Untold amounts of ink have been used answering the question, how can we keep employees engaged? But the answer is remarkably simple: Show them respect.
A 2014 study conducted by Harvard Business Review found 54 percent of employees don’t feel respected, which makes them less happy, productive, and engaged in their work.
Here are five reasons why employees feel disrespected by their managers and what leaders should do to change things:
1. Managers do not respect time. We have all worked with people who don’t show up for meetings, cancel meetings at the last minute or habitually show up late. This proclivity toward lateness tends to be the most pronounced in people with busy schedules who are also in positions of power because they don’t face punishment for their lateness.
When managers are late, their team feels their time, contributions and ideas are not important. The message sent is, “only the manager’s time matters, and everyone is here to serve them.” Employees will be less interested in following the manager’s timelines and deadlines, and feel the manager can’t handle all of their priorities, which undermines accountability and authority.
Managers should resist the impulse to schedule things too closely together. By leaving a little wiggle room in their schedules, they not only avoid being late but also they have more time to acknowledge the people around them. Small gestures such as saying “good morning” and “have a good day” go a long way to make employees feel valued, and it is hard to do that when constantly rushing.
2. Managers frequently change goals. When goals change frequently, employees have to follow a moving target. As a result, goal-setting exercises feel like a waste of time, which is one really quick way to sap motivation and engagement.
In a fast-moving business environment, goals will inevitably change. If this happens too often, employees feel like marionettes. Managers need to be thoughtful about the goals they set and ask for feedback from employees so they feel involved in the process.
3. Managers shoot down creative thinking. Leaders want employees who think outside the box and present new ideas, but creative problem solving can’t just be called up on-demand.In the haste to solve issues quickly, managers may respond less than enthusiastically to new ideas. These lukewarm responses quash creative thinking, especially if given in a meeting. Employees feel shut down and undervalued. They believe the manager wants what is simplest or fastest, and soon, they will stop offering creative solutions.
To have honest and open conversations about new ideas, consider having them outside of the office. Treat employees to coffee or lunch, or hold an after work social event. It’s a small gesture that shows you care to interact with them, and creates a less formal environment to hash out their ideas.
4. Managers play favorites. It’s inevitable that managers will favor some employees over others, but these preferences should be kept under tight wraps. When an employee feels like they are appreciated less than another employee, they will struggle to feel confident in their work and be less motivated to work hard because their contributions are not fairly acknowledged.
Take the time to learn things about team members on a personal level. Managers don’t have to be best friends with employees, but they can make genuine inquiries about their out-of-work lives.
5. Managers don’t keep promises. To keep employees happy and motivated, managers make claims about raises, promotions, flexibility, etc., they cannot or do not live up to. This could be because the manager doesn’t have the authority to fulfill those promises, didn’t think carefully before speaking or never meant what was said in the first place.
In any case, those failed promises are hurtful to employees. These failed promises not only engender disillusionment, resentment and apathy but also reflect badly on the manager. Employees may feel like they were manipulated or tricked, or that their manager doesn’t have enough power to make things happen. Managers should commit to only making promises they know they can keep, and go out of their way to fulfill the promises they make.
Employees that feel respected will perform better. They will feel more satisfied and engaged, and therefore, more productive. Showing employees the respect they deserve is an easy, quick and cost-effective way to drive business results.
Steve Sims is the chief design officer at Badgeville, a business gamification company. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.