Workers Want Bosses Who Can Help Them Thrive

Good management depends on good communication

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek October 16, 2019
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Workers most value a manager who is a problem-solver, decisive, compassionate and can manage time effectively, according to a new LinkedIn Learning survey. The findings are especially timely today, National Boss's Day.

"Our research found that employees want managers who can help them tackle challenges at work from start to finish. This means identifying the root cause of the problem and the right solution while helping employees think critically about how to approach similar challenges in the future," said Tanya Staples, vice president of product and content for LinkedIn Learning.

Staples identified the following steps for managers to use to help employees solve workplace problems. Nearly all of them require solid communication skills:

  • Identify the root of the business challenge that has the employee stumped. Ask questions to identify key stakeholders, the metrics used to determine if the problem is solved, whether similar problems have occurred in the past and the impact the solution will have.
  • Work with the employee to identify and prioritize the solution.
  • Help the employee analyze solutions.
  • Assist the employee in pitching the solution to colleagues, including voicing logical arguments to the proposed solution prior to the employee's presentation.

"The ability for managers to help their employees succeed has a lasting impact," Staples said. A report from LinkedIn subsidiary Glint found 63 percent of workers surveyed said their relationship with their managers affects their workplace engagement.

Better Managing with Active Listening

Glint partnered with Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytic Services to learn how organizations around the globe are shaping their people strategy. A survey released in May found that 59 percent of 717 respondents drawn from HBR's audience said their organizations incorporated active listening/asking open-ended questions in its leadership training. And the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) pointed out in its latest report, The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture, that the best people managers are active listeners.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Organizational Leaders]

People managers can learn to be the leaders their employees need them to be. In 2020, SHRM will launch a people manager qualification to help new managers develop soft skills, leadership skills and the emotional intelligence needed to create high-performing teams. Training includes self-assessments and virtual role-playing to develop skills they can immediately use with their teams.

"Cultivating better people managers can have a positive impact on the culture, but leaders at all levels must join in the effort," including HR professionals and other workplace decision-makers, wrote Alex Alonso, SHRM-SCP, SHRM chief knowledge officer in a SHRM blog.

LinkedIn Learning also offers tools and courses to help managers with a variety of skills, including problem solving, and time management, Staples said.

Give Employees Autonomy

Workers want bosses who give them the autonomy to make decisions and encourage them to try new things, according to the Boss Barometer from Kimble Applications. It is a professional services automation-software provider based in Boston.

Workers want more responsibility and a boss who motivates and inspires them, not someone who constantly looks over their shoulder. However, Kimble found more than one-third of employees—36 percent—complained they were micromanaged. The findings are from an August survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers. 

"Today's employees thrive when their leaders motivate, coach and provide enough independence to develop skills that can have a real impact on the business and their own careers," Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson said in a news release.

"Organizations that continue to operate in a highly hierarchical culture, where decisions are consistently made without consultation, will be left behind." 

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