Some managers feel the same way, even if they’d never speak so crassly. A Working Smart reader from Maryland who supervises a back-office operation for a large corporation writes that she’s “tired of having to hear about [my workers’] personal lives—their weekends and kids’ soccer games—when all I have time to focus on is getting everyone to file and do data entry accurately.”
We’re not suggesting that you pretend to care when you’re preoccupied. But by investing perhaps five minutes a day in getting to know a particular employee and showing sincere interest, you motivate in powerful ways.
Take these steps to show you care:
Follow up. Notice the personal topics employees raise in conversation. They may enjoy sharing stories about their “cute” children or “crazy” spouse. The next time you want to chat, ask a question about the individual’s favorite topic. You’ll break the ice and build rapport.
Remember names. Whenever an employee mentions the name of a spouse, partner, child or pet, write it down as soon as you can. Review your notes periodically to absorb this information.
It may sound trivial, but when you show an employee that you remember the name of her dog, she won’t forget it. People work harder for bosses who prove that they listen.
Treat personal problems consistently. If staffers allude to distracting personal issues, don’t pry. But don’t ignore them either. Reserve 10 minutes behind closed doors to ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Do this every time someone seems sad or troubled. Even if the employee doesn’t open up, at least you’ve lent a supportive ear.