How to Be the Manager Your Employees Want to Work For


If you’ve been in the workforce for any length of time, you’ve no doubt had good managers and bad managers.  But how many of us have had great managers – managers that have really made working for them enjoyable?  These managers have expanded our horizons, bolstered out skillsets and made us feel valued.  They’re few and far between, but if you’ve ever worked for one, you know that they can be literally life-changing.

Now that you’re in a position of power, how do you want to be remembered?  And how exactly do you compare to those you’ve worked under in the past?

There are a number of things you can do to become one of those great managers, but one of the most important is putting your employees first.  Great employees make great companies.  They also generate great customer service and boost production and profits.  If workers aren’t happy with management, they’ll leave the company.  It’s as simple as that.

According to Forbes Magazine, over 2 million people quit their jobs every year in the United States and 31% do so because they don’t like their bosses.  That has a serious impact on your business’s bottom line.  Statistics from the Harvard Business Review show that replacing a single employee costs nearly twice as much as keeping the original.

So how do you become the manager that people want to work for and keep the employees you need?  The following are a few ideas to get you started:

Deal with the Existential

Stuart Jennings of Payscale recognizes that employees want to feel a connection to their companies and bosses.  However, we all have a biological desire to be “top dogs” – therefore, we don’t respond to domination very well.  As a result, relating to employees as equals becomes an integral management skill.  Dole out responsibilities, not orders and stay away from micromanagement.  Allow people room for their own egos… as long as it doesn’t interfere with their quality of work.

Take Responsibility for Everything

Essentially, as a manger, you are responsible for every single employee under you.  That means you’re responsible for the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, the exceptional and the mediocre.  You can’t get away with skimming off the accolades and passing down the blame. You must own up to everything that you and your team do.  If you don’t like the results you’re getting, do something about them.

Model Good Behavior

It seems sort of simplistic, but if you want your employees to work or act a certain way, you should be acting or working that way.  Humans – either consciously or unconsciously – mimic behaviors, but it goes further than that in the workplace.  If the boss is always on point, the employees will strive to be as prepared for various reasons:  to impress the boss, to advance their own careers or to be a part of the team.  Acknowledge and use those behaviors to your advantage!

Manage Your Own Expectations

If your employees are failing to live up to your expectations, don’t immediately assume there’s something wrong with the way they’re doing things.  You should take a moment to step back and see if you were expecting too much with the resources available.  No worker wants to feel overburdened with tremendous workloads or saddled by unreachable goals.  Such conditions breed stress and stress breeds resentment – and resentment is not something you want your employees to feel.

Challenge your employees, but don’t burden them.

Show Respect

The old adage about respect being earned rather than given is as true in the business world as it is in life.  If you want your employees to respect you, you have to respect them.

This can be accomplished by actually listening to what they have to say, offering help and solutions when you can, and delivering the resources they need to get the job done with or without being asked.  Don’t be afraid to jump down in the trenches and get your hands dirty if you have to – delegation is a good thing, but so is doing.

Relate on an Interpersonal Level

Your employees should see you as a person – not just a branch of the company.  In order to do that, you have to relate to them on a personal level.  Get to know them individually, ask about their lives outside of work, and take an interest in the activities, organizations, and causes that are dear to them.  You don’t have to go bowling with the crew on Friday nights to win their respect – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Establish Credibility

As Jill Geisler wrote in a Forbes Magazine article, “The most effective managers always follow-up, are true to their word, have a proven track record, and have a reputation of getting things done.”

Workers don’t care what school you went to, how many degrees you have or what certifications you carry.  They want to know that you’re the right person for the job.  And – in return – you have to show them that you’re a manager who’s worthy of being followed by getting the job done.

Create a Jerk-Free Zone

Negativity and self-serving attitudes have no place in a great work environment.  Great managers can’t afford to be what Geisler calls jerks and neither can they tolerate jerks among their employees.  A single bad apple can really spoil the whole bushel so take the time to create a team-oriented, positive work environment – even if it means letting a few employees go.

The Three Keys to Being a Great Manager

Geisler, head of the Leadership and Management faculty of the Poynter Institute, also says that there are three overarching aspects of great managers that anyone can learn:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Passion for helping people do their best work

Strategic thinking is all about figuring out the best way to get a job done with the resources (human or otherwise) that you have on hand.  This is a huge component of establishing your credibility and showcasing your effectiveness as a manager.  Emotional intelligence shows in how you interact with your employees over the course of their daily routines and on an individual, personal level.

Finally, passion is what truly separates good managers from great ones – you have to be able to invest your own time and effort into making other people better.  It may sound counterintuitive, but by focusing your efforts on the whole – rather than on your career – you can endear yourself to others, build your company, department or branch, and ride the wave of employee respect right to the top.


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