Own It – The Manager-Employee Relationship – Part Two

In the first part of the Own It series, we discussed how your business is a reflection of you and the choices that you make. We also talked about how hiring employees with challenges similar to your own can create a conflict.

This leads to a very important concept about the manager-employee relationship. The agreement between a manager and an employee is that a manager pays the employee for services performed to the manager’s satisfaction. This is the nature of a job. The employee, in their own self-interest to keep their job, naturally wants to please their boss.

If you have not worked “for” someone in a long time, this bears a moment of reflection.

It is difficult for owners and the self-employed to remember what this is like. If you have been boss-less for a long time, imagine what it’s like when someone else has the power to change the money you earn, what your duties are, and how much vacation you get. An employee, in return for a certain level of security, chooses to surrender a great deal of flexibility in exchange for the job. They choose to have a boss they need to please.

Because the manager has the power to dramatically change the life of the employee and the situation is structurally set-up so that the employee wants to please the manager, the manager has some significant responsibilities. A responsible manager cares about the experience of their employee.

Employees reasonably watch everything their managers do. The way they talk, the way the act, their mood etc. Employees know that in one very real way, their life is in their boss’ hands and this gives the manager a great deal of power. More power than perhaps you realize as a manager. The key to good management begins with a profound sensitivity to this situation. Simply raising the awareness of the manager in this way solves most management problems.

You might say here, “I don’t have time to attend to everything my employees might be feeling. I can’t be a babysitter.”

And there’s truth to this. Employees sometimes play victim to how they are treated by managers who must serve the business as competently as they can. There is no time for babysitting in the manager-employee relationship. The solution is creating a culture of ownership, where the employees take responsibility for their relationship to their jobs more than they attend to the reactions of their managers. More on this later.

Remember the idea that the “business is a reflection of you”? Look at this in the context of the employee approval dynamic. If the employee wants the approval of their boss, how likely are they to disagree with that boss? Probably not so likely. They will more likely hide their disagreement in the name of approval. It’s a tricky thing to voice disagreement as an employee in a way that respects the authority dynamic. Most employees will either under-report their opinions or they will “act out” in passive-aggressive (or just aggressive) ways. This is not entirely the employees’ fault. Management has a responsibility to craft a working relationship that makes it easy for an employee to appropriately communicate disagreement or concerns. A manager who cared about the experience of their employees would make sure of this.

In the next part, we will discuss the manager’s responsibility to develop the career of the employee and aid their professional growth. See you then.

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