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How Psychology Can Help You be a Better Boss

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Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A good understanding of human psychology can go a long way to improving your overall performance as a manager.

Article 3 Minutes

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Being a good boss means you have to wear many hats. One day you may be the motivator, making sure your team is feeling enthused about their tasks. Another day, you're the troubleshooter, looking for the problems, or the counsellor making sure your team are in the right state of mind to work effectively.

But whichever hat you're wearing on any given day, it's vital to have a strong understanding of what issues are most likely to get your team working effectively, and which will just serve to alienate or antagonize employees. And this is where psychology comes in.

Having a good grounding in human psychology is an increasingly important trait in an effective manager. Indeed, figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show there is set to be a 14% rise in demand for psychologists in the US between 2016 and 2026, and opportunities for these professionals in growing across many fields, from advertising and marketing to customer service. Of course, it stands to reason that if you're going to be leading a team, understanding how human beings tick is going to be a valuable asset.

Therefore, even if you don't have a background in this area, taking the time to learn about psychology can make you a better boss. Here's how.

Gain better understanding of human behaviour

A good manager needs to not only understand what their employees are doing, but why they're doing it. And 'because I told them to' isn't a valid answer. Psychology gives you a better insight into people's motivations, which means you can make them feel better valued and fulfilled in their role.

Ask how your team members want to advance in their career, for example, or what challenges they're setting for themselves, and how you can help them achieve these. In turn, this means lower staff turnover, improved loyalty and higher morale among your team, which translates directly into better business performance.

Adjust your style to people's personalities

Learning how to deal with people's personalities is one of the most important parts of being a good boss and you can't use the same approach on everyone. An understanding of how your employees are likely to respond to certain ways of delivering feedback, for example, can ensure you're getting the most from your team.

Chances are there will be a wide range of personality types within your team, and some will naturally be easier to manage than others, and it's not always the most obvious ones - such as the apathetic or the belligerent - that need the most management. For example, having a perfectionist on the team can be frustrating if it prevents progress being made, while those who are quieter may be harder to engage in team-based collaboration activities.

Adapting your management style is therefore essential if you're to be a successful boss. Whatever traits your employees have, the key is working with them, not against them. Do you need to give them more time to prepare for a meeting to avoid stressing them out? Will they react poorly to perceived negative feedback? Knowing what to do, and what not to do, doesn't just avoid conflict, but helps improve overall productivity.

Improve your communication

Finally, a good grounding in psychology can improve your own performance by ensuring you're communicating in a way that's likely to be the most effective. It can tell you, for example, when you should be getting more hands-on with your employees in terms of offering instruction and direction, and when you need to take a step back to avoid the impression of micromanaging.

It also ensures you're better able to empathize with their feelings and can get across your own ideas and directions in a way they'll understand and respond positively to. By doing this, you can ensure people feel more involved in the company and recognize where their own efforts are contributing.

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