adage may be right — you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Allow employees to unplug
With gadgets like smartphones, tablets and smartwatches becoming the norm, it's really easy to get caught up in checking emails and doing work-related tasks outside the office. Studies show that this inability to unplug can harm a person's mental health.
A study from Bowling Green State University in Ohio examined work-life balance and the use of communication technology at home. The researchers found that psychological detachment from work during nonwork times was important for employee recovery and health. Not taking time to unplug can make it harder for employees to relax and recharge for work the next day. However, many employees continue to work and stay connected outside their office hours in order to get ahead.
"People may worry about job security, want to increase their salary or advance in their career, so they feel they have to be more dedicated to their work," YoungAh Park, a researcher from the study, said in a statement. "They show that by being available outside of normal work hours through communication and information technologies."
So, what does all of this have to do with your role as a leader? If you want to be a better boss and manage a happier, healthier and more productive team, encourage your employees to unplug after work. Otherwise, your employees won't be able to destress and do their best work. [Are You a Good Boss or a Bad Boss? Here's How to Tell ]
Encourage feedback and ideas
It seems obvious, but one of the most important things you can do as a boss is to make your employees feel valued. In fact, showing your employees that they're valuable to the company can have a positive impact on their mental and physical health, which can, in turn, increase performance and job satisfaction and decrease turnover, according to research from the American Psychological Association.
Ninety-three percent of employees who said they felt valued reported feeling more motivated to do their best work, whereas only 33 percent of employees who did not feel valued said they felt the same motivation, according to the study. And only 21 percent of employees who felt valued said they intend to look for a new job in the next year, compared to 50 percent of employees who did not report feeling valued by their employers.
An easy way to make your employees feel valued is to be open to feedback and encourage your team to share ideas on how to work smarter and improve company culture. If employees know they can come to you with questions, concerns and suggestions and feel heard, they'll likely feel more positive about coming to work every day.
Plan team-building activities
Hosting team-building activities both in and out of the office is important: Research shows that having friendships at work can help employees perform better and decrease turnover, according to the Harvard Business Review. Making it a point to facilitate team building at your company can help to encourage and foster those important office friendships.
The problem is, many employees don't like team-building activities — almost a third of employees are not fans of them, according to a 2012 study by Wakefield Research, U.S. News reported. This is probably because of the nature of traditional team-building activities, which is why you need to change things up at your company, experts say. David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Center for Organizational Excellence, told U.S. News that proper team-building activities should provide employees with a genuine opportunity to relax and unwind, as well as respect their boundaries and their obligations outside of work.
To make sure you don't make your team feel uncomfortable or alienated, Ballard suggested avoiding traditional icebreakers and instead opting for activities like group volunteering, team sports, and shared meals to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.
Let go of bad apples
No matter how great your team is, one or two bad employees can ruin the work experience for everyone. A good boss will recognize that disrespectful and lazy employees can bring down morale and drag productivity and performance right down with it.
A study entitled "How, When, and Why Bad Apples Spoil the Barrel," which looked at the impact different team members had in the workplace, found that having one slacker or jerk in a group of employees can decrease performance by 30 to 40 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported. If you want to keep your good employees happy and productive, you'll need to identify your problem employees and work with them to help them improve — and if the issues are severe and not fixable, it may be time to let them go.
But more important than fixing or firing your problem employees is that bosses need to be able to recognize these harmful employees during the hiring process to avoid problems in the first place. Once you've taken care of all your problem employees, make sure you take a look at your hiring process and make changes to keep out any future bad apples. Your employees will thank you for it.