Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bad Managers Create Disgruntled Employees

Set a clear path to bring disgruntled employees back into the fold.
  • Encourage me more. When we asked the unhappy 16% to name the skill they thought was most important for their boss to demonstrate, the top response was "Inspire and motivate others." Too often, managers take a negative tone with disgruntled employees. Expecting that efforts to motivate will be ignored, none are proffered, and the expectations become self-fulfilling but data suggest managers should take the opposite view: Work harder to inspire this group. Keep the conversation positive. Plan for, and expect the best, not the worst.
  • Trust me more. It's probably not surprising that both parties — unhappy employee and bosses alike — distrust each other. The key to restoring trust is to operate with the belief that the other party can change. We encourage the manager to make the first move (cause that's your job) by making the effort to understand the employee's problems. Then, as both parties work on their relationship, they must strive for consistency —that is, the manager must strive to treat all employees equally, and both parties must strive to simply do what they say they will do. Over time, trust will grow.
  • Take an interest in my development. If a person works hard and gets a pay check he has a job but if a person works hard, gets a pay check, and learns a new skill, she has a career. Career development should not be focused only on the high-potentials. As counterintuitive as it may seem, don't leave the underachievers out when distributing stretch assignments.
  • Keep me in the loop. Communication is fundamentally a core management function, so this responsibility rests squarely with the managers. Great communicators do three things well. First, they share information and keep everyone well informed. Second, they ask good questions, inviting the opinions and views from others — all others. Third, they listen to everyone, not just the people they like.
  • Be more honest with me. People want to know how they're really doing on the job — and the one's not in favour perhaps even more than the one's feeling the warm glow of approval. They want to know why they're falling short. They want a chance to improve. Too often, though, the bottom 16% feel their bosses are shirking their responsibility by not giving honest feedback, glossing over problems with comments like "You're coming along fine," when clearly they are not. Alarmingly, many reported promises being made ("if you finish this project on time then...") that were not kept. Honesty is the bedrock of good relationships.
  • Connect with me more. Anything managers can to do improve their relationship with the disgruntled employees will have a significant positive influence. Here's where favoritism takes on its most concrete form: managers go to lunch more with people they like, our data show; they talk with them more socially (about children, sports, etc); they know them more personally. This is natural (and unprofessional), but so are the feelings of exclusion it creates among the less favoured. A small effort by managers to spread their attention around more broadly can go a long way here.
As a bad leader, your knee-jerk reaction to unfavoured (and disgruntled) employees is often — "It's their own fault!" Research shows this is not the case and that it is the result of shallow and unprofessional management, which begs the question "Who's managing the managers?"

Before you settle for letting your dissatisfied people go and cost your organisation thousands in employee turnover, take a moment to consider how these performers need and should be treated.

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