Communication or Crash

Karen has been a manager of the nursing team at a local community clinic for nearly a year. Though her medical skills and experience are exemplary, she has struggled with her employee relations skills. Recently, her employees have started to slack in some of their admin-related duties and they have begun to show a lack of enthusiasm in the completion of daily tasks and special projects.

Unsure why this lack of engagement was occurring, Karen spoke with her team lead and was informed that her employees have been feeling “stuck” with regards to job advancement as there have been no formal or informal conversations regarding performance (either good or bad), and they have increasingly felt that their work and contributions have not been appreciated or valued as a result.

Employees need to be regularly communicated with about the expectations of their jobs and provided with feedback regarding their performance as an individual and as part of a team. Without this vital component to employee management, Karen’s team was disconnected and there was a general feeling of frustration amongst the staff members.

When it comes to nurturing your employees, knowing what is expected of them is a first step in creating strong relationships. Without knowing what your and the organization’s expectations are, they have no direction. Without that sense of direction, it is easy to plateau and become stagnant in performance and motivation.

Take the time to meet with each employee individually to go over these expectations, to offer both positive and constructive feedback, and to allow for two-way communication. Provide them with the opportunity to convey to you their needs and goals, and work together to come up with a plan to help them achieve these objectives in ways that prove to be mutually beneficial to their personal development, to the team, and the organization as a whole.

Making this type of regular and effective communication with your employees a priority can lead to improved job satisfaction, fosters feelings of mutual respect and trust, can enhance positive work environments, and encourages team collaboration and camaraderie.

Next week, we will expand on underappreciation, a negative result that comes from failing to communicate with employees, and will discuss to how ensure that this this final component does not impede the development your employees and the fostering of strong relationships.

The Detriment in Favoritism

Maria has been working in the finance department of her organization for nearly three years. About a year ago, another associate, Danielle, was brought on who was coincidentally a friend of the department manager. Everything was seemingly running smoothly during the new employee’s introductory period, but then Danielle started coming into work late and was taking long lunches, but was not disciplined for this behavior in any way (the assumption being that Danielle and the manager were taking lunch together).

One week, Maria’s daughter was sent home from school with the stomach flu. Maria had to leave work early that day without providing advance notice and was late the following two mornings while waiting for childcare to arrive. Due to the last-minute nature of her tardiness and her need to leave work unexpectedly, Maria was given a record of discussion and was reminded of the organization’s policy on attendance.

Additionally, Maria and Danielle both applied for the position of team lead, but Maria, whose tenure and experience far outweighed that of the newer recruit, was overlooked for the spot, the position going to Danielle, the manager’s favored employee. Maria quickly became disgruntled at work, her frustration with the favoritism of Danielle creating a volatile working environment and a gradual loss of productivity.

An unfortunate situation many of us in HR and management positions are all too familiar with, showing favoritism is a surefire way to create tension and resentment amongst your team and between employees and managers. With a focus on nurturing and helping your employees grow and develop into the best professionals they can be, this inequitable treatment amongst employees can be highly detrimental, making them feel undervalued and unappreciated which can lead to a loss of productivity and motivation.

Managers are no different than anyone else and it is understandable that certain personalities get along better with others. However, in an effort to derail the perception of favoritism, follow some of these tips to avoid favoritism in the workplace:

  • Allow for individual meetings with each employee on a regular, informal basis to discuss performance and allow for two-way feedback
  • Focus on an employee’s strengths and experience when giving promotions
  • Allow for all employees to have equal opportunities for projects and assignments
  • Refrain from gossip as this only fuels the perception of favoritism
  • Make an effort to understand those employees who are most different from you

Implementing a few of these techniques into your daily interactions with employees can help ensure your team does not foster any feelings of animosity and resentment. Next week we will discuss another obstacle to nurturing employees: a lack of communication.

Avoid Micromanagement Mistakes

Taking the time to make nurturing your employees a priority can result in a more engaged, productive, and overall happy team. When things aren’t going as ideally as you would hope, employee disgruntlement is often caused by management not giving them the freedom to do their jobs.

As we discussed last week, micromanagement is one of the top four factors that can cause a less than ideal relationship with your employees. Being micromanaged can cause the morale of any individual to suffer, leading to severe employee disengagement. Constant nitpicking and “suggestions” on how to do their job can leave your employees feeling inadequate and disparaged. Micromanagement can drive a wedge between you and your employees with a loss of respect and autonomy leading to high levels of turnover and burnout.

Micromanagement is often not an intentional managerial approach. Managers feel like they are merely doing their job by keeping tabs on their employees, intending to ensure that they are doing good work and meaning to offer constant feedback and support. However, this lack of autonomy can lead to your employees being unable to grow and develop as professional individuals.

This managerial technique is completely avoidable. Try these methods to ensure this is not an issue within your team:

  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Priorities! Take a look at the big picture and don’t let yourself get bogged down with the little things that don’t matter in the long run. Focus on departmental and organizational goals and how you, and your employees, can work in the most productive way possible to meet those objectives.
  • Learn to Delegate – A difficult skill for some to master, let your employees help you meet those overarching goals and objectives. Delegating can be beneficial for both managers and employees, in that managers have fewer duties on their plate, and employees feel trusted to take on new tasks and are offered chances to learn and build their own professional skills.
  • Communicate – Instead of constantly requiring and asking for status updates, talk with your employees about the best methods for appraisal on overall performance and project progress. If you’re not directly involved with a particular task, cut back on required updates while still offering your support and guidance.

Giving your employees autonomy over their work and the freedom to make (appropriate) decisions will help your employees gain confidence in their work and will help build their problem-solving skills. Learning not to micromanage not only will benefit your employees and team, but will help you further develop your own skills as a respected and effective leader.

Follow along next week as we discuss another factor that hinders the development of strong relationships between managers and employees: Favoritism and Inequitable Treatment.

Nurturing Strong Relationships

It is no new idea that happy, engaged, and fulfilled employees are more loyal, productive, and efficient in their work. Every manager should hope that their employees are all of these things, but with many responsibilities and duties to be dealt with on a day-to-day basis, nurturing your employees is often a task that is pushed to the back burner, whereas this duty should be a top priority.

Just like you would nurture a garden in the spring, tending to each aspect of development and ongoing maintenance, you need to foster the growth of your employees from the very start, and make certain to listen to their needs and concerns and respond accordingly. When you truly listen to what they have to say, you can tailor your management style to ensure mutually beneficial results.

Some of the most common needs and concerns employees have of their managers, issues that can potentially hinder the development of these strong relationships, include:

  • Micromanagement – Being overly managed and not allowed the freedom to grow as an independent professional, and being constantly nitpicked often leads employees to feel as if the work they are doing just isn’t good enough.
  • Favoritism/Inequitable Treatment – Double standards, favoritism amongst employees, and not applying policies and expectations fairly can easily cause tension and resentment.
  • Lack of Communication – Employees need to be regularly communicated with about the expectations of their jobs and provided with feedback regarding their performance as an individual and as part of the team.
  • Underappreciation – Feeling unappreciated can wreck the morale and drive of anyone. Taking the time to praise your employees (both publicly and privately) and to communicate how much they are valued is a win-win.

Follow along this month as we address these four common areas of concerns employees have with their managers and discuss what you, as a manager, can do to ensure these are not issues within your team, impeding the development mutually beneficial and long lasting relationships with your employees.