You Are The Boss, Not The Doormat

Sep 25, 2014, Written by Sue Miley

I read emails that clients have received from their employees or hear stories of conversations that my clients have with staff members.  Although I act cool, calm, and non-judgmental, inside I am shocked.

I am mad for my clients.

There is a wide range of topics covered.  What gets me is that the team member has no problem:

  • Using biting, vicious language to their boss or about their coworker.
  • Blaming others for whatever the situation or problem is.
  • Telling their boss what they will and won’t do — whether it is their job or not.
  • And generally, just being toxic and caustic.

If this happens to you sometimes, then this message is for you too…..


I want to add that it isn’t normal either. However, in small businesses, I see it happen much more often.  And with my clients, it is happening in small businesses run by a Christian.  All I mean by that is that I can vouch for them…they are not yelling, screaming, mean tyrants or ogres.

I do believe that in small businesses, there can be less structure and formality.  For some reason, employees feel they can get away with saying and doing whatever they want.

Does Being A Christian Business Owner Mean People Can Walk All Over You?

As a Christian, the owner may feel like they have to be empathetic and nice.  Isn’t that what being Christian is all about?

I think this is a myth that takes Christianity out of context.

I don’t think a person should communicate to anyone in a nasty, angry, and/or insubordinate manner, whether you can get away with it or not.

But it goes deeper than this.

Negative Communication Becomes a Cancer in Your Organization

Having this type of communication regularly in your business and allowing it to continue creates a cancer in your organization.

Cancer spreads.

As a small business owner you are a leader.   As a leader, it is your job to set the culture and the values of the organization.  As a Christian leader, it is important for the culture and values to align with your faith and Christian values.

I am pretty sure that none of these clients, and none of you, want to see this type of email or hear a negative, caustic tirade from a team member.

How do you stop it though without having to fire the person and leave a gaping hole in your organization?  Sometimes a gaping hole is better than a terminal cancer spreading. However, just like cancer, early detection can be a life-saver.

Setting The Expectation For The Team Up Front

Here are some tips to hopefully avoid this experience:

  • Develop and communicate the culture and values of the organization to each employee when they are hired.
  • Consistently communicate and point to these values to keep the team unified around them.
  • Set an example yourself by communicating with respect and patience – yet be direct and upfront with your team.
  • When you see hints of inappropriate communication address it immediately – for example, if you see an email dialogue going back and forth between employees that suggests conflict ….call them and ask them to get together and work it out.  Explain why that is important to you and how that is better for their working relationship.
  • Encourage your team to communicate directly to each other.
  • Discuss conflict and how you want to see it resolved in your organization.
  • Offer to listen and work with them together to resolve the issue.

Stopping Inappropriate Communication and Resetting Expectations

What if it is too late and this type of unproductive communication is already happening?

  • Stop it immediately by discussing the situation face to face with the person.
  • Explain that there are two issues: one is the issue that the email or complaint is about to begin with. The second is how the issue is being handled.  And let them know that they are equally important.
  • If this type of communication is frequent from an individual, then it needs to be addressed directly. It needs to be clearly communicated that vicious language, attacks, blaming and angry communication is an inappropriate way to handle any problem in the company.  Regardless of the issue, this type of communication is unacceptable.

As A Business Owner You Do Have Clout

You are the boss.  Your team cares about you and doesn’t want to disappoint you.  Just telling them it is unacceptable will be enough for most people.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Sue, you don’t know ‘so and so.'”

You are right.  I don’t know your team.  But I do know people.  I do know if you…..

  • Establish the values and culture.
  • Lead by example.
  • Deal directly with issues as soon as they happen.
  • Express openly when an employees communication is in conflict with the company’s culture and values.

…..most people will follow your lead.


Outliers Need to Be Dealt With

If they choose to ignore your example and your direct confrontation of their inappropriate behavior, then they are a cancer.

The best way to deal with a cancer, even if it leaves a hole or a scar, is to cut it out.

It is hard, but it is necessary.

And it is Christian.  God believes in accountability.  God tells us He disciplines those He loves.  God has values that He directly communicates to us.

Harsh discipline is not the first line of defense, but it isn’t Godly to allow someone to act so hateful in your organization.  It doesn’t protect the environment for the rest of the team.  It doesn’t represent your company well.

Don’t think it is normal.

It’s not, and as a Christian leader, not only is it okay to do something about it, it is your responsibility.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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