How Managers Can Help (and Hurt) Employee Motivation


In today’s highly competitive talent marketplace, it pays to be considered employee friendly. While you might not be able to beat out your competitors on the salary that they can offer job seekers or the reputation that they have in the industry, it’s anyone’s game when it comes to creating a powerful employer brand.

The only potential wrinkle in stepping up your public image to job seekers is if your policies or managers aren’t, in fact, all that friendly to your employees. Besides the importance that an employee friendly workplace plays in attracting new talent to your company, making the well being of your employees a top priority just goes with being a good manager. With the employee retention rate hovering at just under 2 years for Millennials (the largest emerging employee demographic), it’s more important now than ever before to use management and procedural practices that make employees feel engaged with their work.

They say that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. While you’ve probably heard this expression before, it touches on one of the fundamental management success factors crucial to maintaining an engaged workforce. At its core, a management position is supposed to be the functional unit that acts as a bridge between the higher-ups at a company and the employees that make the day-to-day functions of the company run as they’re supposed to.

From the top down, managers should be communicating the company’s organizational goals and contextualizing employees within the grand scheme of things. From the bottom up, managers should be listening to the innovations and concerns of their employees and sending word up the ladder when changes need to be made. If, however, a manager fails to take the concerns of their employees seriously or fails to make their employees feel important in the context of the company, then this critical cohesion between employee and employer won’t take place.

In order to make sure that your managers aren’t destroying the bond that employees feel toward your company, there are a few behaviors and practices that you should watch out for. Perhaps the most damaging things for employee morale is a manager with poor communication skills. Now, this doesn’t mean that they stutter or anything like that.

What a lot of people forget is that communication is as much about listening as it is talking. Your employees want to feel like your company cares about what they have to say, that their ideas and concerns won’t get filed away under “I” for “Irrelevant” or “N” for “Nobody Cares” in their manager’s mental storage unit. If one of your managers is having trouble with communication, they might want to try a little conversational trick called re-iteration. It works like this:

“I’m having a lot of trouble with our new security software,” says the employee. “A lot of times, it will just close whatever window I’m working on, without saving, and makes me re-enter my password. I must have spent an hour yesterday just re-writing the parts of my presentation that this program deleted.”

“So you’re frustrated with our new security software,” says the manager, repeating the concerns of the employee to show that he’s been listening. “I’m sure that we can get this problem fixed before long. For now, let’s get you on a temporary computer so that you don’t fall behind.”

Simply by repeating something that the employee has said, this manager demonstrated that they’re taking the employee’s concerns seriously. Though there are plenty of ways for managers to show that they’re engaged with your employees, consider this technique a fool-proof method for managers who are having trouble getting this across to them.


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