If you're a new manager, you might be struggling with how to relate to your subordinates. There's a fine line between being just workplace acquaintances versus total BFF's. You might feel like a pushover for allowing your team to watch an hour of cat videos every day. Or you might worry that you can't get things done without being labeled with the B word.
Most managers have a difficult time finding the right balance of firmness and generosity, but there's no need to struggle anymore. The key to a healthy and successful manager-employee relationship is respect. Establish an environment based on mutual respect. Respect your team members as both working professionals and as fellow humans on this earth.
Whether you're a new manager at an established corporation, or an entrepreneur working with skilled contractors, the following tips will help you create more respectful relationships.
1. Encourage Honest Communication
Be open and honest with your staff to establish a sense of trust. Encourage your team members to provide feedback. They are more likely to compromise if they know their voices have been heard and their input matters. Let your team know that you're accessible and approachable. Don't be the boss who only shows up to give orders and nothing else. Be a leader who is open to collaboration.
When assigning tasks, make sure to always give explicit expectations. Try not be vague, and instead ensure that every team member knows exactly what he or she is responsible for Tibbr found that 68% of workers have difficulty communicating with their team members. Use online tools, calendars and project management systems to monitor progress and keep things on track.
Admit when you are struggling or have made a mistake. It is okay to be wrong. If you or your staff have made a mistake, direct the conversation so that you focus on a solution, not a failure. Focus on making changes for the future, instead of assigning blame for the past.
If an employee has a bad attitude or behavior, address it. Be calm, rational and find the source of his or her frustration. If it's work-related, try to find a solution where all parties can feel satisfied. If it's a personal matter, be sensitive to your employee's struggle. However, also be firm in communicating that the behavior is interfering with productivity and it's not acceptable.
2. Enforce Productive Communication
While everyone's voice needs to be heard, it's important to make sure every voice is relevant. If you have other tasks in addition to management, make sure to prioritize your responsibilities. Establish dedicated times to get your own work done. Then set aside time for employee feedback and enforce these time limits.
Meetings: Establish a meeting agenda to keep the meeting productive. Keep it formal with designated time slots for discussion. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute, but don't stray from the goal.
Phone Calls: Whether one-on-one, or on a group conference call, stick to the same guidelines as a meeting.
Email: Intentions can be misconstrued with email so make sure to write carefully. Proofread your email and make sure that it's respectful. Avoid sending personal messages or non-work-related content.
Text: Same as email. Make sure to communicate carefully and keep it professional.
Face-to-Face/One-on-One: When you're speaking with an individual staff member, maintain eye contact and try to give your undivided attention. Communicate with body language that you value the person's comments. It's perfectly fine to loosen up, but keep the conversation on track.
3. Establish Professional Boundaries
Since you're being honest, you'll need to set up boundaries for your staff. It's up to you what type of culture you'd like to establish, but it's important that you communicate what's acceptable and what isn't. Define what types of discussions, behaviors and styles are professional and what types won't be tolerated.
In order to maintain a respectful relationship, acknowledge that your team members are human. Lunch is a great time to relate to your staff as equals and get to know their personalities. Try to learn more about what they do outside of work and understand how work fits into their lives. Delving into deep topics like love, politics and religion can have serious consequences so be aware of the risks. If a conversation starts to get too personal, mention that you prefer to keep professional boundaries intact.
Encourage a healthy work/life balance. If your team members have family commitments, try to find a compromise that ensures work will still get done. Also, recommend that your team take short breaks throughout the day and remind them if they forget. A 2013 Accenture study found that employees consider work/life balance more important than money or recognition. Keep an eye on morale and make adjustments if everyone is constantly feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
4. Handle Conflict Rationally
When disagreements happen, you must be level-headed and unbiased. If you're not grounded, the problem could spiral out of control. You are responsible for keeping your team in check. Give your team the chance to work things out on their own and step in when necessary. Consider all of the facts and make an objective decision that is best for the company at large.
Don't take things personally. I repeat, don't take things personally. It can be difficult, but try not to doubt yourself. You are responsible for the success of your team and you were put in a management position to lead by example. There are times when completing a task is more important than being well-liked. Sometimes being an effective leader means making unpopular decisions. If you are firm, confident, and compassionate, your team should support you. Remember the goal is respect, not necessarily friendship.
5. Empower Your Team
If you empower your team, they will be more likely to support you. Based on the 2014 TINYPulse Report, only about 20% of employees feel strongly valued. Make sure to consistently communicate that you value each individual's contribution to your team. When someone does a good job, take the time to say thank you. If someone goes above and beyond, celebrate the enthusiasm.
Treat everyone equally. Even if one person gets on your nerves more than others, do your best to give everyone equal attention. Don't play favorites or give certain staff members priority. Only give praise if someone objectively deserves it. Only give constructive criticism when necessary. Relate to everyone on the same level. Try not to let personal feelings or judgements affect your interactions.
Be a mentor and an inspiration. If your team members trust you and know they can depend on you, they will be much more productive. Commit to motivating them to achieve their goals and give advice if they need help with their career paths. No one achieves anything alone and you should try to be both a role model and cheerleader.
Don't micromanage. Trust your teams' skills. After assigning a task, give your employees space to get the job done. It's fine to request status reports, but you shouldn't need to constantly monitor every inch of progress. If you have any doubts that a team member is not capable of completing a task, find an alternative or arrange time for additional training.
What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to employee relationships?