Never have I ever tried to disappear into thin air as much as during P.E. lessons at school. I hated sports, for sure, or breaking into a sweat or becoming breathless, but I really disliked being picked for a team. Or not picked. Or the worst of all: being the one who has to pick other people.

Maybe I spent too long daydreaming as a child, where I was very comfortable in my own imaginary world with a group of excellent invisible comrades. Perhaps I have some inherent psychological issues with rules and being told what to do. Alternatively, I could just be massively socially awkward and know that I am only ever one brainfart away from total humiliation.

This is, perhaps, why I have been a somewhat reluctant boss. I went from being self-employed with a sum total of one person on my team (me), to having to manage a team of staff that can stretch to up to 60 people across both pubs during our busiest periods. If I had to give myself a personal development review, I would give myself perhaps a 1 out of 5 for how well I carry out this part of my job.

I struggle to tell people what to do; I’d rather ask nicely, perhaps drop a hint and then, if that fails, just do it myself. Talk about having a dog and barking yourself, right?

I am beholden to everyone else’s priorities. You can’t come in for your shift? Ok, I’ll find someone to cover for you and, if I can’t, I’ll do it myself. You want to take holiday at the same time as seven other people? Ok, well I can’t get your parents to cancel that family holiday so I’ll authorise it even though your contract says only two people can have the same time off at once. You want to only work on Tuesdays between 3pm and 7pm? Ok, I draw the line at that and then I might use some strong words like “No.”

It’s not that I’m a pushover, it’s just that I have to deal with every staff issue (from missing contraceptive pills to family tragedies and everything in-between) but my husband does not have to field any of this. No one dares ask him for time off. He is not aware of anyone’s menstrual cycles, divorces, or ill children. And in that cavity between him shouting at staff to get on with their jobs and having no concept of anything outside of the immediate working demands, I seem to have stepped in as the reluctant manager, which is frankly not my forte. (Not quite sure what my forte really is – writing rambling blog posts perhaps?)

So, to all my other boss friends out there, I ask you: how do you navigate the very blurry line between being an empathetic and approachable manager of staff with the discipline required to do what’s best for your business? How do you make sure you’re not seen as either the arsehole or the pushover? Please don’t recommend HR classes or books though because I couldn’t be less interested! (And that, perhaps, is the core of the problem.)

Would love to hear your thoughts because the struggle is real!

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