In any office setting or work space, tiny societies tend to form, and within those societies relationships. Because we spend so much time at work on a weekly basis, the nature of the work environment and those relationships become very important. We all know well enough that happy and balance employees are the most high-performing and productive, and there is no relationship so important as the one that exists between employers and employees.
Whether they're individual supervisors or a company as a whole, employers have tremendous influence on the motivation, mood, and performance of employees. In comparison to the luxuries employers like Facebook and Google offer, being exceptional may seem like a daunting task. But it's really more about being reasonable, open, and consistent on a day-to-day basis to give your employees a balanced, comfortable work environment. If you aren't, it could cost you your best talent. Here are seven of the most common, easy-to-make mistakes that will cost you your best employees; avoid them, correct them, or resolve them if you find yourself making them.
1. Make employees feel uncomfortable in the work place.
Even if it's not the standard 40 hour work week, your employees spend a lot of time at work. The office becomes a second home, so it's important for everyone to feel comfortable and at ease rather than out of place.
Sometimes employers with authoritarian personalities can disrupt the work place environment by making employees tense and uncomfortable, as though they're walking around the office on egg shells. Casual moments, such as walking to the other end of the office or having a conversation by the coffee pot, provide small moments of productive socializing for employees. It gives them a quick break, makes them feel at ease in their environment, and all of that can translate to confidence in their work.
Tip: If there's a strong authoritarian personality or micro managing supervisor in your office, make sure they're not imposing tension or discomfort on your employees.
2. Pick and choose when and to whom rules apply.
Want to get your best employees really frustrated, really fast? Blatantly bend the rules for a few employees while enforcing them on the rest. There's a difference between earned privileges and picking and choosing when certain policies apply. Obviously, an employee of 10 years will have different privileges than an employee of 10 months. That being said, there has to be a baseline of expectation that apply to all employees.
For example, if there's one employee who is constantly cutting corners on a project but is never reprimanded, and another who makes only one mistake and is reprimanded, he or she is likely to harbor resentment over unfair treatment.
Tip: Know your policies forwards and backwards, and ensure they're applied to all employees.
3. Disregard their personal needs.
Your employees are people. They make mistakes, they have things come up, they get run down, and, occasionally, you may need to take off your employer hat and put on your mentor hat. Employers who expect their employees to be perfect or assume the "just a job, just a boss" mentality are unlikely to inspire their team.
Acknowledging your employees as people and extending your assistance to them in ways that beyond the tasks you assign them fosters the kind of working relationships that yields productivity. Being eye level with your employees will make them see you as an individual too, which makes slacking or disappointing harder.
Tip: Have conversations that aren't just about work and really get to know your employees as people.
4. Remove room for growth.
Few (if anyone) enter a job and want to have that same job, with no growth or promotion, for the rest of their lives. Looking forward and growing as a professional is part of what keeps employees motivated and striving to perform better. If all the jobs an employee sees are linear and no one is ever told how to advance, he or she will eventually become frustrated and start looking at other employers.
As a business, having a path for advancement in place can be really helpful in outlining the kind of performance necessary to grow within a company. In it, you can cover things like bonuses, promotions, and raises.
Tip: Make sure you're upfront with employees about the advancement they can or cannot expect.
5. Don't give any feedback at all.
As an employer, feedback is one of the most important things you can give your employees. Whether it's constructive criticism, an action plan for moving forward, or praise over a job well done, feedback opens the lines of communication between employer and employee.
The absence of feedback can lead to employees feeling unnoticed and apathetic towards their work, which never results in positive performance. Feedback is part of what gets employees thinking critically about how they do what they do and where they can improve.
Tip: Make sure you have a system or exercise for feedback in place.
6. Lack of channels for complaints/grievances.
Similarly to having a process in place for feedback, you need to have a similar system through which employees can file complaints. This is easy if your business has a Human Resource department, but if it doesn't, it's even more important.
Employees need to have a known, explained, and understood channel through which they can formally place complaints, and it's your legal obligation as an employer to make sure that's available. Employees without access to such a system will be forced to internalize their grievances or play the guessing game with regard to whom they should speak with, neither of which are constructive to a positive work environment.
Tip: Even if you don't have an HR department, be sure that you have HR policies in place.