Do You Really Know Your Employees?

Like a boss

At a recent business lunch, I was shocked to find out that my account manager, Lisa, has an identical twin. Identical twin?  Really?  I’d been working with her for three years, and somehow never knew this MAJOR life detail.

It caused me to think about how well I actually know my employees.  I know that they give hours, days, and years of their lives to their work, but do I really know them as people?  Would it make me a better boss if I knew more?  How do I get to know my employees without seeming pushy or violating their right to privacy?

I began by doing a little research and came across a Forbes article called “7 Things that Make Great Bosses Unforgettable.”  In the article, Travis Bradberry writes about great bosses: “They are human.  And they aren’t afraid to show it.  They’re personable and easy to relate to.  They’re warm.  They realize that people have emotions, and they aren’t afraid to express their own.  They relate to their people as a person first, and a boss second.”

I let that soak in a little.  I agree with most of it.  I think that bosses should be personable and warm, but there should also be some distinction between a boss and a coworker/friend.  Kathy Caprino (Forbes) explores the idea of establishing firm boundaries in her article “Can Bosses and Employees be Friends?” She says, “Doing this (a friendship) well involves building strong boundaries so that the ‘friendship’ doesn’t impact how you perform your work together, and how you relate as professionals in a situation where the power between you is not equal.” Boundaries are very important.  A good boss can be professional yet personable if good boundaries are maintained.

That being said, bosses should make an effort to get to know his/her employees.

EVERY boss should:

1)      Know the names of as many employees as possible—and one fact.

Bosses should make the effort to build a professional relationship with employees—by name.  There is nothing worse than employee feeling like a boss does not even know who they are or how they contribute to the company.  To take this one step further, I’d suggest that bosses remember at least one thing about each employee that distinguishes him/her as an individual.  That way, there is always something to spark future conversations.

2)      Take time to have real conversations with employees

I once had a boss who seemed to constantly get interrupted by long office conversations.  Employees loved her.  She dropped everything she was doing, was an excellent listener, and really knew her employees.  She never probed into their lives, but simply listened and cared.  It was great to see—but, on the flip side, this person often worked late into the evenings and on weekends to catch up on her actual work.  There needs to be a balance, especially in high pressure environments, but taking time to go beyond the “how are you” and listen goes a long way with employees.

3)      Job shadow employees once in awhile

I’m not about to sign up for Undercover Boss, but I think every boss should sit down with employees here and there to learn as much as possible about individual  jobs.  It’s the perfect way to get to know the employee and also see if improvements can be made within the company.  Odds are good that a boss will learn something of value.

4)      Give positive reinforcement

If you’re having trouble getting to know your employees or start conversations, offer a bit of positive reinforcement.  Maybe it’s something you learn from a manager or something that you personally observe when shadowing.

Bottom Line: Boss/Employee Relationship Affects Employee Retention

Building professional but personable relationships with employees can go a long way in retaining employees.  A 2015 survey by B2B Marketplace Approved Index found that 74% of employees said that getting along with their boss helped boost their motivation, and one third said having a good relationship with a boss was more important than job satisfaction (Forbes, Karen Higgenbottom).

Alison Doyle of The Balance Careers says, “Company culture is the personality of a company.  It defines the environment in which employees work.  Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.”

Like any living thing, company culture changes over time.  Employee make up changes, leadership and teams change, and company priorities evolve.  When culture changes, some employees adapt.  Some become complacent.  Some get bitter and want things to return to how they once were.

Artemis Consultants understands the dynamics of the boss/employee relationship. We offer professional recruiting services for Software, Technology, Data and B2B Services companies. We invite you to get to know more about us and discover how our customized services can help you recruit people that can make a meaningful impact at your company.

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