Communication is at the core of the employee-supervisor relationship. Talent managers and leaders can help facilitate positive — if not loving — working relationships by building an honest, autonomous workplace culture. When employees feel appreciated, they are more engaged and productive, leading to better business results and a happier, healthier work environment.
With fictional managers in movies such as “Horrible Bosses” wreaking havoc on employees, it’s no wonder bosses sometimes have bad reputations. But contrary to all the negative hype, leaders may not be receiving the love they deserve.
In reality, more than 70 percent of employees claim to have a good working relationship with their supervisors, according to an August 2011 survey by Fierce Inc. titled “What Makes a Horrible Boss?” outlining characteristics of good bosses. And 53 percent state that their leader’s management style has a direct and positive impact on their relationships with co-workers.
Here are five tips for how talent managers can help leaders spread the love in the office:
Sometimes employees know best. What’s one of the most vital things managers can do to create great relationships with employees? Solicit and value their input, according to 80 percent of respondents from the aforementioned survey on characteristics of good bosses.
To ensure that the organization respects and values workers’ opinions, leaders should establish guidelines for communication. When there is an important decision to be made, they can invite all employees to the table rather than coming to a conclusion behind closed doors. This could be followed up with managers regularly reporting what resulted from the employees’ input. This level of ongoing engagement demonstrates that employees were heard and encourages teams to continue to provide answers.
Give them some breathing room. Employees don’t want to be treated like cogs in a machine. They want to understand their role in the big picture. Autonomy, the degree to which people feel they have control over their work, contributes to overall motivation and trust.
When employees do not feel they have the opportunity to drive their own growth and create plans for their long-term development, organizations lose valuable talent. To retain top people, leaders should offer opportunities for employees to learn new skills, such as cross-departmental training programs or allowing employees to work on a different team or new project. Autonomy is built through daily conversations, so ensure that leaders engage in frequent communication with employees about their desires, responsibilities and job satisfaction.
Make time to talk. Managers who foster and encourage honest feedback from employees position their companies to make more money than those that don’t, according to a 2012 Corporate Executive Board and Harvard Business Review study titled “Open-Door Policy, Closed-Lip Reality.” This study found that organizations that rated highly in open communication delivered a 10-year total shareholder return of 7.9 percent compared to 2.1 percent at other companies.
To boost communication within organizations, companies should consider doing away with stale annual performance reviews and instead coach managers on how to provide ongoing feedback throughout the year. If there’s a team error or performance issue, encourage leadership to hold impromptu meetings to identify solutions in real time. Consider leveraging technology by creating online forums or chat rooms to build more channels for continuous feedback.
Keep them in the loop. There is an overall lack of trust within organizations, and employers need to earn that trust back. For example, hiding bad news never works because employees will find out the truth eventually, and if the information didn’t come from organizational leaders, the reputations of those leaders will be shot.
Consider making as much information as possible accessible to all levels of talent, and coach leaders on how to provide answers in a predetermined timeframe. With the rise of social media, it is also more important than ever to establish ground rules for delivering news. Work with management to ensure that the leaders have the chance to sit down with employees to share important company news before it is broadcast on Twitter and hearts are broken.
Allow for some fun. If employees have worked long hours to complete a project or just reached a big goal, leaders should show their appreciation. And everyone likes to be appreciated with free food and drinks. Perhaps consider renting a chocolate fountain for the day. This doesn’t mean that organizations should force feed their employees sugary treats, it means leaders should make room for fun in the office. Workers shouldn’t feel pressured to work 24/7. If they want to share YouTube clips or organize a March Madness competition, let it slide — and join them. When employees know they can let loose and have fun every now and then, it can prevent burnout, create a less stressful environment and enrich work relationships.
Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.