What Employees Expect from Their Managers

What do you think your employees expect from you as their manager? Put a checkmark in front of the statements you believe are true for you.

My employees expect me to …

□ Know what they want, even if they don't say anything

□ Understand that they have lives away from work that sometimes interfere with work

□ Pick up the slack for them or intercede in some way when they aren't able to get their assigned job tasks completed on time

□ Be available at any time of the day to answer questions and resolve problems

□ Treat them fairly, which they define as considering any and all extenuating circumstances before passing judgment or taking action

□ Help them acquire new skills, even if that means they will then become qualified for different jobs

□ Advocate for them when they have needs that require upper management decisions

□ Occasionally take them to lunch or bring in goodies as a show of appreciation for the good work they do

□ Give them full credit for the department's successes and take full blame for the department's shortcomings

□ Always remember that they are only human but to never reveal this about myself

Most managers will check off seven or eight of these expectations, chuckling over some and groaning over others. Some are not very reasonable or realistic, while others are essential. Some seem selfish — and they are. But all, at some time or another, are valid.

Here's another area of responsibility you may not have considered: While your employees will certainly expect you to advocate for them with regard to upper management decisions, they will also expect you to be attentive to problems that arise between employees. If one employee is causing trouble for the others, you must immerse yourself in the issue until an acceptable solution is reached. Consider the following scenario, for example:

Eve was a brilliant computer programmer. She had the ability to listen to a client's needs, and then produce exactly what the client needed. But Eve wasn't much of a team player. She preferred working alone; she wanted to go away to do her work and return with the finished product.

Eve's department was organized into teams around a structure that encouraged and supported collaboration. When her colleagues confronted her about taking on projects and not telling anyone what she was doing or letting anyone else become involved, Eve swung to the opposite extreme and started delegating everything. She was either on top of her game or at the bottom of the heap — there seemed to be no middle ground.

Responding to complaints from other employees, Eve's manager began documenting the problems. He sat down with her, identified the difficulties, and outlined a way to fix the problems. Eve agreed to the plan, and for a while everything went smoothly. Eve attended staff meetings, presented her projects to her work team, and even seemed eager to work in collaboration with her colleagues.

Unfortunately, the agreement soon broke down. Instead of discussing her ideas, Eve stormed out of meetings. Within weeks, Eve was again at one extreme or the other. Her manager had to make the critical decision of whether to keep her or fire her. The company would sorely suffer to lose her skills (especially if she were to take them to a competitor). But keeping Eve would likely mean losing other employees, and that wasn't a particularly enticing option either.

Finally, after consulting with the company's executives, Eve's manager offered Eve the opportunity to work from home. She received specific assignments and deadlines, and the manager and Eve's colleagues worked out a foolproof system for staying in close communication. Eve came in to the office periodically, usually to meet with clients, and it turned out to be the perfect solution. Eve was happy, the company was happy, the work group was happy, and the clients were happy.

There had never been any issues around the quality of Eve's work, just around her style of working. Innovative thinking and the willingness to try something different salvaged a highly productive and talented employee, giving the company a strong competitive edge in its market. At the same time, Eve's manager paid attention to the concerns of the other employees. It was a win for everyone.

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