None of us admit that we want to be liked by everyone.
We totally do. We want everyone to like us. Because after all, we are totally the shit. I mean who the fuck wouldn’t like us? And if they don’t like us, it’s clearly them and not us. So fuck them. Sorry they can’t handle this awesomeness.
That’s of course not actually the situation. We don’t want everyone to like us because we’re extremely confident in ourselves and our awesomeness. We want everyone to like us to give us confidence and validate our awesomeness. We need people to like us because that’s a part of us liking ourselves. For some us it might be a bigger part than for others. But on some level it’s out there and in us.
This doesn’t make it okay. We shouldn’t live and breath on the thoughts and opinions of others. And many wiser minds than me have gone on at length about the futility of trying to please all of the people and have everyone like you.
We all still would like everyone we know or have ever met to like us. Or possibly in the absence of like, hate us because they ain’t us. That’s reasonable. Totally reasonable.
I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I am a grown adult. And as such I have lived and learned enough that I know in my brain that whether or not everyone likes me is not a BFD. If someone doesn’t like me I won’t fall apart. I won’t die, and it probably won’t matter after a while. This is fact. But even still… why the fuck don’t they like me??? I mean seriously I am trying here, I really am. At least I think so.
Here’s the thing: I haven’t had the best time making and keeping friends in my life. I think I have two honest to goodness textbook definition friends. And the rest would either be considered work friends(which I have learned aren’t actually your friends) or acquantances. I don’t mean to not have any, and I’m not looking for a poor me. I’m just stating a fact. And it really is what it is. I’m working through it and it’s fine. But the idea that I don’t have friends because people don’t like me… well that’s another blog for another time.
Today I want to talk about how this need to be liked is affecting me and my work. I’m trying to walk a delicate line about not revealing too much of what I do or where I do it. Inevitably those that know me, know where I work and what I do. This can’t be helped. Those that don’t know me won’t(and I would be AMAZED if someone reading this didn’t already know me), but could probably find out fairly easily. So no point hiding it. But I’m not going to shout my company’s name or location, and honestly it really doesn’t matter.
I am a manager at a store. I’m the boss or at least I have the responsibilities of the boss. I like what I do. I find it challenging and rewarding. Do I get annoyed and fed up with it? Yeah, but I know I’m not alone with it. When I look back I have more good days and weeks than I do bad. And that’s okay with me. As the manager, I of course have employees. And some of my employees have their own employees. This is still crazy to me. Someone put me in a situation where I am several rungs up the ladder. What the fuck. But anyways here I am. I think of myself as an okay manager, and I am cognizant of my need for improvement and where I come up short. I want to work on it. Whether I understand it or not, I have a competitive nature that wants me to be the best me that I can be. So I have a plan to try to improve myself. One of the issues I need to deal with is that I totally one hundred percent want all of my employees to like me. I do. I know it’s not okay, but I do.
I have had a LOT of jobs in my life. Like bunches and bunches. As such, I have worked for a lot of bosses. Most of them assholes, but some genuinely good people. I even had a cool boss once named Dave. Super nice guy. He was smart and reliable, and we all thought the world of him. None of us feared him. We got along with him and he cared about us. It was great. I was 20-22 when I worked for Dave, so pretty young and impressionable. He was the kind of dude I wouldn’t mind turning out to be. So I have this role model in my brain of what I want to be as a manager and how I want my team to see me. I’m trying to be like Dave.
In my company we do annual surveys of our employees and how they feel about the store and ultimately how they feel about me as a manager. As such, I have a rough understanding of how my people feel about me. My team likes me about 70%. That’s not terrible. It’s a high enough number to say most of them like me. But… it is NOT all. And what the fuck? Why the fuck don’t they all like me? I have literally tried to go out of my way for them to like me. I help them out, take an interest in their lives, and try to make their work environment better. Do you have any idea how many dollars I have spent on fucking ice cream? I don’t either, but it is most definitely more than 70% worth of like. God dammit, that’s like almost a 3rd of them don’t like me. Or at least a 3rd do not like me enough to say that they like me. That’s not fair. Dave would have had a 95% or more rating. But no. I have a 70%.
I promise you that I do not spend time obsessing over this. I mean, obviously I think about it. That’s why I am writing this blog. But it’s not really at the forefront of mind most days. But sometimes it is. Like today. Today I had some incidents with a couple of employees where they got upset with what I asked of them or how I corrected them. Had they been surveyed, they would not have liked me today. And none of the situations were a fight. Just simply me either correcting them, or me not being willing to give in to a demand or request because I didn’t think it was the right or fair thing to do. These particular individuals didn’t like this, and it made for some friction in my day. But hey, that’s how this works. Right? Not everybody likes what the boss tells them to do or what the boss says. Not everyone can like you. Here’s the really annoying thing: the individuals that I had this friction with would probably fall into the 70% that like me. I can say that with almost full confidence. And yet, these peeps that liked me still either wouldn’t do or wouldn’t listen to what I said without creating conflict. Shit. Then what is the point of them liking me? Dave wouldn’t have had this problem. So WWDD?
Here’s the thing I forget about Dave and that job: we totally took advantage of his kindness. We did. We got away with murder. It was call center work, so we all had computers and a lot of down time. And for whatever damn reason, the company wasn’t super restrictive about internet access. We would play online games. We read TONS of books and comics. If I remember right, there were guys that brought in their laptops to play Halo and watch movies. I bought a fucking Nintendo Game SP so I could play Final Fantasy games ALL DAY. I read sooooo many comic books. And I think I started and finished the Lord of the Rings once a quarter for 2 years. Somewhere in my desk I have 4-5 full screenplays that I wrote while on the clock. To give you some frame of reference, these are each about 120 pages. And I printed them out on the company’s printer and paper! How wasteful. I’m pretty sure there was a day where I printed out the entire screenplay for George Lucas’ original Star Wars film(yes, the Starkiller version) and read it while working. There may have been a table read on a particularly slow Sunday, but i forget. And let’s not forget when I discovered Wikipedia. Holy shit. I must have read half of what existed at that point. Mostly about movies and obscure TV facts. I distinctly remember once being in a meeting where they had recorded video of my screen for QA and during a call with a customer I had read an entire page of facts about the Delorean in Back to the Future while talking to a customer. Clearly, my conversation wasn’t the A number 1 priority. And yet… I never got in to any trouble. Dave was cool. Dave was supportive. Dave… sort of let us take advantage of the situation. As they say in Britain(according to TV) we were having a laugh. We were taking a piss. Sooooo… was Dave that great? He was liked and we all thought that we respected him. But our actions sure didn’t show it. So what the fuck?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. About how sometimes it’s super hard to get your employees to do what you want them to. To listen to what you say and want them to learn. For all my love of Dave, when I am honest with myself about him being likeable I can see how maybe that likeability stems from him sort of being a tool and letting us run wild. That isn’t who I want to be as a boss. Even if it means I have to settle with a 70% of liked in my store.
So what’s the winning formula? Can you be respected and have your team do what you say, and listen to what you say, while also having them like you? I guess I don’t think so. I mean, I guess I know it. I’ve seen it in my own role as an employee with Dave, and I’ve seen it with my own employees. If Dave can’t be my role model as a manager and a leader, who can?
Enter: Leslie Friggin’ Knope.
Those unfamiliar, Leslie is the main character of one of the greatest TV shows of all time: Parks and Recreation. She’s an enthusiastic idealist wanting to lead her Parks team to glory, while having them all be a friendly family that loves one another. Leslie is really who we all wish we could be. Bright, effective, caring, and willing to take any challenge head-on. She also manages to tackle nearly any obstacle by inspiring her team of misfits to get the job done. She is the kind of role model I could use.
So how does she do it? Well since it is a TV Show, we don’t exactly get a real clear picture into her management style. And since it is fiction… whatever the show might show us, never really happens so it doesn’t really matter. But we do get the occasional glimpse into how Leslie manages her team. My favorite is in the Season 6 episode: Gin it up! In this episode, Leslie has to deal with a scandal caused by her employee, Donna. Over the course of the episode we discover that Donna has a Twitter name for Leslie as a her manager: Bitch Boss. Through Twitter, Donna voices her annoyance at Leslie’s dominating and demanding behavior. Leslie is of course horrified to find out that her employee thinks of her this way. Leslie has my issue: she wants her employee to like her. She is totally fucking bummed to discover her employee might possibly find her less than awesome. Bummer sauce.
Leslie discovers that Donna also refers to her by a second Twitter name: Boss Bitch. This pseudonym actually relates to Donna’s admiration and pride in Leslie as a boss. Donna is proud of Leslie and what she does, and she supports Leslie’s demand for respect. So really, Donna likes her. But wait… can that be right? Can an employee like you and find you annoying?
Yeah. That’s the thing I’m trying to accept as a leader. Since I am in charge, I have to make demands of my employees and correct their behaviors. Otherwise shit is either not gonna get done, or it’s gonna get done wrong. That’s just how it is. And sometimes that’s going to make me seem annoying, or it’s going to piss people off. But that is part of it. And that’s okay. I mean it has to be. Because while I want to be liked, I don’t want to end up like Dave where nothing happens. Cause the thing is my job pays money. As it happens, I sort of need money on a daily basis. So I need to keep my job which means I need to not suck at my job. Which means… people aren’t going to like me. And I am going to be Bitch Boss. Dammit. I just explained not being liked is a total bummer. Yet here I am, being Bitch Boss. By the way, I have absolutely no problem being called Bitch Boss. I am not one to be hung up on gender roles and what not. And since the male equivalent to bitch is dick, I don’t really want to be called Dick Boss. Bitch Boss it is!
That’s a bummer. But there’s a silver lining. If I’m smart and careful I don’t have to just be Bitch Boss. There is a chance that with some real effort and attention I can also be Boss Bitch. That’s right. I may not be able to have them love or even like me. But I can have them respect me. I could inspire them maybe. You know? Genuine, real leadership that could lead to admiration. That would be motha truckin’ sweet. Waaaaayyyy better than being liked. That would be something to work for.
It sucks we cannot be liked by everyone. It does. It goes against our inherent wants and needs. But it is what it is. And accepting that makes you an adult and allows you move past it. Once you do that you can get on with being someone that actually matters. At the base of wanting to be liked, that’s what we actually want: to be someone who matters. That’s what we really want deep down, and being liked seems like a means to validate that we matter. The two can conflict at times. You can’t always have both. But eventually you make your choice. There’s a danger to it. If you choose being someone that matters, you can end up Bitch Boss. But if you’re mindful of how you do it, it can go the other way too. It’s about choosing who you want to be.
For me… Boss Bitch it is. I’ll keep ya posted on how it goes.