Managers and directors do a lot of talking, and rightly so. Their career experience puts them in positions where they provide instruction to their staff, lead employee evaluations and create strategic visions for the future of their companies. Despite their need to lead through direction, great managers listen carefully to their employees. They utilize feedback from staff to drive progress, and trust the judgment of their staff to make smart decisions.
To leverage the knowledge junior staff hold, managers must create an environment
where two-way communication is encouraged. Most office environments try to create a culture of open communication, but the difficulties of any business (personality clashes, revenue struggles, etc.) can damage those lines of communication. When employees feel their career progress may be at risk, due to a stubborn superior or concerns about layoffs, they put their heads down and work hard, rather than offering constructive criticism of the company. They want to appear as team players, and keep ideas to themselves out of
fear of appearing dissident or negative. This breakdown in communication misses an abundance of opportunity and ideas, which would otherwise make the company more efficient and profitable:
Often, managers can’t be as detail-oriented in their work as junior staff members. Individuals with highly-specified roles know certain business processes inside and out. In turn, if there is an inefficiency or problem with those processes, junior staff tend to know about it (and usually complain about it to each other) first. Managers need to make sure those complaints are brought to their attention, and ensure that opportunities to improve reach their desks. Otherwise, those issues go unchanged and leave junior staff frustrated.
Companies that communicate poorly often see a “communication divide” arise between staff and management. Typically, management is happy with the company direction and sees a positive financial outlook, while the rest of the staff feel overworked and negated from the profitability their hard work achieves. This animosity creates a toxic culture, divided between staff and management, and management can sometimes be oblivious to those issues if staff only vocalize their dissatisfaction to each other. Mangers need to make sure their staff feels safe in expressing grievances when they arise.
The biggest folly of arrogance managers can make is assuming that good ideas must come from the top. Some of the most successful companies designate time for employees to pursue long-term, innovative projects that will create new revenue channels or huge efficiencies for the company. A good starting point for managers to create a culture of innovation is to regularly remind employees that new ideas are encouraged and welcomed. The sheer number of junior staff members (compared to managers), combined with the specificity of their work (detail-oriented) creates a major opportunity for innovation managers can’t afford to forego.
Occupation-Specific Trials and Tribulations
Depending on their roles within the company, different employees experience different perks and hardships. A call center representative may struggle with difficult customers, while a data analyst may long for more social interaction. Each job role is different, and managers need to understand the intricacies of the different job roles. When they understand the pros and cons of working within a specific department/role, they understand how to communicate with the department and comprehend what’s top-of-mind for those employees when they think about progress and goals.
Above all else, employee feedback is the greatest coaching tool a manager can have. Understanding an individual’s perspective helps the manager tailor their coaching, address the employee’s concerns and create a better sense of camaraderie. If an employee doesn’t voice their opinions, training and coaching may feel irrelevant and the manager’s goals won’t gain the same respect as goals that are mutually created between employee and manager. Individuals are complex, and good managers appreciate that an employee is also a whole person with unique needs. In a sense, two-way communication can be a self-serving endeavor for the savvy manager: taking the veil away from what their employees are thinking streamlines a manager’s work and helps them address the root of their employees’ needs in the most efficient way possible.