Leadership Tightrope: Balancing Discipline and Flexibility in the Workplace

BY Jules Dalmacio Communication

Leadership Tightrope: Balancing Discipline and Flexibility in the Workplace

There’s a popular notion that goes around professional social media that says employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. As a supervisor or manager, it’s always a tightrope on how to balance discipline and fun in the workplace. However, being in any leadership position is already polarizing in and of itself; you have to be balancing employee best interest along with company best interest. How do you manage? 

Set Clear Boundaries but Maintain Open Communications

As a leader, it’s your duty to always maintain professional distance between you and your teammates. It’s a feat that’s especially hard if you’re an employee turned supervisor or manager. Imagine being the boss of friends you once shared struggles and successes with? And now you have to put a certain distance between you and your friends. However, professional distance comes with the territory; you accept being a manager, you have to also accept the responsibilities that come with it. Setting clear boundaries ensures that you remain fair to all your teammates; crucially, to also not alienate employees that you weren’t actually friendly with and new hires. 

This is also why open communication is important. You want to be approachable not only to people that you’ve shared the office with previously, but everyone whom you have working relationships with. Open communications helps you understand their perspectives better. It’s also an opportunity to contemplate on your performance as their managers. Plenty of important information can only reach you through having open communications with your team.

Stay Stern on Deadlines & Quality but be Flexible in Work Arrangements

When handling a team, deadlines are the gold standard. But how do you beat deadlines without beating a dead horse? While deadlines and SLAs are non-negotiable especially for industries and teams that cater directly to customers, you can afford some flexibility to teammates by letting them finish their work how they want to finish their work.

Flexible work arrangements and quality-based assessments are better options than stringent helicopter micromanagement. Not only are you lifting the weight of pressure off employee shoulders, you also let them solve problems with their own creativity, and afford them some free time for jobs well done. 

Be Timely and Fair on Reprimands and on Praises

In the Philippines, when HRs, supervisors, or managers approach you, it almost always begs the question “what did I do wrong”. This culture is built upon the notion that higher ups are only out to get you for doing your work unsatisfactorily. However, this is toxic and breeds fear in the workplace.

In as quick as we should be in resolving issues and dishing out reprimands, leaders need to also be as quick (if not quicker) when giving praises. Even in psychology, positive reinforcement creates better and longer lasting positive results than negative reinforcement. Being generous and timely in providing good feedback as well as serving reprimands and solving issues in a constructive way will help you be the type of leader who’s worth your teammates’ loyalty.

Lead People by Helping them Best You

There’s an illusion in management that if you want to hold on to your position, you have to make sure your underlings get in line, stay in line, and never cross your line. Again, this thinking is toxic and it also impedes what could be great opportunities for the team or even the company to grow.

If you want to be a good manager, you should hone your team instead of impeding them. Your team looks up to you but as a leader, you should not be looking down on them. Instead, you have to be the one lifting them up even at the risk of them turning into people who have better competence than you. After all, a master’s work is only done when the master is bested by the apprentice.

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