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My Employees Think I'm an A**hole—Now What?

By James Moore Posted on May 18, 2017

So, your employees think you’re an asshole? Ouch! That sucks to hear. After the shock has worn off a bit, it’s time to figure out how to fix it.

If you need to mend your relationship with your employees, here are a few tips to get you started:

Check In

Your employees’ opinions of you should not be a surprise. If it is, you haven't been checking in.

We get it, you’re busy. You mean to check in, but just never seem to find the time. Chances are, if you are busy then so are your employees. And that’s a good thing.

But no matter how busy you all are, you still need ways to check in. In fact, you may need it more when you’re busy than when you’re slow.

The 15five tool is a fantastic way to check in, get feedback, and ensure employees are heard in less than 30 minutes a week. With 15five, employees answer predetermined questions in 15 minutes. Managers respond to these questions, which should take about five minutes, and then the feedback is sent up to higher level employees and executives.

Not sure where you’ll find the time each week? Even for a tool like 15five?

Schedule it. Put it on the calendar just as you would any essential task because checking in with your employees is essential.

You know who doesn’t check in? Assholes. :)

Additionally, don’t underestimate the value of informal check-ins with your employees.

Asking, “How was your weekend?” and really listening to the answer can make a huge difference for you and your employees. You get to know them a little better and they get a chance to see you and be seen as a person, not just an employee and employer. Which takes us to our next point…

Show Your Human Side

We are all more than just our job title. We have lives, worries, joys, triumphs, and challenges beyond the workplace. There’s no harm in acknowledging that. In fact, it’s actually beneficial.

Let your employees see you as more than just the big, scary boss. Talk about your hobbies, your interests, how you spent your weekend.

It’s easier to connect with you when people get to know you a little better.

Own Up to Your Mistakes and Apologize

We all screw up. As we just said, we are all human beings. And human beings are inherently imperfect.

You have made mistakes at work. You know it. Your employees know it. Even if they don’t know the exact mistakes you’ve made, they know you are not perfect.

When you inevitably screw up, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and take steps to do better next time. We teach it to our children and then forget to practice it as adults.

To err is human, to admit it is to take the first step towards improving.


Cultivate Your Employees' Interests

Maybe you and your employees differ a LOT on a range of topics. Given the current political climate, that’s not unlikely. Most companies include a diverse group of people with a variety of opinions, views, and values.

So how do you build a relationship with an employee when you disagree about nearly everything?

Start by showing them you don’t care.

You don’t care that you disagree, that is. And that in spite of your differing opinions, you still want to help them give to causes that they care about. Even when they want to give to organizations that you personally do not support. In fact, especially then.

You can do this by offering employee giving programs that let your employees choose to give to whomever they want. You can take it to the next level by offering company matching to their charities. Because the employee giving program is about supporting your employees, no matter what causes they support.


Finding out your employees think you are a jerk is painful. But it is also an opportunity. Instead of doubling down and proving them right, let it be a wake-up call to make some changes around the workplace.

Sincerity and respect are essential components of mending any relationship, including the one between employer and employee.

Start small, be consistent, and remember: changing perceptions can take some time, but it can be done.

Improving Culture

Author: James Moore

James Moore runs communications and whatever else is needed for Encast. He is a New York Times best-selling author. Seriously. And is working on his seventh book. He also talks on MSNBC some times about politics. And knows more about Texas than is healthy. He loves motorcycles, too, and is presently obsessed with making Encast great. Don’t let him bore you talking about West Texas and the desert.

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