Whether you manage one intern or a staff of full-time employees, it’s worth the time and effort it takes to establish yourself as a boss who genuinely has your team’s best interests at heart. When your employees trust you, they’re more likely to be upfront and honest with you as well. That kind of mutual respect fosters transparency, communication and productivity.
Trust is a complicated two-way street, but there are a few things that you can do as a manager to show your staff that they can count on you.
Have their back
This can mean a couple things, including knowing when to step in and provide back-up. Sorting out interpersonal issues and addressing conflicts of interests are important parts of professional development, but if an employee is regularly dealing with a larger, systemic issue or being treated unfairly, you need to get involved. Helping an employee solve a problem or improve their work environment demonstrates that you’re willing to get your hands dirty for the sake of someone on your team.
But you don’t have to wait for office drama to show your employees that they have your support. Identifying opportunities for your employees’ personal growth shows that you care about more than just the bottom line. For example, when you use your budget for their continuing education or work around a staff member attending a two-day conference, you send the message: “Your professional growth is worth more than my inconvenience.”
Give praise publicly and feedback privately
All this doesn’t mean you should be a pushover. Setting boundaries and providing feedback are important responsibilities for leaders. And the manner in which you do both is just as important. If a staff member’s performance is falling short, they need to hear about it. But afford them the consideration of privacy. Nobody wants to hear about their mistakes in front of an audience. Public reprimands usually fall on deaf ears anyway, as the person on the other end tends to be more focused on their feelings of embarrassment than the actual issue. Delivering constructive criticism in a one-on-one, confidential manner shows that you’re more interested in solving the problem than humiliating an employee. But praise? Feel free to go ahead and broadcast that. Public recognition is key to employee morale. And giving someone’s accomplishment a shout-out in a meeting or on a group email shows that you’re willing to share the spotlight and give credit where it’s due.
Don’t talk smack about your coworkers (even if they deserve it)
This can be a tough one to stick to, especially when once you’ve developed a rapport with your team members. You want to communicate that you “get it” and call out the jackass project manager or executive team member that makes everyone’s life hell.
Even if you’ve got the perfectly witty burn on the tip of your tongue, bite it.
First, you never know who’s listening, and particularly funny jabs have a way of making their way to the HR department. Second, it’s much easier to trust the person who never gossips or speaks ill of anyone (even if they deserve it). There’s a reason you didn’t share your secrets with that person in high school who started every story with “Okay, you can’t tell anyone I told you this, but…” The same basic principle applies here. Employees want to know that you’ll treat their questions, concerns and challenges with respect. Talking smack about a colleague shows that your professionalism has limits. You’re more likely to build trust by following the golden rule (even when dealing with jackasses).
How do you know when to trust a manager or a coworker?
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.