Great bosses build relationships with their employees. You don’t have to be buddy-buddy with everyone in your office, but if you establish a rapport and communicate effectively with the people who work for you, you'll foster a sense of trust and morale and create a better working environment for all. In fact, in a recent survey, 60% of 1,000 full-time workers questioned said their relationship with their employer positively impacted their work productivity.
Here are a few strategies for how you can create a relationship of trust and respect with your direct reports.
Keep your door open.
The more you make yourself accessible to your employees, the more comfortable they’ll feel stopping by to discuss things with you, bring up issues that come up during the day, or float great ideas your way. You’ll have a better idea of what’s going on if you’re not cooped up in your office alone. If you’re not sure how to encourage your employees to randomly check in, try getting a candy jar for your desk!
Schedule (and don't ignore) weekly one-on-ones.
Structured feedback on a regular basis can be invaluable to both you and your employees. Make time for a face-to-face meeting with each direct report where you can get on the same page about existing projects and listen to concerns (while expressing any of your own), and you’ll start to reap the benefits.
Oftentimes, a recurring meeting on the calendar can get pushed aside or even ignored because it seems useless when you see each other all day, every day. Resist the urge to cancel or to let your employee cancel. Even if you just meet for 10 minutes, that quiet, scheduled check-in time is key to learning about your employees and getting a sense of how they're really doing.
Meet outside of the boss/employee context.
You shouldn't pretend to be on the same level as your employees—everyone knows the hierarchy, so you don't want to seem like you're fooling anyone. Still, it’s okay to come down from your upper rung every now and then and let everyone in the workplace have an equal voice in the organization. Maybe schedule a brainstorming meeting where you, too, are responsible for coming up with ideas, or a weekly roundtable with the team where you all talk about the best thing that happened during the work week.
Get together outside of the office.
A few team-building activities outside of the office can go a very long way to helping you get to know your employees as actual people, not just in the context of their roles at work. Try a team lunch or a group volunteer project, and solicit ideas from the group. But please don't make people give up their weekends—schedule this non-work outing a few times a year during working hours.
Offer regular encouragement.
Take an interest in the career development and job satisfaction of each direct report. When someone is doing a good job, take the time to let them know—a little positive reinforcement goes a long way. Send a quick email of praise when a particular project goes well. Send an annual (or monthly!) email reminding them of how much you appreciate their work. Make it clear to higher-ups when someone goes above and beyond. When your employees know you notice the little things, they'll want to be on the ball every day.
Don’t fake it.
Above all else, you can’t fake it. Valuing your employees and making them a priority takes real effort and investment. If you halfheartedly make attempts to reach out every so often, everyone will know you don't really mean it. But putting in the effort is worth it—the stronger, healthier relationships you’ll build will make everyone happier and more productive.
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