Unless your start-up has had some major investment or is already breaking through that cash-strapped early stage, as its leader, you find yourself having to cover many different roles.

Of course, any staff you have managed to take on will also be pulling double- and triple-time as you all use your passion to get this thing off the ground without enough dosh to pay enough people to do it all.

But all doubling up is not created equal.

Dividing up the work is not just about cutting the to-do lists into equal parts.

All work is not created equal in the eyes of the worker.

This is where your role as a self-aware, savvy leader comes in. If you aren’t one of these already, you risk creating miserable team members who become a risk to your start-up.

But there are a few simple things you can do to avoid being that leader and make sure that all team members can do their best work.

This is what that misery, and your role as its “fixer” might look like:

I’ve been talking to a friend recently who is having trouble at work. Essentially, her boss has her doing two jobs- one of which she loves and his good at, and the other is one dumped on her that she is totally unsuited to.

The one she hates is all about tasks and admin and lists. The other is about being creative and making new processes and products work and finding solutions. This is the job she signed up for and that she thrives in.

In addition to all the misery she is feeling at work because of this dual role and the fact that half of it is totally contrary to her personality and aptitudes, she has cut out all the things she likes most in her personal life to try and eliminate some of the noise and anxiety she feels from trying to keep up at work.

Not only does this make her even more miserable, it’s a loss for the community. She runs code clubs and tech events for women, teaches, and is developing a tech entrepreneur curriculum to put to video. And she is fantastic at all those things.

The anxiety this work mis-match is causing is leaching into and wrecking her life outside of work.

And she’s not clueless herself- she realises the types of tasks that she struggles with. She ends up jumping between them all and never finishing. She describes it as “drowning in tasks” and as “a kind of hell”.

It crowds out the creative and idea-generating aspects of her job that she thrives on and that makes her enjoy going to work each day.

If this situation doesn’t change for her, this company will lose a great employee who has been around since the beginning and knows her stuff. The community has already lost her extra-curricular contributions.

Of course each of us has parts of our jobs that we like less than others, or that we are less good at. And we each have the responsibility in our jobs to speak up for ourselves, communicate with our boss, negotiate in our roles, and be honest when we’re aren’t coping.

But a leader must be willing to listen, understand, and accommodate those things that their team members tell them, or more powerfully, show them, that isn’t right in the workplace.

I have heard many accounts of my friend’s attempt to communicate with her boss about the things she is struggling with most at work. And things don’t change. This has been going on for a while now, and now my friend is planning her exit strategy.

That leader will then have to go out and recruit and train up her replacement.

This would be a waste, when it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are five simple things that leaders (and team members) can do to avoid creating miserable workers who then do their jobs badly or leave altogether.

  • Don’t ignore it when someone comes to you and tells you something is not right. Believe them until you have found out otherwise for yourself. Often people will not tell you directly in words- they will tell you through their actions. Learn to pick up the cues. Small indicators can do you big favours! People will make it work a very long time before they break, don’t wait until that time. When you hear it or see it once, follow up and nip it before it gets that bad.
  • Set up a system for and conduct effective one to one monthly meetings and annual performance reviews. This helps you take on your responsibility as manager for not only the performance but also welfare of your team members. And, it gets and keeps a conversation going so problems are less likely to sneak up on you or them.
  • Make sure the work and the person are suited, especially if this is work that comes after the work they actively applied for and you hired them for. Don’t dump work on someone- that’s lazy leadership. Be mindful and delegate with intention.
  • Know yourself! Self-awareness is a hugely beneficial trait, or in my view- skill- for all members of a team, but it is particularly valuable for managers and leaders. Your ability to be a good leader is intrinsically linked to your level of self awareness, and the relationship is exponential. In turn this will help you recognise others’ characteristics and aptitudes, which will help you respond better to their needs.
  • Encourage team members to support each other in this. Recognise what each other does well and what each other struggles with, and step up and help each other out accordingly. Give team members time to get out and go learn some self-awareness or coping techniques if they have to do work that relies on their weakest skills or aptitudes.

A miserable team member is a costly team member. As the leader, yes it’s your fault if that misery festers. But these are a few simple strategies you can use to nip that misery in the bud, and get the best out of everyone.

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Originally published on Medium.com