Supervisors and their direct reports are not equals. If you are a supervisor, I advise that you keep this golden rule in mind. When you are required to communicate a decision to your subordinate, understand that communicating does not mean “explaining.” Employees do not want to hear the full story behind the decision.
You are not your employees’ equal. You are the boss. And, as the boss, your employees count on you to be the one who holds the ship together. By over-explaining the reasons for a decision, by seeming too apologetic, you have failed your employees.
This does not mean that you must be aloof and reserved. But it does mean that you should quit oversharing. When you try to explain the behind-the-scenes politics, you confuse employees and lead them to believe that there are unanswered questions within the organization. This can be a costly endeavor.
Employees with doubt emanate their doubt and doubt is contagious and infectious. We all have our crosses to bear—supervisors should not share the burden of their own crosses with their subordinates. Subordinates want their bosses to be in control, to have the answers.
Of course, it’s rare that we, as supervisors, do have all of the answers. But it is our job, as supervisors, not to reveal this inevitable fact. Instead, it is our job, as supervisors, to put on the brave face of control and act as if everything is under control.
Sometimes, the “full-disclosure” route is very much the wrong route. We, as supervisors, fix problems, not merely share the weight of those problems. Supervisors should keep in mind this mantra the next time desire the need to share the burden of responsibility. Don’t do it. Seek advice from your higher ups. But do not shoulder the burden with your direct subordinate. Not, that is, if you want to keep your position and any semblance of true authority.