After spending the last four years or so reading up on workforce trends, there’s one particular trend in that’s really caught my attention. Often times, the focus on people in the workforce highlights employees just like myself. The employee experience is, in fact, crucial to the success of an organization. However, the reason for the focus on employees seems simple enough — there are just so many of us! According to Gallup, large companies have about one manager for every 10 employees. With that in mind, it makes sense why business and HR leaders would put so much emphasis on the employee experience. However, the manager experience is equally important.
That might not be the most popular opinion, and I get it. After all, your boss likely earns more than you. Their vacations may be more exotic or extravagant than yours. There’s a pretty long list of reasons to save your empathy for yourself and your peers, but on the eve of Boss’s Day, I’d invite you to spare some extra empathy for the managers in your life and see what a difference it can make. Material gifts aside, here are some ways, from an employee's perspective, that you can help a manager feel appreciated this Boss’s Day.
Give Your Boss a Break
Let’s face it. The past 18 months have been challenging to say the least. As a result, we saw the emphasis on employee wellbeing jump into hyperdrive as employee mental health began to decline and reports of employee burnout increased. According to one study from Harvard Business Review, 59% of employees reported having at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2019. In the past year, that percentage has shot up to a whopping 76%.
It’s tempting when we read these reports to see the word “employees” and immediately think about our large pools of individual contributors, and that’s okay. Individual contributors are absolutely being affected by the new challenges of our changing world. But the reality is that managers are facing the same hurdles during this time — including the strain on their mental health. In 2020, 53% of business leaders reported facing mental health issues since the pandemic began. I’d imagine that number has only risen since then.
At the end of the day, we’ve all been impacted by the long list of stressors that have occurred over the past year and a half, so we all need to lead the effort in looking out for one another — regardless of title. As employees, buying gifts might not be the answer, but there are some simple ways we can give back to the leaders in our lives. Surprisingly, these tips looks a lot like the ways managers are being guided to support employees.
Nurture Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is just a fancy term for creating an environment of trust that allows you and your manager to speak freely and honestly. Not only does it create incredible business outcomes, it can give each of you a new source of support during hard times.
Share Your Mental Health Wins
When anyone is struggling through stress and mental health challenges, seeing the way out of it can become difficult. If you’ve found anything helpful to your own mental health, be vulnerable and share those stories with a manager. It may seem small, but simply recommending one of your stress-relief tools (exercise, meditation, etc.) can normalize the very real stressors we’re all facing and offer them a potential solution in the process.
Offer Compassion and Understanding
If nothing else, being compassionate during these times will go a long way. It’s natural to expect more from leaders than others, but right now is certainly the time reevaluate some of those expectations and offer our managers more patience and more understanding than we’re used to.
Give Your Boss Some Positive Feedback
How many times have you heard, “Employees don’t leave companies; they leave managers,” in your professional career? Likely, too many times to count. Managers play that important of a role in an organization. Managers at all levels are often the deciding factor of whether your organization enjoys the benefits of higher employee retention rates — or the costs of higher turnover.
From a manager’s perspective, I’d imagine this is a lot of pressure — especially in this new era of high employee turnover rates being known as The Great Resignation. 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021 alone. That being said, there are also a lot of employees who haven’t quit their jobs, and others who found new jobs that they’re much happier in. So, if you have a good manager today, tell them. I promise they need to hear it.
If sending your manager direct feedback seems unrealistic, consider providing that positive feedback in your next employee survey. It will give their day boost of optimism and help your organization understand exactly what makes some managers excel. Chief People Officer at UKG, Dave Almeda, explains it best. “It is our belief that every employee deserves a great manager, and one way we achieve that goal is our manager effectiveness program, Manager Experience (MX). By identifying the behaviors that lead to the very best employee and manager experiences, we’re able to provide all our leaders with the recipe for success through direct, data-driven feedback from their people.”
You Don’t Need to be a Manager to Fill Someone’s Cup
At the end of the day, it’s my belief that employees and managers are more alike than they are different. Depending on the size of your organization, your manager probably has a manager of their own. They have goals to meet. They have families they’d like to spend more time with. They have good days and bad ones.
It is true that leaders have the responsibility of taking care of those who report up to them, but it isn’t a one-way street. Employees can look out for their managers too. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” so let’s remember to fill one another’s cups this Boss’s Day.
If you have a manager or even know a manager, check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing. Find out how you can support them.
If you’re a manager reading this, just hold this one truth with you: Your experience matters. Take care of yourself so that you can show up and take care of the people who depend on you. We’re in this together.