Recently I talked to a friend who shared with me some struggles she encountered with her manager at work. When she went to the manager with a problem, he brushed aside her concern and she was met with radio silence for the next 3 months. Needless to say, this caused a fair amount of frustration as she tried to resolve the issue on her own.
This incident got me thinking about the role managers play in employee engagement. How could my friend’s manager have handled her situation differently, both to address the current need and head off future problems? And how can companies hire the kind of managers who contribute positively to employee wellbeing?
How Bad Managers Sabotage Employee Engagement
According to Gallup, managers cause employee engagement scores to vary by as much as 70%.
Let that sink in.
Good managers have the power to make employees feel motivated and happy at work. Bad managers do the exact opposite. They make employees feel frustrated and unhappy with their jobs.
But how do you know if your managers contribute to stress on the job? Here are five signs to watch for:
- Poor soft skills. Ineffective managers communicate infrequently and don’t develop positive relationships with their employees. Good managers, by contrast, encourage regular meetings, communicate consistently, and return calls or messages within a day or two at most. They also show interest in their employees as people, staying up to date on what’s happening outside of work and making employees feel valued.
- Unclear expectations. When managers fail to cast vision and set measurable goals, employees don’t know what is expected of them at work. Effective managers contribute to employee performance by setting clear expectations, checking up on progress, and holding all employees to the same standards.
- Infrequent feedback. There’s a reason most companies no longer value the annual review. Infrequent feedback leaves employees feeling disconnected from their jobs and unsure how to improve. Annual reviews feel superficial and provide no actionable insight into daily decision-making. When managers provide frequent, actionable feedback, workers become more productive contributors.
- Focus on weaknesses—Every employee has strengths and weaknesses. Bad managers focus on the weaknesses, while good managers help employees develop their strengths. By placing workers in a position to excel, managers can boost morale and encourage productivity.
- Emphasize hierarchy as a measure of value. Poor managers see themselves as the sole source of ideas and solutions, and expect their subordinates to implement those ideas. By contrast, effective managers know how to solicit contributions from every member of the team, understanding that each person brings different strengths to the table.
Unfortunately, companies choose the wrong manager more than 80% of the time.
So how can you reverse the trend?
How to Hire Managers That Foster Productivity
Managers hold the power to make employees happier—and more productive—on the job. And that means hiring the right ones should take top priority. Here are a few tips for finding the right people:
- Don’t assume someone will be a successful manager based on success in their current role.
- Look for people with management skills, not just job skills and knowledge.
- Provide manager training that focuses on communication and performance management.
- Invest in continuing development for managers.
- Consider the candidate’s current relationship with co-workers.
When managers help employees use their natural talents, skills, and knowledge to perform their jobs , everyone benefits.
And that’s worth investing in.