When employees talk, good managers listen and act

In high-performing organizations, managers care about their employees as people and show genuine interest in their goals and concerns. When managers care, they have an easier time creating an environment of trust and mutual respect that helps employees feel safe to innovate and take ownership. This helps the employee, the manager, and the whole organization work better together and realize their potential.

When employees talk_In Article

When asked whether “My manager cares about my concerns,” 90% or more employees at Top Workplaces respond positively. This kind of manager-employee trust is essential for long-term success.

Efforts to create and nurture a people-first culture are most successful when it comes from multiple sources and levels across the organization.

Leaders must prioritize human connection as part of the workplace culture. They should expect senior managers to take genuine, respectful interest in their employees’ lives inside and outside of the work environment. When leaders model this behavior, it carries through the organization.

Managers play a critical role in fostering a positive and safe team environment. When conflicts arise, managers must work to resolve them. The best managers treat their employees as respected individuals, and they advocate for them.

Employees should be encouraged to advocate for themselves and speak up about concerns. Managers cannot address issues about which they do not know. Employees should also take the opportunity to provide candid feedback.

If your organization needs to improve in this area, here are some ways to get started:

  • Encourage managers to meet with direct reports to learn more about their employees’ concerns and aspirations.
  • Make an effort to learn about employees’ interests, hobbies, and activities beyond their work roles.
  • Host informal lunches, coffee hours, or other social events – virtually or in-person – to encourage dialogue and connection.
  • Allow time for casual conversation. Rather than jumping straight into meeting topics, spend a few minutes getting to know people and teams.

In the big picture, good managers pay attention to employee well-being. Discuss work-life flexibility with employees and help them manage their work to foster a sense of balance. When there is increased stress or pressure, discuss, and identify ways you both can help mitigate the stress.

Good managers know what employees are passionate about, skills they would like to gain, and projects that interest them. Set realistic expectations for what your team can accomplish.

Communicate with your employees often, checking in to ensure they understand company decisions and updates, particularly how they impact the individual employees and team. Ask open-ended questions and focus on listening to them.

Beware of managers who believe emotions do not have a place at work. Emotions are the most powerful lens we have. They also influence commitment, creativity, and decision-making. Managers can better support and motivate employees when they recognize the impact of emotions in the workplace.

Also, good managers do not view employee concerns as distractions. Concerns are an opportunity to learn and understand. Responding to and addressing these is the only authentic way to get back on track and move forward.

Managers and leaders should focus their attention and be active listeners when employees share their worries.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.


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