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Matt Douglas, Founder and CEO of Punchbowl.com

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How to Manage Your Startup Without Fear

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago, and he was telling me about the culture at his job. Apparently, one of the employees was getting reprimanded for spending time on non work-related sites during the day. How did they know? Apparently, they actually monitor your internet usage during the day. Yep, big brother is watching.

And that’s not all… at the same office, one of the employees got a call from daycare that her kid was sick. Although it was 3:30pm, she left to go pick up her child. When she told her boss that she was leaving early, her boss told her that her pay that day would be cut by two hours for leaving early. How compassionate!

These two examples remind me of how ineffective it is to manage your employees using fear. I’ve worked for bosses where it felt like they were watching my every move. In my opinion, a few things happen when you manage this way:

1) Employees become far less invested in the company’s goals and visions. Apathy sets in, and employees spend more time looking at the clock than actually doing work.

2) Employees learn to be dishonest. Do you really think this management style forces employees to act differently? No way– instead, they learn to work around the system and deceive their bosses. Heck, there are even web sites that offer a how-to guide of how to look like you are working without actually doing any work. If you work in a fear-based office, check it out for some great time-wasters!

3) It sets up a culture of “us” versus “them.” In any organization, there is a hierarchy. The difference in a fear-based management system is that there becomes a clear divide between those who manage and those who do the work. This naturally leads to more gossip and more separation between the worker-bees and management.

At Punchbowl, we try to take the opposite approach. We have a grueling interview process to try and hire only the best and brightest. Our culture *begins* with the assumption of trust. We know that you may have business to attend to during the day — from dealing with your car to going to the dentist — and yes, even online shopping and paying your bills. While we don’t encourage you to spend your day browsing Amazon, we know that there will be things during the week that you want or need to do. We ask for open lines of communication, and we expect that you will still get your job done. At the end of the day, every person of Punchbowl knows exactly what’s expected of him/her — the objective is to help the company succeed and reach our goals.

Do you manage with a culture of fear? If so, are you getting the most out of your employees? In my opinion, managing with fear hurts your organization. If you feel stuck in this management style, it’s time to take a new approach. Start fresh by announcing the change to your employees. Begin to treat your employees with trust and respect and they’ll give you far more than you ever expected.

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©2018 Matt Douglas