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Rein in ‘You’re lucky to have a job’ managers

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in HR Soapbox

With unemployment still hovering above 9%, too many managers approach their employees with the attitude—whether through words or actions or both—that employees should feel lucky to even have a job. While that may be true, it’s a horrible baseline to start a manager/employee relationship.

"You need to nip that in the bud … that attitude is an insidious plague," attorney Shanti Atkins, CEO of California-based ELT employment law training firm, told HR professionals gathered this week at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference in Las Vegas.

Managers carrying that attitude typically feel they don't need to treat employees with respect because their employees won’t (or can’t) jump ship. As a result, managers taking this dismissive stance are more likely to discriminate, bully subordinates and blow off company policies—all behaviors that can spark lawsuits against the company.

Advice: Work with managers to turn that phrase on its head. You want employees thinking, “I’m lucky to even have a job there.” And that all starts in the way managers treat their employees.

Here are five simple ways managers can show respect and keep employees engaged:

1. Take interest in the person, not just the work. It starts with basic courtesy, like “hello,” “please” and “thank you.” Demonstrate your interest by asking, “How was the camping trip?” Employees who feel invisible become distant.

2. Accept diversity of ideas and thought. Managers who show an interest in what employees say are more likely to keep them engaged. “They don’t listen to me” is a common complaint of disengaged employees.

3. Share responsibility for success, and don’t blame others for your mistakes. When you make a mistake, say so. Otherwise, employees lose respect.

4. Demonstrate honesty and integrity. Do what you say you will do. Employees never feel good about working for managers they don’t trust.

5. Be passionate about success. Recognize, acknowledge and reward employees' contributions in front of all of them. Continuously ignoring employees’ victories will fuel disengagement.

Do any of your managers take a “Your lucky to have a job” approach with their employees? If so, have you seen an impact?

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