Are you the type of boss who commends your employees for their contributions, meets with them one-on-one and takes an active interest in their lives? If not, you might not being doing enough to foster a productive and well-connected work environment, new research shows.
According to a recent Harris Poll that asked employees about the top communication issues that keep bosses from being effective leaders, 63 percent of respondents said the failure to properly recognize employees for their achievements was their top complaint. Other answers suggested that workers feel underappreciated and alienated by the way their superiors interact with them. More than half of respondents said their biggest complaint was that their bosses didn't have time to meet with them in person, while a similar percentage said their bosses refused to speak to them at all. For more than one-third of respondents, the top grievance was that their superiors didn't know their names, and slightly less than one-quarter of respondents said they wished their bosses would ask about their lives outside of work.
Making an effort to improve the way you communicate with your employees not only strengthens interpersonal relations and office morale, but can also boost productivity and help the bottom line, according to Lou Solomon, CEO and founder of communications consultancy Interact. The most effective leaders are those who are proactive about building a connected workplace where employees feel heard and appreciated, Solomon said.
Here are six things you should say to employees to increase connectivity and employee recognition, according to Solomon.
1. "Here's what I appreciate about you and your contribution." The basic "atta-boy" or "atta-girl" doesn't satisfy people who put their heart and soul into their work. Instead, say something specific, like, "I appreciate the way you pull in people from other departments to reach your team goals — you're a connector." Leaders need to notice employees' unique, specific contributions.
2. "Thank you" (personal and public). From the elevator to the parking lot, daily interactions represent opportunities for leaders to engage in dynamic interactions and show appreciation for their employees' efforts. Public recognition at a staff meeting or a thoughtful "thank you" in a newsletter can also be meaningful.
3. "What do you think?" Employees often withhold their best ideas from leaders who always have the "right" answer or who take credit for others' ideas. Ask questions like these: "What have you noticed?" "How do you think we could improve?" "What is keeping us stuck?" "What do you love about it?" Establish a safe environment in which people have the opportunity to express themselves and be recognized for their ideas, and they will take ownership of the results.
4. "Here's what's happening and what you can expect." Oftentimes, companies today change so quickly that information is withheld until the last minute. This is a huge distraction for employees, who need "real speak" about their futures. Leaders often underestimate employees' abilities to accept the "why" if it is shared in an honest way. Leaders will gain deep respect when they share as much as they know as soon as they can share it. Explanations are better than no explanations.
5. "I have some feedback for you." Don't wait for a performance review to tell people how they're doing. A culture of continual feedback is healthy and nimble.
6. "Let me share a time I got it wrong." Smart, capable leaders who know their stuff are well respected, but employees like and trust leaders who not only are smart but can occasionally lean back and laugh at their own mistakes and who are honest about the lessons life has taught them. The effective leader says, "Let me tell you about something I learned the hard way," instead of dictating the course to take.