Not all supervisors within an organization are key decision-makers, meaning they may find themselves in the middle — not making decisions but having to make those decisions happen.
Picture this scenario: Your company’s executive leadership team has just created a new policy that you know will have negative repercussions for your team. While you disagree with the decision, you will be the one delivering the news and implementing the change. You are stuck balancing your role as an agent of the organization with your role as a team manager. This news will be hard to deliver, and you fear that your team will believe the organization has failed them.
The good news is that you do not have to rely entirely on the organizational culture to build a strong team that is committed to its work. Here’s why: When employees feel supported and valued, it helps foster a positive work environment. Employees with a strong sense that their organization cares engage in behaviors and project attitudes that benefit the company in significant ways. While the organization does play a role in this process, there are a variety of ways employees feel supported, and there is a lot that middle managers can do to positively impact their employees.
How a Positive Manager/Employee Relationship Impacts Employees’ Work
While every organization has expectations regarding employee behaviors and attitudes, employees with a positive relationship with their supervisor can more effectively accomplish the tasks essential to their job. A positive attitude ultimately improves the quality of employees’ work and brings the organization closer to its mission.
Employees who have a positive relationship with their supervisor often engage in activities that aren’t required but that create a positive work culture. Whether an employee offers to help a colleague with a big project or surprises his or her team members with donuts, these behaviors can be valuable to the organization, especially when it comes time to implement a new policy or build company morale.
Employees who can trust their supervisor are more likely to take meaningful risks in their work, leading to new and creative ideas. If there is positive rapport, employees will feel that their manager and the organization will value their risk-taking. Innovation can be frightening for employees, because the outcomes are unknown and some level of failure is inevitable. However, encouraging innovative ideas is often what propels organizations forward in an ever-changing world.
Overall, a positive relationship with a supervisor leads to greater job satisfaction. While you can’t shield your employees from everything, it is possible to help them find greater satisfaction in their work by developing a positive rapport with them.
3 Ways to Build Trust With Your Employees
While leadership styles and behaviors differ among managers, one of the primary ways all leaders can foster a positive relationship with employees is by building trust. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model to engage with employees, and managers should lead in the way that best fits their values and industry needs. A military captain leads differently from a coordinator at a nonprofit, but one thing remains across all leadership styles, personalities and industries: trust.
Trust is an essential element in all human relationships. Here are a few behaviors and actions that you can use to build trust with your employees:
1. Become Better at What You Do, and Help Employees Do the Same
One of the primary ways that you can foster trust is by becoming an expert in your job. It builds employees’ confidence when they know that when they bring a complex work problem to their supervisor, he or she will be able to provide meaningful solutions.
As a manager, it’s important to actively build trust by investing in employees’ individual professional growth. It could include encouraging them to stay up to date on industry research and standards, attend training seminars, or practice tasks related to their work. While employees may not always agree with the organization’s decisions, if they know their manager will be there to effectively guide them through each stage of the process, it helps them adapt.
2. Make Your Motives Known
Employees will feel a greater sense of trust when they know that you want what is best for them, both as an employee and as a person. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to remember that your employees aren’t mind-readers and that explicitly telling them you care can go a long way.
It may be as simple as saying, “As you navigate this new task, I’m here to support you along the way.” While it isn’t easy to deliver hard news or ask employees to accomplish challenging tasks, if you make the extra effort to share warmth and a genuine desire to help, you can build trust.
3. Stay Consistent
While you may not always be a part of your organization’s decision-making, you can maintain congruence between your own values and actions. Modeling your expressed values is the final step toward building trust. If you state that you value open communication, model it by having a weekly time period when you keep your door open for employees to stop by and ask questions. If you claim to value risk-taking, try something new yourself.
You can also demonstrate consistency by making equitable decisions, even if they are smaller decisions with seemingly less impact. If you make them consistently, these decisions can make a significant impact over time. Even if your organization makes an unfavorable decision, employees will have a positive history with you.
Managers too often spin their wheels in frustration at organizational issues that are out of their control. The reality is that no organization is perfect, and middle managers are inevitably stuck in the middle. To be an effective leader, take the time to determine what is within your control, and empower yourself to build a positive relationship with your employees. Doing so will ultimately improve your team’s performance and make you a better boss.