Learn how to improve your managerial skills by studying the eight attributes of the employee-centric manager.
Over the past two decades, the practice of gathering employee feedback on the performance of their managers has grown. And why not? Subordinates have the most knowledge about their manager’s performance, and they are the ones most affected by their behavior. Leading organizational scientists argue that the ratings of managers provided by employees are the most valid. Indeed, research shows that subordinate ratings of a manager’s performance correlate with ratings provided by the manager’s own boss.
So, as a manager, what does it take to achieve great performance reviews from your employees? I asked a representative and systematically selected sample of 10,000 workers in the United States to rate the overall performance of their manager. I also asked these employees to rate their managers on the eight attributes of the employee-centric manager (or ECM), which are: (1) show support and understanding; (2) provide recognition; (3) treat employees with dignity and respect; (4) communicate clear performance expectations; (5) reward performance contributions with fair compensation and development opportunities; (6) demonstrate skill in decision-making and problem-solving; (7) be fair and just; and (8) be honest and trustworthy.
I learned that 67% of a manager’s overall performance rating is explained by their ratings on the attributes that define the employee-centric manager. This means that how employees rate their manager on these eight attributes determines two-thirds of their overall effectiveness rating. There is still another 33% of a manager’s rating that is accounted for by other factors, but the implication is clear: if you rate highly on the ECM attributes, you will also rate highly on overall performance. The reverse is also true – if you rate poorly on the ECM attributes, you will also rate poorly on overall performance.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Which of the eight attributes are most impactful? Statistical regression analysis reveals that these three attributes most influence employees’ views of their manager’s overall performance:
LISTEN: As in, “My manager is an effective listener.”
MAKE GOOD DECISIONS: As in, “My manager displays competence in making day-to-day work decisions.”
RECOGNIZE: As in, “My manager provides me with praise or recognition for doing good work.”
So, what do employees really want when it comes to listening (a subset of the support and understanding attribute)? They want their manager to be available and accessible. They want them to listen to their concerns with the energy and attention needed to genuinely identify with where they are coming from. They want their manager to follow through on concerns brought to their attention and seek employee input on important decisions affecting their work or how to solve a work-related problem. And they want their manager to get to know them – sufficiently well so that they understand their current capabilities, training and development needs, and goals, including their career goals.
This example of effective listening comes from an employee in the healthcare industry.
“I brought a problem to my manager’s attention, and she let me explain what I think would work best moving forward. She understood that I was the one out there doing the job, and I would have the best understanding of the situation. She got back to me quickly and trusted me to make the decision.”
When it comes to making good decisions, what do employees really want? They want their manager to make decisions in a timely way and not drag their feet. They want their manager to make decisions based on a rational, data-based approach. They want their manager to involve them in decision-making and problem-solving. They also want their manager to think through the implications of their decisions so that the team doesn’t end up dealing with blow-back. And finally, they want their manager to be flexible and learn from experience.
Here is an example of a manager being skilled in problem-solving and decision-making from the experience of a financial services employee.
“My manager had to clean up a project that a former employee had messed up before leaving the company, and it was very stressful; she needed our help. She was very helpful in trying to get us all to understand what the project was and what it needed to look like in the end. She didn’t rush or get us overwhelmed. This made me see she is a great leader and that I can count on her to help me remain calm in stressful situations.”
Finally, when it comes to recognition, what do employees really want from their manager? They want an honest and sincere “thank you” for working hard, staying late, busting through obstacles, or going the extra mile to get the job done. They want real-time recognition when their performance is worthy of praise – employees want to receive it in the here-and-now. They also want recognition that fits them, their style, and their personality. And they want recognition that is specific to the behavior or performance under consideration; this helps employees understand how the boss defines good performance.
An employee in the retail sales industry provides this example of a boss effective at providing recognition.
“My manager hired me at the seasonal time, and not everyone hired then gets to stay on and become a regular employee. But she watched me, gave me pointers, and did my reviews. She’s so great and has helped me in all kinds of situations; she saw the determination in me to strive to just keep going. She nominated me as employee of the month in front of everyone.”
Becoming an A+ Manager is relatively straightforward: think seriously about how you like to be treated by your manager and consistently do the same toward your employees. Be especially good at listening, making good decisions, and recognizing worthy performance.
DR. JACK WILEY has more than 30 years of experience studying what employees most want and what organizational design factors best promote employee engagement, performance confidence and business success. He is the president & CEO of Jack Wiley Consulting, LLC, and Employee Centricity LLC. In addition to his business ventures, he’s the chief scientific officer at Engage2Excel. He is the author of The Employee Centric Manager and RESPECT: Delivering Results by Giving Employees What They Really Want. In 2014, Dr. Wiley was awarded the prestigious Professional Practice award by the Society of Industrial-Organizational Psychology, a lifetime achievement award for outstanding contributions to the practice of industrial-organizational psychology. In addition to being elected to Fellow status in SIOP, he is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.
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