As a talent management consultant I’ve seen my share of organizational cultures where leaders blame and chastise their employees when things go wrong. The psychological impact can be harmful as people lose their confidence and motivation to perform at their best and take risks that could benefit their careers and the organization. Research indicates that repeated exposure to work stressors, like an overly negative manager, impacts employee well-being and the organization’s effectiveness. It’s well founded that employees experiencing this kind of work environment: a) become disengaged – unwilling to do more than the minimum, b) take home their stress and negative emotions, which impacts their families and overall life satisfaction, and c) eventually turnover.
These reasons and others are why we need managers and leaders to create more positive work environments that boost employee confidence and engagement. Here are seven tips on how managers and leaders can do this:
- Provide balanced feedback: When giving feedback, highlight and talk about your employee’s strengths as well as their development needs. Human wiring is such that we often look for what’s wrong and ignore all the positives. Employees already expect this and managers that consistently talk about the negatives, reinforce negative perceptions and attitudes which affects employee confidence and engagement.
- Keep performance discussions private and confidential: Managers that publicly criticize employees or speak negatively about an employee with the rest of the team, destroy trust. This behavior reinforces employees to: a) cover up mistakes and not proactively seek feedback and b) wonder when they will be the topic of discussion.
- Watch your tone: Remember communication is only 13% of what you say…. the remainder is how you say it. Leaders that berate their employees to instill fear or simply raise their voices to make a point, create a toxic environment where the workplace is a dreaded place to be and you check your dignity at the door.
- Proactively seek input from employees: Go out of your way to ask for ideas or get feedback on your own ideas. Managers who authentically leverage the brain power of their teams send a signal that their employees are important and valuable.
- Recognize employees: Recognize individual employees and teams for not only what they did successfully, but for taking risks and trying new things, even if the results are not all positive.
- Assign responsibility: Ask your people to take on additional responsibilities and lead initiatives that will enhance their skill set and boost their confidence.
- Communicate about the future: Frequently discuss the direction and vision for the team and also help each employee create a vision for their career.
While self-belief to achieve goals has to come from within each employee, leaders have the opportunity to significantly shape and boost employee confidence and overall engagement. Legendary Chicago journalist Russell H. Ewing sums it up best… “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence.”