If you treat your employees like they’re invisible, you ask for trouble. They won’t work as hard if they figure you don’t care about them.
Busy leaders may not realize they’re succumbing to the “invisible employee” syndrome. But when you’re rushing to put out fires, you may take shortcuts that undermine your communication. Staffers may feel like they don’t matter or that you view them as a low priority.
Take these steps to acknowledge people and make them feel important:
• Reply to their emails. A brief response is better than no response. Writing, “Let me digest this and reply by Friday” shows that you take the employee’s note seriously.
Beware of thinking to yourself, “I’ll delay responding until I have an answer” or “I plan to couple my reply with raising another issue.” The employee is left in the dark, not knowing whether you received the message or whether you intend to reply.
• Give feedback. Neglected employees often think, “I have no idea what my boss thinks of my performance.” Resentment grows as they conclude that no one notices their effort.
Volunteer positive and negative input regularly. Praise what you admire (“Good job handling that tough customer”) and ask permission to criticize (“Would you like some constructive input on your report?”). Politely giving negative feedback is a way of holding employees accountable and investing in their growth.
• Focus on equality. Signs of favoritism include enforcing rules selectively or letting certain individuals off the hook for not meeting performance goals. The result: Less-favored employees will feel excluded and treated unfairly.
— Adapted from Smart Tribes, Christine Comaford, Portfolio.