Every manager wants to build a team of satisfied, highly motivated employees because they tend to be more productive and less likely to leave the firm for other job opportunities. However, many managers unintentionally make mistakes that lead to a disconnect with employees, causing low morale and turnover.
Here are some actions that can burn bridges, and tips for how to avoid them:
Failing to reward when times are good. The company proudly announces stellar earnings and profits. Staff assume this will equate to positive changes for them personally, so they wait for long overdue raises, bonuses or promotions. Only, these rewards never arrive. The result is a demoralized team.
Managers need to make sure employees are rewarded for their efforts. If business is on an upswing, it’s time to re-evaluate everyone’s contributions to that success and consider appropriate recognition.
Keeping people out of the loop. Big news is on the horizon: the company plans to expand a product line. As a result, leaders are hard at work finalizing the details, spending long hours behind closed doors. Meanwhile, employees are growing anxious, wondering why there are so many private discussions. Is the firm going out of business or being sold? Are layoffs ahead?
While it may not be possible to disclose all company developments as they’re unfolding, supervisors need to do their part to keep employees informed. For example, managers can inform staff that modifications are being made to a product line but the situation will not directly impact jobs. Acknowledging recent activities and initiatives shows respect to workers and can help stop the rumor mill.
Failing to staff appropriately. Workloads have been growing for a long time and employees have started rolling their eyes at hearing they should continue giving “110 percent.” With no relief in sight, they’re starting to burn out and wonder when management will notice it’s time to hire more staff.
When personnel levels are too low, it sends the message to employees that leaders don’t care — or at least aren’t paying attention. Supervisors should re-assess staffing needs periodically to make sure there are adequate resources to meet current and future demands. If there are short-term projects or if workloads are fluctuating, it may be best to bring in temporary professionals to pick up the slack until it’s clear there’s a need to make these positions full-time.
Having limited face time with staff. Another “bridge burner” that can strike managers is failing to interact personally with their teams. With a full plate of responsibilities, managers can easily get caught up in their own work demands and become missing in action. Employees who feel ignored may believe they’re seen as just a number and not valued for their unique contributions.
It’s great to give employees the freedom to do their jobs without micromanagement, but they still want to have a support system. Leaders should make an active effort to talk to people on their teams, even if it’s just stopping by desks to check in at the end of the day. Ensuring weekly staff meetings are a priority and aren’t postponed or canceled too often also can let employees know their managers are aware of their hard work.
Discouraging risk-taking. People want to be able to think innovatively and try new approaches to their work. However, leaders sometimes block positive change by encouraging staff to follow the same old policies and procedures. When employees make suggestions and are told practices already in place will prevail, it sends a message that employees aren’t trusted to take risks.
Managers should plan brainstorming sessions at the onset of new projects, listen carefully to ideas and then implement the best proposals. If certain suggestions don’t make the cut, it’s best for employees to receive an explanation so it’s clear the propositions were still given careful consideration.
Often, all it takes to repair burned bridges are a few simple actions. Making adjustments can fix the gap and get things moving again. Managers will start to see the payoff as morale and retention improves.
Robert Hosking is executive director of OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.