Managing people is difficult. Tasking some employees with the job of monitoring, motivating, inspiring, evaluating, and disciplining others in addition to fulfilling their other job responsibilities is a lot to ask. People are complex creatures with diverse sets of values and ideas, and managers are expected to understand and cater to each individual in order to get the best out of every team member. Given all of this, the fact that 58% of managers report that they received no management training at all is shocking. Do your whole company a favor and set your managers up for success with dedicated training and support. For those just starting out, we’ve combed the research and assembled a list of three questions managers should ask employees in order to engage their team members.
The High Cost of Bad Managers
Bad bosses cost the U.S. $360 billion per year. This may seem like an outrageous sum, but when you consider that three out of every four employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job, and that 65% of employees say they would choose a better boss over a pay raise, it’s easy to see how that level of dissatisfaction could lead to some significant losses. Bad managers contribute to a whole slew of negative business outcomes including employee disengagement, decreased productivity, absenteeism, and critically, serious retention problems. According to a SHRM study from last year, 60% of people who had recently left a job say they did so because of their manager.
How can we turn the tide on such a massive problem in our workforce? Ultimately, as opposed to many of the systemic societal issues employees and companies are facing right now, the issue of bad managers can be broken down to the smallest unit: individuals. Change starts with folx in management positions being willing to learn and make adjustments in order to do better by their direct reports. Companies can help facilitate this with trainings, coaches, and digital learning resources, but ultimately, if the individual doesn’t want to or isn’t ready for change, none of these offerings will make a difference. Once managers decide they want to take that crucial first step though, there are some baseline criteria they can follow to ensure they’re empowering their employees rather than the opposite.
How Managers Can Make Change in the Short-term
The journey towards becoming a better manager is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no denying that managing people is hard, which is why it bears repeating here. Adapting to new employees, constantly learning about and seeking to improve oneself, and just trying to stay sane through all of it can be a real struggle. To help with this, we’ve trawled the research and assembled a list of three simple questions to help managers make a positive change in their relationships with their team members starting this week. Encourage managers to ask the following questions during their check-ins with employees (and ensure they’re having regular check-ins with employees to begin with!):
1. What went well this past week?
Ask your employees about their successes, and truly listen to their answers. Acknowledge them for the accomplishments they mention. Recognition helps build employees’ self-esteem and engagement, and kicks the conversation off on a positive note. The key here is to make sure you’re really paying attention and providing genuine praise so the employee feels both heard and appreciated. You may be surprised by the results of simply making the time and headspace to truly check in with them.
2. Are you facing any roadblocks?/What are you struggling with?
Let your employees know that you’re there to support them, and that if they’re having problems, they should feel comfortable to freely express them to you. Many issues that ultimately become dire could have been averted if they had been addressed earlier. Encourage employees to share any areas where they’re feeling underresourced or otherwise unequipped, and assist with solutions to the best of your ability. Knowing that you have their back will do wonders for your relationship, and will greatly improve the employee’s work experience.
3. What can I do to be a better manager?
Ask your employees how you can improve, and be genuinely open to hearing their responses. Inviting and accepting feedback can be disarming in a way that opens doors that would have otherwise remained closed. The key here is actually being willing to work on the areas employees identify for you. Record their comments, and let them know how you plan to address them. Then actually follow through on your commitments.
With the bar so low for managers today, there is ample low hanging fruit to be picked in efforts to improve. Simply providing this list of questions managers should ask employees can make a noticeable difference. Consider offering leadership training for your managers if you have the budget, and if not, try to at least assemble a repository of free resources for them to consult. Better yet, organize your managers into cohorts to study the materials and practice the recommendations together. If you’re interested in an easy way to organize and manage employee support groups, check out Workrowd. We’ve got everything you need to streamline your professional development experience and help your team keep each other accountable. As always, we’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.