Why your employees aren’t happy

Exhausted female worker sit at office desk take off glasses feel unwell having dizziness or blurry vision, tired woman employee suffer from migraine or headache unable to work. Health problem concept, employeesBad news, we know that most employees leave an organization because of their manager.  Good news, research found that 66% of global employees were engaged at work.

Great news, there are ways of improving an employee’s experience and hence performance that are within a manager’s daily control!

The Importance of People Skills

Engagement is about employees being fully absorbed and emotionally committed to their work and organization – they bring their heads, hands and hearts!  Engagement isn’t happiness, although it’s obvious that greater fulfilment contributes to happiness.  It’s about the employee’s positive emotional experience and as such, a leader needs to engage others and role model this connection by further developing their people skills.  Sounds touchy feely for driving performance and results.  Yes and, what you say and how you say it will have an impact on the other person and the result you get.  The cost of underdeveloped people skills is inefficiency, lost productivity and disengagement.  Let’s look at an example.

The Tangible Cost of Poor People Skills

Imagine you have a manager who is in an open-plan office criticizing one of their employees for five minutes. How long do you think that employee is demotivated or unproductive? How long do you think the others in the office are unproductive (feeling bad or trying to console the berated employee or criticizing the manager’s action)?

I did the maths for a leader of a family business; he provided the numbers and I just did the calculation. I call it monetizing soft skills – figuring out the monetary value of a leader’s people skills. His supply chain manager was complaining and criticizing people multiple times a day. The leader was reluctant to act because he wasn’t comfortable so convinced himself it wasn’t a big deal.  When I did the calculation with him factoring in the 5 minutes of berating and 10 minutes consoling at the salary each employee in earshot costs per minute, discounted by 50% for conservatism, it added up to £14,000/year!

This illustrates the tangible productivity loss of one manager in an office exhibiting poor people skills.  Imagine how the gains in the team’s time allowed them to take on more initiatives or better drive the strategy to long-term benefit.  And allowed them to be more creative and innovative in a more enjoyable environment.

The Opportunity Cost of Average People Skills

The incidences of berating managers are few for my coaching clients. The incidences of empathetic and inspiring managers are few too. Most managers fall in the middle, into the category of simply not knowing how to engage and motivate.  This isn’t a gender issue either, I have male and female coaching clients who struggle.  The big opportunity to positively add to an organization’s bottom-line and employee enjoyment is not the critical manager but rather the manager who simply does nothing because they don’t know what to do.

7 People Skills You Can Try Today

These uncertain times are forcing us to try new things as the path is uncharted.  Taking risks and innovating require both courage and vulnerability – same things you’ll need to embrace as you try these people skills:

  1. Listen deeply to what is said and not said. Listen with your ears and heart.  Sense what might be happening for them.  Listen to understand, not to respond.
  2. Moderate your own tendencies and preferences when dealing with people dissimilar to you. I’m task-oriented and have some colleagues who are very relational and feeling so I allow time to talk about how they are, what they are feeling, how’d they like to interact as we complete the task together.
  3. Ask open questions – not closed questions to which people can respond YES/NO. I suggest asking questions that start with WHAT – it has people access the creative part of their brain.  Questions starting with WHY should be avoided as people just defend their position.
  4. Give positive and constructive feedback – use an easy structure like COIN (click here for a template) for both types of feedback. This allows it to be clear and quick.  Give feedback on behaviours as people can more easily change behaviours then change who they are.  Give 5-6 pieces of positive feedback for every negative.
  5. Ask for feedback – ask what can I start doing, what can I stop doing, what should I continue doing. When you, ask just listen, don’t justify.  Acknowledge the feedback.  Say thank you.  If it’s valid, adjust.  If it’s harder, say you’ll think about it and then really think how to action it.
  6. See things from other peoples’ perspective – I use the analogy of a river with a bridge connecting both sides of the river. You on one side, the other person on the other.  If you want that person to do something, walk over the bridge and meet them where they are.  See it from their side, understand what it would take for them to walk back to the bridge with you.
  7. Tell stories to motivate – because stories evoke emotions, like a good book or film. Create stories from your experience, don’t invent them.  Look for experiences you’ve had where the learnings are things that your team might value.  When did you make a mistake?  When did you feel joy?  When were you paralyzed by doubt?  When did another inspire you?  Share short versions, not promoting yourself, rather the learning and to build connection.

Now What?

Where could slight improvements in your people skills improve your employees’ engagement, happiness, productivity or creativity?

If you’re not sure where to start or feel something is holding you back, contact me here about a complimentary coaching session for your, if not your team’s, benefit.

Anne TaylorAbout the author

Anne Taylor is an Executive Coach & Author, helping successful, results-driven leaders improve their people skills to be more effective and satisfied.  Her website www.directions-coaching.com offers a range of materials, a sign-up for a complimentary session and a download of the first chapter of her book, “Soft Skills Hard Results.”



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