Jelena Mikić: There is a recipe for a satisfied and happy employee
Blog - Sep 23, 2020
Somewhere between all the challenges imposed on management by remote work and surprising discoveries how employees can enjoy advantages of enforced flexible forms, it is certain that the concept of employee satisfaction and work is actually changing.
How is this related to coronavirus? I’m not sure. Times are changing, especially communications, and, consequently, working conditions. Leadership models are now less based on authority, which is, unfortunately, wrongly related to fear, and more on employee needs-aware authority. Coronavirus accelerated some of our decisions, but isn’t it true they were inevitable anyway? Such as the new model of operating from the comfort of our own living room?
First of all, I have to point out that I am a big fan of flexible working forms, constantly dialogue with employees (to an extent that some more old fashioned managers would dub babysitting) and good results regardless of form. I have not always been like than in these 15 years of managerial life. I often escaped to the old matrices of depersonalised relations, pure listing of tasks via email, rigid insisting on form. But times are changing. So – leadership has to change as well.
Much before coronavirus I was assigned to develop our business in other countries. When the offices in those other countries were set up and the team allocated – I had to manage that team. The option of relocation was not acceptable for me because of my newborn, so I agreed to manage teams sitting up 500 kilometres away from me. And I’m grateful for that. That is why I am fully confident to write about this topic in the midst of debates related to staying at home and returning to office.
Let’s leave coronavirus aside.
First of all, why is it important to have employees sitting next to you if you are not a factory? In order to control them more successfully, demonstrate your authority? OK, fair enough. But, where is trust in them and confidence in yourself that you are good leader even if they are not all physically around you? And – how to build that trust?
We know that it is easy to ruin it, because most managers advocating for the return of people to office are disappointed by small (or not so small) misuses by employees during several months of staying at home. Trust is a two-way street. If a half of your team worked until noon and then went to enjoy the sun, without a feeling that working hours are until 5 pm, then we have nothing to talk about. You used up your credit with me and all other managers on this planet.
But, let’s take a few steps back. Firstly, there is a recipe for establishing successful teams. By careful selection and commitment. Choose an employee that you gut feeling is telling you is ‘the right one’ and work with him/her. But really work. Talk, go through documents together, provide a good example. Help them grow. Protect their interests. Enable them to learn additionally, if they are eager for knowledge. Fight for a raise, better contract clauses if they deserve it. Do not apologise if there is a lot of work to be done, because it is the only way to learn. But show that it is OK to have a bad day. Show that you have them, too. You are not a robot if you are little older or more experienced. If all this is done and you know that you have the person you an absolutely rely on, if the results are right – does it matter where that person sits?
No, absolutely not.
So let’s then bust two myths:
Misuse. Yes, that can happen. No, not all employees are good employees. Yes, someone took advantage of the coronavirus time to evade work. Deal with it. Life goes on. You as a manager should detect such behaviour and root it out. And it has nothing to do with coronavirus. People evade work in office and outside of it. You have 100, 200 people? It’s normal that you can’t control all of them. But you can set up smaller teams, delegate managers who will run those smaller teams and report to you.
Authority. Are you going to lose it if you are too soft? No, you’re going to lose it if you don’t express empathy. Period. Giving a flexible form doesn’t mean that you don’t expect results. I often say jokingly that I don’t intend to insert a GPS tracking device under skin and monitor who is where, but that I very well know who needs to do what and when. My first line of responsibility is directors, who report to me, and it is up to them to organise their teams.
Also, I always draw a line at what I do. I’m not interested in organisation of family relations, who babysits children, who goes to work in someone’s home. As a manager, I expect results, but I’m open for having an infant’s mom in my team working at night when the child goes to bed. I’m OK with that, as long as it does not disrupt the team dynamic. But that is where organisation comes in. But, if I call you at noon three days in a row and you are in a park with a child, while a report is late for almost the same time period – I’ll ask you why. Because I have other mothers in the team who would like to be in a park with children, as well as clients with our monthly salary depending on their reports.
I am also not specialised in medicine and psychology (although every leader has to be a bit of psychologist, right?). In other words, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable to come to the office because of the pandemic, I’m fine with that. But, after that I’m not buying a story of that employee about going on a holiday and staying in an overbooked hotel, which they reached by the equally overbooked charter flight. Trust, OK? A two-way street.
Times are changing. Some new employees are coming, who don’t recognise working from 9 till 5 and whose trademarks are freedom and flexibility. And no – we don’t have to change completely, because our old-school system still has its values. But we have to adapt and find a golden mean. To demystify misconceptions related to management, organisation of work and delegation of tasks. To talk with employees more, and to worry about our authority less. To provide an example, not a ban. To turn a blind eye to a small error, and praise a result that makes a difference. To be equally strict and equally soft. To admit a mistake. To not be too proud, vain. Because everything can be learned. And we all learn. And to bravely look ahead, adopt new models, be up-to-date, flexible.
Believe in yourself and the people you invested your time in. It has nothing to do with coronavirus.