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Why I won't win Boss of the Year from my top employee

Jenn Aubert is an author and entrepreneur with a passion and focus on empowering and educating women entrepreneurs and business owners.

How to become a better boss — even if you're working for yourself

I’m a horrible boss — not just mildly bad but downright mean. I'm not particularly proud of this, but I ride my top person so hard, I’m surprised she hasn’t quit yet. She takes my constant criticism and my overreaching demands like a trooper. I often wonder why she doesn’t start earlier than I ask and why she has the audacity to take an afternoon off to spend time with her son.

When a boss asks unfair questions

I pepper her with questions:

  • "Why hasn't this article been written yet?"
  • "Why aren't we further along with all of our plans?"
  • "Why aren't you about 20 pounds thinner than you were when we launched this business?"

I wonder — often out loud — what is going on with her.

Does she resent me? Maybe.

Do I think one day she'll walk out the door and never return. Not likely.

Why, you may be wondering, would anyone tolerate such cruel behavior? Because, sadly, the employee and the boss are one in the same. They are both me.

As business owners, we are often the CEO and the worker bee. We are the strategist and the assistant. We are the creative, and we’re the coffee maker. And as the ambitiously-driven founder, you often ride yourself harder than anyone you would ever hire. You would not treat anyone how you treat yourself.

We are often our worst critics and this quality only gets worse — and louder — when we’re starting a business. There is so much to do, too much to learn and a growing to-do list that could overtake a small village. How do we continue to drive our business forward and do so without demoralizing our number one — and most important — employee?

3 Ways to become your own boss of the year

1. Do unto yourself as you would do unto others

Would you speak to an employee or friends as harshly as you do to yourself? I'm guessing these words would never leave your lips when talking to others. So, why would you speak so harshly to yourself? When you're berating yourself for taking a much needed afternoon off, ponder whether you would speak this way to your favorite employee or friend.

2. Keep things separate

Our work and our lives are so enmeshed and tangled, we don't take the time off to fully engage with our private lives. We drag our work — primarily because we love it — into our personal lives and into our personal space and time. When we do this, it is hard to replenish and gain some much needed perspective. Make sure you create space for the rest of your life so you don’t regret what you’ve missed and become an even worse boss to yourself.

3. Bring back rewards

You work hard — incredibly hard. You don't have others giving you gold stars for your work and handing you a nice holiday gift at the end of the year. Oh, how we all miss that at some level. The bonuses, the praise, the fancy gifts and the sparkling reviews, that is all gone in a instant when we launch out on our own.

I say it’s high time we bring some of that back. Be your own favorite boss by setting some rewards to go with accomplishing your milestones. Even if the goal is completing a project on time — take yourself out for a spa day or buy yourself a little gift. Build rewards into your projects and goals.

When you’re running your own business, it is easy to get swept up in your own ambition and excitement for building something out of nothing. Make sure you don’t forget to be kind and generous to yourself. Be your very own "boss of the year."

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