Several of the companies I work with do an annual employee engagement survey. This is a company wide survey that essentially asks employees questions about their manager such as, do you think your manager communicates what is expected of you, do you regularly receive recognition when you do a good job, does your manager provide you with timely and helpful feedback etc.
Not a single one of these questions asks employees what they have done to ask for feedback, to recognize their teammates, to ask questions about what is expected of them. I believe these types of surveys just reinforce the parent-child like relationship between managers and employees. As a team member, I need to take responsibility over managing my own work and ensuring I build the right kind of relationships with my teammates, clients, and boss so I can achieve what I want to achieve.
Managers sometimes end up wasting hours and hours a week managing issues of their team members that I think are essentially acting like children by asking their manager to solve their problems. I’ve spoken with some of my peers who are complaining about their managers, but they aren’t asking the question what can I do to make this better? There is always a solution and the only way you can improve a disengaged situation is by directly engaging with it!
There are two excellent articles that I found useful in terms of how I can take responsibility over my learning and interactions with my managers:
Making Partner: A Mentor’s Guide to the Psychological Journey – It’s an article by Herminia Ibarra at Harvard Business School. The article follows the journey of two young professionals both employed in the professional services industry – one an investment banker and the other a business consultant. What I found most interesting about this article was how the two people battled the tension between staying authentic to themselves while at the same time adapting and learning from their superiors. Also it was a great example of how they were taking responsibility for their own growth and learning so they could become partners in their firm and they were creating the conditions to get the feedback and mentoring they needed from their bosses.
Managing your Boss – Written by John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter, this article looks at what you can do to manage the relationship with your boss most effectively and make sure that it is working to your advantage. The main advice I took from this article is that an effective relationship with your boss requires you to have compassion for them in a way that you would like them to have compassion for you and to be proactive in building your relationship with them.
Shifting the conversation towards “what I can do to learn and make my professional experience better and more meaningful” is far more empowering and engaging for employees than building the expectations that “only my manager has the ability to improve my professional experience”.