5 ways you may be setting a bad example as a boss

You may be sabotaging your workers’ behavior without even knowing it. Here’s where you’re going astray.

5 ways you may be setting a bad example as a boss

If you work until 2 a.m., your team may feel like they should too.

Lead by example—that’s the old adage. And why? Because the things you do are likely to be echoed by your workers, who are looking to you to set the tone. Unfortunately, you may be having an effect that you didn’t intend.

For instance, you may think you’re being a trooper if you report to work even when you’re very ill. But instead, you’re sending the message that your team should do the same thing. Then you have employees who aren’t productive—because they’re sick—and they’re passing their illnesses along to their healthy coworkers. 

“In the workplace, people have a tendency to mirror back the behavior of managers and executives, as they see that this is one of the reasons for their success,” says Denise Jeffrey, an executive and leadership coach and trainer.

Keep an eye out for the conduct below—and squash it, to encourage a healthier, happier workplace.

You talk over people

Yes, you’re good at what you do. You’ve probably been at it for a long time. You might know more than many of the people in the room, but that doesn’t mean you can step on them verbally.

“If you, as a founder, don’t encourage a collaborative environment in meetings, and give people a chance to voice opinions, that’s the type of meeting culture that perpetuates down through the ranks,” says Aye Moah, co-founder and chief of product at Boomerang, a productivity software company. “The employees will model after the founders because they see that the people with the loudest and most aggressive voices in the meetings are winning the arguments.”

For best results, give everyone a chance to contribute to group conversations, and help interrupters learn to wait their turn.

You don’t stay for training

Imagine that your company has an issue, something pressing enough that you’ve hired outside help to come in and address it. You schedule a training, your employees gather, and the program coordinator starts to speak.

“Then the person who’s the boss walks out of the room,” says Elliott Jaffa, a behavioral and management psychologist who offers corporate training. “There’s a problem. That’s why they’re spending thousands of dollars for training. Why isn’t the boss sitting there?”

When you don’t stay for instruction, you undermine its importance and encourage your employees to take it less seriously. If it’s a pressing issue, attend the training—you just might learn something, yourself.

You focus on the negative

When is the last time you recognized an employee for doing something great, versus messing something up? When Elliott Jaffa receives good customer service, he routinely alerts upper management about employees who are doing a great job—but notes that nothing ever seems to come from it.

“But if I complain about something, the boss would be on the phone in 30 seconds,” Jaffa says. “They don’t catch the employee being good.”

In one study, 88% of workers found praise from their managers to be very or extremely motivating. And 76% said the same about praise from peers. The more you set the example—celebrating great work—the more workers will think to encourage each other on the job.

“It not only gives them a sense of ‘job well done,’ but it boosts productively and engagement,” says Melanie Winograd, a marketing specialist with the IMPACT Group.

You work during your off time

If you’re working while you’re on vacation, your employees will feel like they need to be available during their time off too. And when you’re emailing employees during their off hours, it can make them feel like they’re never off the clock.   

“We noticed that the weekend email traffic—particularly among the senior management team—was really getting out of control,” says Jennifer Folsom, chief of corporate development for data analytics consulting firm Summit Consulting. “Some of it was just convenience and personal preference. One partner likes to work early Saturday morning. While there isn’t an expectation of non-business hours response, no matter who you are, you want to be responsive to the boss.”

So, the firm made a management team decision to limit all non-essential email over the weekend. “If you’re working, fine, but set your Outlook setting to ‘send at 9 a.m. Monday,’” Folsom says. “Immediately, we noticed a lower stress level and better communication around the office.”

In fact, you work all the time

Are you working long hours at your desk? Being in the office all the time can be just as tough on your employees as working while you’re out of the office.

“At one of my companies, it wasn’t uncommon to see our senior exec walking around the office and checking in on people from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.,” says Larry Cornett, Ph.D., career and leadership advisor with career consulting agency Brilliant Forge. “If you wanted to get ahead in your career, how could you leave the office at a reasonable time if you knew that the big boss would still be there until 2 a.m.?”

Even if you take a stack of work with you, leaving the office at a reasonable hour gives your employees the freedom to do the same. At a time when work-life balance is more important than ever, this can go a long way toward encouraging worker loyalty and productivity.

Build better habits

It’s just as easy to break bad habits as it is to fall into them, so with some focus, you can change these behaviors and set an empowering example of leadership at work. If you enjoyed this, join Monster, and we’ll send you more career advice with expert tips on networking, negotiating, and career advancement.