Managers walk a thin line at work. They aspire to be authentic leaders who establish meaningful relationships with their employees, yet they also need to maintain healthy boundaries so they don't show favoritism and aren't taken advantage of. Crossing that line in either direction can lead to a drop in employee engagement.
Organizations need to empower management to develop authentic relationships and create meaningful connections with employees. Employees desire a rapport with managers that goes beyond their day-to-day responsibilities. They want to feel like an individual, not just another cog in the machine.
When employees feel valued and cared for, they are inspired to become the best versions of themselves. Employees led by an authentic manager don’t feel intimidated or feel they have to fake it to be accepted. They feel open bringing ideas and opinions to the table, and productivity increases by as much as 30 percent.
Empowered managers have the ability to break down barriers and give employees the freedom to learn and develop in a supportive environment. Employees feel true ownership of their work and approach their jobs with honest, dedicated effort. Those who are satisfied with their job are 54 percent more able to focus and 2.3 times as engaged.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building trust with employees. Each person processes relationships differently, and managers struggle to find the time to get to know everyone on an individual level and build two-way confidence.
If managers fail to create authentic relationships, employees don’t feel cared for. Forced relationships come across as phony, causing employees to lose respect and trust in their manager. They walk on pins and needles when “the boss” is around, constantly in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing.
“You have to create an environment where candid, transparent conversation is accepted and expected,” Ben Mand, Plum Organics’ SVP of Innovation, said. “People need to feel secure bringing up controversial or tough conversations without fear of being judged or that it will affect their career.”
To create these environments, you should:
These conversations are about spending time with the employee and giving them an opportunity to openly discuss wins, struggles, and personalities. By intentionally setting aside part of their busy schedule, managers show employees that they’re valued. These conversations also allow authentic leaders to identify employee strengths and areas of development so they can set the employee up for success in the future. To get the most out of one-on-ones, check out our GOOD (Goals, Obstacles, Opportunities, Decisions) meeting template.
Managers can show employees they trust them by stretching them past their daily activities and assigning them new assignments. This increased responsibility gives employees a chance to prove themselves and shows that the manager wants to help them grow.
Employees often fear sharing their emotions because their ideas might be shot down or considered unimportant. They want to be heard, and leaders should not only source their opinions, but honestly consider employee thoughts and decide if they’re worth being put into practice. Employees come with varied backgrounds, and their previous experiences could bring innovative ideas to the workplace. This practice creates conversations and builds a sense of community within the workplace.
Any freedom that organizations give employees can boost engagement, and working remotely and telecommuting are great ways to show employees they are trusted. As long as the manager is given the tools to stay up to date on an employee’s work, HR can empower management by creating an open, trustworthy environment that extends beyond the office.
Allow employees to have a say in their goals, especially developmental ones. Managers should listen to each employee’s aspirations for their future, then create goals that will develop them to reach their ideal outlook. This shows a caring that extends beyond the employee’s day-to-day work.
Authentic leaders give their undivided attention and respect to employees. Checking one’s phone, responding to text messages, or answering emails during an interaction gives the impression that the manager has more important things to do. Employees feel ignored and lose respect for their boss.
In an effort to get to know employees personally, managers should ask employees about families, hobbies, weekend activities, etc. This gives value to employees and helps managers better identify with them.
It’s vital that HR empowers managers to create authentic relationships with employees. Being authentic is one of three main struggles our research identified as a hurdle for managers. To learn more about the other two, download our ebook, 3 Defining Challenges of Management and How HR Can Help Managers Overcome Them.