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Encourage standardized management practices

Manager and supervisor personalities vary as much as the people they oversee, and their uniqueness can add to an organization’s makeup. However, employees deserve a baseline of management and someone who encourages them, supports their growth, and is held to the same standard. Employers can help promote positive relationships between managers and workers through the following means:

Outline the organization’s approach and preferred managerial practices that contribute to an empathetic, supportive, and flexible workplace culture. The philosophy could address anything from organizational goals to increase diversity within leadership, to specific guidance around mentorship and coaching, to how performance evaluations will be conducted. This philosophy should also address how people managers fit into the organization’s hierarchical structure, such as whom supervisors can ask for guidance on best practices and receive support, and how they should support their staff.

Standard management practices should be integrated into an overall people management strategy. List these practices in the employee handbook, discuss what they are during management training, and practice or model them at all levels of the organization. Consider adding the following best practices as expectations for people managers:

  • Build trust, respect, and collaboration as part of a manager-employee relationship;
  • Set clear and realistic expectations about work responsibilities;
  • Check in with direct reports regularly on a recurring schedule that works for both parties;
  • Evaluate the direct report’s workload regularly and assist where possible;
  • Be approachable with open-door and flexible policies;
  • Understand how employees express signs of acute stress or burnout;
  • Provide emotional support to employees;
  • Provide employees with autonomy over their work;
  • Encourage workers to take time off for well-being; and
  • Ensure that the manager is checking in with themselves and their direct supervisor regularly.

Employees who excel in one position may not excel in a management position without the proper training and guidance. Effective and supportive people management is a skill set that can be taught through transparent expectations and training. Workplaces should invest in management training to ensure employees perform well in their roles. In addition, employers can prepare workers through mandatory orientation and onboarding, management learning curriculum, and access to external support. See “Workplace Mental Health Training” for suggested training.

A mentor should serve as a trusted counselor or guide, provide expertise to less experienced individuals, and build a relationship based on communication. Treating a management position as a mentorship opportunity can help the manager focus on an employee’s strengths, build a strong relationship, and help the employee grow professionally. People managers, board members, alumni association members, or peers can serve as mentors.

Instead of standard performance evaluations, employers can leverage the relationship between a manager and a direct report to provide bi-directional feedback. Through shared decision-making or a 360-review process, in which multiple stakeholders are providing feedback for improvement, both the manager and direct report should discuss professional goals collaboratively and how the manager can provide support along the way.

Consider enlisting an external organization or consultant, conducting anonymous and confidential worker surveys, and/or creating open-door leadership policies to ensure the strategy is meeting its metrics. Organizations should hold leadership and people managers accountable to the same standards and give other workers the option to provide feedback by implementing a grievance process, running an ethics hotline, establishing an executive governance committee, or responding to anonymous satisfaction surveys.

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