When your employee is boss - inside

When Your Employee Behaves Like Your Boss!

God’s Own Country is not only famous for its natural beauty but also for its vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. According to the MSME Annual Report 2020-21, Kerala is the 12th largest state in India in terms of the number of MSMEs, with approximately 44.64 lakh people employed in this sector. Since 2016, a total of 52,137 MSMEs have been set up in the state, with investments of over INR 4,500 crore, generating employment for over 1.8 lakh people.

These businesses don’t necessarily require a strong emphasis on processes; instead, they thrive when centred around people. Employee staffing, retention, and turnover are critical focal points for MSMEs. It is often difficult for small organizations to find the right talent competing with attractive packages and benefits offered by established organizations and MNCs. An entrepreneur overjoys when he finds and recruits a talented candidate. Hiring exceptionally skilled and proactive employees is a boon, provided the manager effectively guides and oversees them.

The procedures established in SMEs and MSMEs are tailored to the specific demands of the situations and are primarily shaped by the knowledge of the entrepreneur and employees. Naturally, these processes and systems may not necessarily adhere to best practices and there can be lack of defined process in required areas too. The autonomy that employees experience in MSMEs often arises due to the absence of well-defined processes and systems.

Regular engagement between employees and the entrepreneur or top management is a recurring aspect. This consistent interaction fosters a connection between employees and their bosses, which certain individuals may take advantage of. The employee’s attitude and behaviour towards the entrepreneur are inherently influenced by the entrepreneur’s character. While experienced leaders effortlessly manage their employees, others who may struggle find leadership to be a challenging task.   

Ensuring a positive dynamic between a non-leader entrepreneur and a versatile employee is crucial. However, one potential consequence of this combination is the employee exerting dominance or showing disregard for the entrepreneur. In the course of our consulting efforts, we have come across numerous situations where clients grapple with the dilemma of whether to retain a valuable employee at the expense of losing control or to let go of the talented employee. It’s quite common for managers to take things personally and exhibit unprofessional behaviour, given their complete authority in contrast to a structured organization.

The typical course of action in dealing with such employees is either creating a hostile environment that compels the employee to resign. Is this the appropriate course of action in such scenarios? Drawing from our experience, we have identified constructive approaches to address this issue.

Assess the impact and address the issue

Determine whether the employee’s self-promotion is impacting their own work or their team’s output. While acknowledging the employee’s contributions is important, it is equally critical to remind them of any decline in performance as it is a major parameter for considered the for future promotions or benefit hikes.

Be pragmatic Leader

At times, having an overshining employee in the team can doubt oneself – am I qualified/ experienced enough to lead them? – a natural self-doubt based on the situation. As a manager it is important to understand is it not your job to compare your experience with that of your direct report. As their leader, it is important to stay objective. It is your duty to demand high performance from them and call them out when they failed to meet those expectations rather than being vengeful and self-criticising.

Be consistent

In expanding organizations such as these, employees enjoy a greater degree of autonomy compared to well-structured counterparts. Empowering employees is also considered as another way of motivating and retaining them for a longer period.

Manager can send mixed messages about how much they will tolerate their employee’s outshining. One minute you may permit and the next, judge it as unexpectable.  

If your subordinate takes the autonomy you give them as a permit to outshine you, its critical to be consistent in your feedback to clearly communicate your message. It is also essential to co-define the boundaries you want establish, to ensure the employee respect your position as the leader.

Do not contest!

A manager should refrain from getting dragged to a power struggle or competition with the particular employee as this would lead to very toxic culture in the organization.

Competition among colleagues can be constructive when driven by shared positive and productive intentions. However, if it arises from feelings of revenge or jealousy, it is likely to sabotage both parties involved.

Create a positive work environment

Develop a culture of mutual respect and collaboration in the organization. Lead by example and serve as a role model for your team members. If required, introduce policies and processes in consultation with experts to give clarity to employees regarding work behaviour.

As a manager or entrepreneur, it can be challenging when an employee tries to overpower you. This can weaken your authority and erode team morale. Once can adopt steps mentioned above to address this issue and regain control. If it is not your area of strength, it is always advisable to take the support of an experienced consultant to resolve it fruitfully and to implement required steps to avoid similar situations in the future.

Remember, it’s not about shutting down the employee’s activities, but rather empowering them to work collaboratively towards the success of the organization.