“How do good supervisors get a correct read on their employees?” That’s the questions I left you with at the end of Episode #5.
Supervisors tend to draw all kinds of conclusions about their employees based upon behaviors they see and words they hear from afar.
As a result, they run the risk of forming mistaken, often negative, perceptions that certain employees are:
- A problem
- Negative or difficult
- Resistant or lazy
- Weak links
In fact, those same employees may simply:
- Misunderstand or misconstrue expectations
- Lack self-confidence
- Fear making mistakes, looking stupid, or having weak skills exposed
- Feel unaccepted by or inferior to coworkers
Faulty perceptions, if allowed to continue, are a disservice to the employee, the team, and ultimately the supervisor.
Warning: Seeming is not reality.
The perceptions supervisors form about their employees are rarely a fully accurate picture.
Uncertainty about what affects employee attitudes and behaviors unnerves even the most experienced supervisor. Why? Because every employee is different.
The best way to get a correct first read on each of your employees is through face-to-face conversations on a whole range of subjects starting with whether or not he likes the job, how she thinks she’s performing, how accepted he feels by his peers, and what kind of support is needed from you.
Situational observations are a next approach. Now that you have a baseline read on your employees from those conversations, what you see in the course of work getting done will have a more accurate foundation.
When business direction, policy, or work group changes are announced or implemented, watch how your employees handle it. Do they act differently toward you or coworkers? Is their work output better or worse? Is their demeanor more positive, negative, or unchanged?
When you see unwanted changes in an employee, it’s time to follow up directly with him or her to understand the cause and redirect behavior.
By creating a comfort level for employees around sharing concerns and issues with you, you’ll get better information and make fewer perception mistakes.
You don’t get a clear-eyed read on your employees by using yourself as the barometer. Everyone is not like you.
Just because you may not care that your manager rolls his eyes when he doesn’t like your new idea, don’t assume that’s how your employee, Glenda, will react when she sees your baby blues spin around in their sockets.
When your employees come to you with input, take them seriously and respond professionally. Avoid being glib, impatient, or dismissive at all costs.
Don’t misread busyness for productivity. Too many supervisors confuse employee activity as signs that the right work is getting done when it might not be.
No supervisor wants to get snowed by their employees. It’s a mistake to take what employees say about the status of their work or the intent of their behavior at face value.
When your employees are uncertain about performance expectations, boundaries, and professional conduct, they will fill in the blanks on their own.
Consequently, you need to have professional conversations with your employees about their productivity, work quality, and on-the-job behavior to form correct perceptions about them and to help them become successful.
Supervisors will avoid misreading employees by staying engaged through Skype video calls with employees in distant locations and through local in-person meetings. There’s no substitute for talking eyeball-to-eyeball.
This doesn’t mean you won’t fall into a misread or two, but that will be the exception and not the rule.
The impact and consequences of a misread can be significant. So every supervisor needs to be able to repair a wrong. Building a history of demonstrated respect can be essential to making things right.
So, how does a history of showing respect toward employees help a supervisor minimize the damage of employee perception mistakes? We’ll tackle that in Episode #7.