When you’re a manager, the old saying “no news is good news” doesn’t always apply. While it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand (or keep your door closed) and assume that all is well with your employees because no one is complaining, that’s a bad assumption. They may be another reason no one is bringing any issues to you – they may not trust you. Or, perhaps when they have tried to, you got defensive or labeled them as a complainer.
Do you have one of those “no whining” signs in your office? If so, what’s that really telling your employees? Just do your job and keep your mouth shut?
In the absence of a solid foundation of trust and open two-way communication, here are ten things that you’re not going to hear from your employees (many of which you should hear):
1. I’m looking for a new job. It should never come as a surprise when an employee hands you their two-week notice. Once that happens, it’s too late to counter-offer to retain the employee. There was a reason (or reasons) the employee started looking for a new position. The key to retaining your best employees is being able to uncover those little sources of dissatisfaction before they turn into BIG sources of dissatisfaction.
2. I’m not really busy and could take on a lot more. Not too many employees are going ask their managers for more work. Most people will find things to do to fill up their days and justify them as important. As a manager, it’s up to you to make sure your employees are challenged, productive, and engaged in high priority, value-added work.
3. You really are terrible at ______. Everybody has weaknesses – and blind spots – and it’s risky for employees to be the one to point them out to their manager. Asking for feedback helps, and more importantly, responding in a non-defensive way will open up the door for your employees to help you become aware of your blind spots.
4. You show favorites. Are you “friends” with some of your employees and not others? You may think your relationships with certain employees outside of work is not having an impact on how you treat them, but chances are, it’s creating a perception that it is impacting your relationships.
5. We wish you would leave so we can relax and let our hair down. Yes, it’s OK to join your crew for a drink after work. However, it’s important to face the fact that you ARE the boss, and all employees will vent about their managers, even the BEST managers. When it comes to socializing, follow the “buy one round and out” rule of thumb.
6. You don’t have a clue about what I do and don’t seem to care. While no employee wants to work for a micromanager, they do expect their boss to have a good understanding of what they do. More importantly, they want to know that their work is important and appreciated.
7. My co-worker is getting away with murder and you don’t seem to have a clue. No one likes to tattle on their coworkers. They would rather that their manager is astute enough to know who is pulling their weight and who is not.
8. Hello, I’m trying to talk to you, and you’re not paying attention. Are you giving your employees 100% of your attention? Are you in the moment? Or, are you checking emails, multi-tasking, or daydreaming about something else? Your employees deserve your undivided attention, and feel disrespected when they don’t think they are getting it.
9. You’re not as funny as you think you are. Here’s a harsh management reality: just because your employees laugh at your attempts at humor, it doesn’t mean you’re funny. Get over yourself – that’s just what we do around our bosses.
10. I really don’t like you. Most managers really want to be liked by their employees, but wanting to be “liked” is an unrealistic and inappropriate goal as a leader. Leadership isn’t a popularity contest - it’s more important to be respected.