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Communication at Work: Treating Employees like Humans

By |July 01, 2019

Most people can relate to the proverbial “mean boss,” because unfortunately, we’ve all dealt with someone like this during our career. And it’s not exactly inspiring to work for someone who doesn’t value you or your time. 

Leaders can have a subconscious tendency to forget they’re dealing with actual individuals. When you ask a paid employee to do something, you expect them to get it done. Period.

However, in order for your business to reach its full potential, you need to communicate with your employees effectively—proving that you care about them as individuals so that they don’t dread showing up to work every day. Here’s how to do that.

communication at work

Practice tactical empathy to keep your employees happy

As a leader, manager, or executive, you weren’t always the one in charge. At one point, you were working for someone else. When you think of your old boss, you can likely remember exactly how that person made you feel when they took an undesirable tone, disrespected your time, or just piled more and more work onto your plate without any signs of appreciation.

Great managers always remember that their workers are people first. They practice tactical empathy and try their best to see things from their employees’ perspectives. They understand that, at any given time, employees might be carrying around baggage from inside and outside the office. And they respect that.

By consciously and proactively practicing tactical empathy, you can reduce the likelihood of assigning too much work, or moving in a direction that makes someone upset—and therefore less productive. 

Remember, our brains are 31 percent sharper when we’re in positive moods. 

Would you want to run the risk of having one or more employees coming to a workplace where they don't feel understood and valued? Since using tactical empathy helps keep your employees happy, it also helps them work more efficiently and effectively.

Give credit where credit’s due—and be generous with it

Human nature often leads us to a “woe is me” attitude. A common employee refrain is: Look how much work I have to do! Nobody knows how hard my job is! 

As a boss, you need to be acutely aware that this is the default setting for many of your employees. You also need to ask yourself a question: Do you thank your employees as much as you task them? How often do I thank my employees for a job well done? 

Public recognition for working hard and doing a good job is a huge motivator. While you shouldn’t go over the top with it—which would make it somewhat meaningless—you should make sure you congratulate your team on a job well done when it’s warranted.

Build a culture that inspires employees to do great work

That old-school mentality that tells us we need to be at the office from 9 to 5 every day doesn’t appeal to human nature. People don’t want to be treated like robots.

It’s easy for a boss to come across as doing precisely that, though.

As a leader, you should ensure that there are culture-building opportunities outside of the office that aren’t necessarily focused on work. Team happy hours, group outings, barbecues, that sort of thing. Most importantly, keep things personal by letting your employees decide for themselves whether they want to participate; don’t force anyone. 

Build a culture that makes people feel good to be at work and feel valued and you will notice a difference in output and engagement.

But … you can’t always be nice

Work is never all unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes, the going gets tough. As a leader, you need to learn how to navigate these delicate situations and deal with any necessary fallout.

It’s OK to be a little aggressive or assertive when you’re addressing the entire group. But when you’re dealing with a rogue employee directly, you need to take a different, person-to-person approach.

How? Start with an accusations audit: This will make me sound like a jerk, (pause for effect)... Take responsibility for the situation through the lens of how you failed as a leader—it’s not only their fault.

And what about the worst-case scenario? Well, some people need to be “yelled at”—a pushback that creates motivation. But if you have to scold someone, channel the late-night DJ voice. If our brains function 31 percent more efficiently when we are in good moods, what do you think happens when we’re in a negative frame of mind?

To sum it all up, keep the platinum rule in mind. Treat your employees the way they want to be treated. Be empathetic, courteous, and appreciative. And when the going gets tough, keep your cool. It’s the easiest way to make your team feel valued—which, in turn, will help your business enjoy better outcomes.

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