Professional relationships in the workplace are critical to success. These relationships could be between peers, subordinates, bosses, or outside of your organization. Knowing how to manage these relationships will determine how successful you are.
For Part 1, we’ll talk about an employee’s expectations of their bosses. Employee expectations of their managers are essential to address. Expectation management is a tender topic because there’s a particular vulnerability between a boss and a subordinate. The employee must obey the boss or risk getting fired (especially if the boss is an authoritarian). However, there are basic expectations an employee should have for a boss without being too intrusive.
These can be simple requests. If the boss is unable or unwilling to fulfill these expectations, then it’s time to look for a new job.
Employees are the lifeblood of an organization. They represent the body of the company in the way they work. Leaders must do all they can to shape the experience of the employee to ensure their success. I believe that any effort exerted towards the employees is time well-spent.
It’s not far-fetched to have expectations of a boss. The leader’s responsibility is to realize their obligation to their employees and foster a positive work environment. Since subordinates work for the leader, what can they expect from their boss?
Inevitably, the company will continue to demand from the employees. All companies are needy beasts. But a good leader should realize the capacity of each employee and to not overload any one person. Similarly, a leader has to protect the employee from him/herself sometimes.
For example, I once had a dedicated sergeant who did a ton for the organization. He put in a lot of hours at the office, tying up loose ends, attending meetings, and completing his assigned tasks. It’s not wrong to be dedicated to your work. However, he would come in at six in the morning and not leave until nine or so at night. He was tired. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how to protect him from working too much, so he kept taking on more tasks.
Eventually, my sergeant transferred to a different Army base. Even though I didn’t know it then, I know now how much he cared for the organization. My mistake was not consulting with him to redistribute his tasks to ensure he got home to his family at night.
As I said before, the organization is always going to require production from its employees. If there are redundant, unproductive, or counterproductive tasks, then it’s the leader’s job to press for change and implement something better. Protect your subordinates.
Fulfillment doesn’t come from laziness. Your subordinates want to contribute to the organization meaningfully. But that desire to give to the company quickly gets stifled by corporate priorities, mismanaged projects, and meaningless meetings. These issues become more frustrating and lead to boredom and apathy.
Instead, employees want a challenge. They want a problem to solve that gives back to their work. I once worked for a youth camp where I had to develop activities for the teens to do. It was a challenge because each task needed to entertain over one hundred kids without being resource-intensive. I pulled it off with help from the team, and we had a great summer with the activities we planned.
Sometimes, managers will leave problem-solving to themselves. Isolating the team leaves managers floundering for ideas. Instead, pawn off a challenging question to your team and allow collaboration to run its course. It’s a messy process, but it’s worth it.
I read in Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last about the lasting impressions of individuals on teams. Groups create synergies that are hard to beat when confronted with a difficult question or challenge. The boss’s role, in that case, is to facilitate the discovery process and to resource the team.
Empathy and respect
You know if you’ve been in a hostile work environment. It’s devoid of respect and compassion where managers do not trust employees and blame others for problems.
Your subordinates expect respect from you. Here are the best ways to show your employees respect:
- Use and publicize an open-door policy.
- Openly endorse your support for your company’s equal opportunity programs.
Open-door policies are one of the best ways to show respect to your employees. It means you value the opinions of your subordinates and honor their input. Listen to those who use this policy. These people wouldn’t knock on your door for anything. President Abraham Lincoln even welcomed citizens into his office. In the book, Lincoln on Leadership, President Lincoln gave his generals every opportunity to speak with him. If you implement a policy like this, ensure it is genuinely open!
Openly endorsing your company’s equal opportunity programs shows commitment to creating a safe environment in which to work. Then, act on violations of the policy. Do not tolerate anyone from outside of the organization to mistreat your employees. Once your team knows that you’ll go to bat for them, they’ll respect you for understanding their needs.
Everyone wants a lending ear. When issues arise, leaders must learn to balance the needs of the company with the employee’s needs. Good leaders listen carefully to their employees for suggestions, improvements, and even praise.
Most of all, you must mentor. Retired Navy Captain David Marquet talks about the Leader-Leader model for mentoring in his book Turn the Ship Around. It may seem weird at first, but you’ll learn more from your subordinates than they will learn from you. But, you can provide direction, purpose, and motivation for them.
Consider these suggestions:
- Meet one on one quarterly to talk about personal goals together.
- Find a goal to work on together.
- Follow up with each other on your personal goals.
Even the most minuscule effort is significant. I have had a couple of bosses who would take my coworkers and me to local cafes to discuss organizational and personal goals and plans. Also, I had other bosses who would grab me after business hours and talk about personal development. I valued that time, and I implement that strategy with my subordinates as well.
Some conventional wisdom says to only mentor particular people. I beg to differ. If you have an employee, then you’re their mentor. However, it matters to the degree that you and your subordinate provide mentorship to each other that’s important. Gauge your time and put your effort where it’s most fruitful.
Employees expect a lot from their leaders. That’s ok, though, because it goes both ways. Usually, it’s the boss that makes demands. But it’s the leader that creates a positive work environment.
Give your employees challenges to overcome. Mentor them. Open your door to new possibilities for your subordinates. These are the things your teams expect from you. Also, think about how to reward your teams for a job well done!
I listed several books in this article. If you’re interested in reading reviews, click the links below.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Turn the Ship Around! By David Marquet
Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
What do your subordinates expect from you? Leave your answer in the comment section below! Thanks for reading!