Managers can be oblivious to the reality of how their staff really feels. If the signs aren’t hitting them squarely between the eyes (and sometimes even when they are), managers can be so fixated on their own story that they think everyone is happy, when in fact, they aren’t.
I see it all the time, where managers don’t pay attention to the signs right in front of them. There are certainly many instances when employees don’t share how they are really feeling, obviously making it more difficult to be aware of any dissatisfaction. Their silence might be a result of lack of assertiveness, or fear of reprimand for speaking out. In other cases, an employee may make a diplomatic attempt to talk about tough issues, but the message gets watered down and missed. And on other occasions, an employee may become more direct, but still managers stay in their own world and either ignore or miss clues that would help them have a much more accurate view of the environment.
No matter how overt or subtle the signs, I believe they exist. It’s your job as a manager to find them.
In my opinion, the best managers are the ones that understand the dynamics of the team — and deal with them. The action doesn’t always have to make everyone happy, as long as it’s fair to all.
What’s the impact if you aren’t paying attention to the true level of engagement in your workforce? Loss of productivity, low morale, less loyalty, and high frustration that leads to turnover, to name just a few. I’m sure you can think of others, especially if you happen to be working within a culture that lacks engagement.
So what can you do?
First, listen. My last post touched on this, but I don’t think we can ever put too much emphasis on it. A manager just has to make this a priority. At the very least, it allows your employees to know you care. But you will benefit from the knowledge you get from everyone — if you are truly listening.
Second, look for signs in everyday communications. When people bring more — or less — of themselves to the work, it is a sign. Are they offering opinions? Are they happy and involved? Or are they just going through the motions? What is underneath these signals?
Third, be responsible for understanding the workplace climate. It is your job as a manager to know what is going on with your group. Turnover should never be a surprise.
Fourth, involve a third-party in the process to give you an objective view. Have someone trusted, perhaps a peer, an HR manager, an outside source, or a 360 multi-rater feedback tool to help you see things you haven’t been open to before. Saying that someone has not told you is not an acceptable excuse.
None of us are perfect at reading the signals of others. But when we put our focus there, and employ tools to help us, we do a much better job at it. Let me know if I can help.