For the purpose of this article, I'm going to draw from my experiences, professional writing, and anecdotal evidence. I am also leaving out date ranges and company names.
Crammed into the Metro train this morning, I happened to overhear a conversation between two ladies next to me this morning. I think they knew each other and they were discussing study and work.
One lady asked the other, "where are you working currently?" The other responded, "At [company X]."
"Oh, ok, nice! Are you enjoying it?"
"Well, I have a great boss."
And that got me thinking, it really does make ALL the difference. You could be doing bland work that doesn't always get your creative juices flowing, but if you have a boss that recognises this or makes the work a little less boring, you are going to enjoy what you're doing a whole lot more.
Your boss is the difference between waking up in the morning and jumping out of bed or lethargically dawdling into the office.
And I've had this experience myself. One organisation I once put in the hard yards for changed management and the difference in staff attitude was almost immediate. Going from an experienced, likeable and understanding manager to a new one who seemed to have something to prove was extremely poor on morale and ultimately the customer experience. It is one of those things you find yourself having to adjust to in the big wide world, but the effects of poor or misplaced management show that overall, the company will perform worse.
“Among the highlights [of recent research], great managers motivate people to work harder, longer, and smarter, and they coordinate the actions of individuals to achieve collective goals.”
He went further and argued managers who inspire their people have more impact on performance than its executives.
The Harvard study, though, took it one step further, stating organisations that are better able to let go of bad managers on top of hiring good ones will have better employees as a result.
Likewise, in my own experience, one firm I worked for had gone through and effectively removed everyone who didn't live up to the company culture. This caused a new hiring practice based on culture and the results spoke for itself. Employees were enthusiastic, committed and willing to go the extra mile. Managers were effective, confident and excellent mentors. In fact, in this particular circumstance, I continue to meet up with my ex-manager for these reasons. It still rates as one of the best workplaces I've been in for this reason.
This engagement and culture has been inextricably linked to performance. An article by the HuffPost referred to a business philosophy by Fred Hassan.
Attitude drives behaviour, behaviour drives culture, and culture then fosters executional excellence and sustainable high performance.
He even takes this further, explaining the critical role employees play in an organisation’s potential. Effective employee engagement helps align employees with company goals. Employees can then better understand how their role fits into the bigger picture.
I've experienced this too. Whilst in certain cases the management experience wasn't bad, such as no micromanagement, other factors did make it a very poor experience. The manager failed to help me understand my purpose and therefore I became dismayed and withdrawn. There was also an extremely poor communication structure, and whilst I expect to be challenged and to work collaboratively, I failed to see this happen.
These last two points were also raised in the same HuffPost article.
A further Harvard article raised the requirements by managers to improve employee engagement. These ranged from communicating clearly, basing performance management on clear goals and focusing on strengths ahead of weaknesses.
If managers don't follow these rules effectively, they may cause employees to leave entirely. An expensive mistake for business.
A Gallup study revealed that one in two US adults had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career. Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and negatively affecting their overall well-being.
I can certainly relate to that last point.
To draw this article to a close I refer to a Forbes list that calls out key actions leaders should take to make a true difference.
Ranging from backing themselves up with character and substance to ensuring their employees want to follow them and back them up and of course ensuring they have the best people working for them- not pretending to know everything.
These characteristics were evident in one situation. The management always ensured they sought input from others, had clear goals to attain, and assisted staff achieve them, were consistent in their character and always backed themselves up.
The net result from this is employees that want to work and enjoy the company of the team they're in, even if the work can be daunting.
I implore current leaders to take these learnings on board and for executive teams to empower these leaders to do so. Read the articles I linked to and do a search around this area- there has been lots written. Once you start reading you really can see when it makes a difference and why it's crucial.