No monster: Flatter coworkers with cookies

My latest management tip: bake cookies. That's right, bake them at home and bring them to the office. This advice applies to both men and women and requires no great cooking skill. You will surprise people with your caring and kindness.

And with a cookie in hand, coworkers will take bad news from you much more generously. Also, showing a soft side of yourself as a manager is humanizing, but hazardous. Cookies convey softness without the risk that you're showing too much. But you need to approach the task like all work-related acts– maintain a consistent image of yourself in the workplace. That means all the same rules apply to cookies that apply to getting dressed, going out to lunch, or attending a meeting.


Be interesting.

Most people want to appear interesting at work, but it's a tricky situation. You need to be interesting in a way that's consistent with the management values you uphold. If you bang people over the head with your good qualities no one will pay attention. You must reveal those qualities strategically. Saying, "I made cookies last night. Do you want one?" is a subtle way to show diverse competence, genuine caring, and lightheartedness, all traits that good managers possess. These are also traits that are difficult to show without bragging or appearing disingenuous.


Get a road map before you begin.

For the novice baker, you need to know what is important and what is not. It's important that the cookies don't taste terrible. It is not important that there are a lot of them. But as a star manager, you already cultivate the idea that what you do you do well, so cookies should be no exception. Don't do anything complicated in terms of shape or decoration unless you're an ace with frosting. Instead use sprinkles as a trusty decoration that still looks fun. (Cooking tip: Sugar cookies are best for sprinkles.)


Everything in moderation.

It is important not to bake cookies all the time or else people perceive you as the parent instead of the boss. Also, don't tell people how hard you had to work at this task. It's like giving a gift with the price tag still on. So even if it took you six batches to get it right, and you baked all day Saturday and Sunday just to get twenty-five edible cookies, act as if it's the most normal thing in the world for you to bake for your coworkers.


Care about your coworkers.

Cookies are a good way to do the most important part of your management job, which is making people around you feel like you care about them. When the people in your meeting infer you spent your evening baking cookies especially for them, they will respond with more enthusiasm when you ask them to help on a project that is not taking place in their time zone.


Faking does not fly when it comes to caring.

After bringing my cookies to a few morning meetings, I realized that at 10am people do not eat like cookie connoisseurs-­ they eat like victims of starvation. So I started using the cookie dough that comes in a tube. And no one noticed; all I had to do was fluff up the sliced circles before I plopped them on the cookie sheet. I discovered that it also works to buy sort-of-sloppy cookies at a bakery and bring them to work in a box that screams homemade.

But then I realized that I really do like the feeling of doing something nice for people. Which is good because you cannot be a good manager if you don't care about people, and you cannot fake caring about people, or caring about cookies.