Updated: Mar 8, 2020
Bringing the Brightness as a Manager:
The weather in NYC is dreary today, and the first thought on most people’s mind probably isn’t about being cheery and bright. Sometimes the weather can have a big impact on how we feel which can, in turn, affect how we behave in the workplace. Employees look towards supervisors to set the tone for the workplace. If the supervisor isn’t happy, employees notice and can spend the day on edge--not a good setting for a workplace. There are a few easy ways to demonstrate communication competence during even the grayest day. Here are a few simple phrases, for supervisors that can turn a blustery day (and disposition) into a bright spot:
“Please” and “Thank you”: These two are so common, yet often overlooked. In the haste to get work done, people forget to say please. Same as please, a simple thank you indicates that efforts from employees are noticed and appreciated. As a supervisor, a crucial aspect of your job (besides task accomplishment) is in managing interpersonal dynamics. Part of interpersonal dynamics includes courtesy to employees. Saying please and thank you cultivates an organization that attends to civility.
“Tom, this is Jane from our advertising department”: Learn names. When you, as the supervisor in the higher power role, know the names of your employees, you have taken steps in the right direction to indicate to your employees that you value their identity as an individual. I have roughly 90 students a semester and I make my goal to learn every name within the first two weeks of class. I find that students learn other student’s names, which establishes a greater sense of community—and they are only together for 2 ½ hours a week. Employees can foster a sense of community, while working 40+ hours a week together and that starts with knowing each other’s name.
“I’m not sure; I may need some help with X”: This is an interesting phrase and one that is counter intuitive. Some of you reading may think “I am the boss, I shouldn’t be asking for help, or admitting that I don’t know X. It will make me look incompetent.” You would be wrong. The truest form of wisdom comes from admitting that you don’t know an answer or that you’re looking for help. The reason why this phrase is useful is two part—one, you’ll be able to generate a sense of ownership for employees who can problem solve with you; and two, if you can’t admit that you don’t know an answer and you get caught in a mistake, you’re going to look incompetent—the very image you were hoping to avoid.
“You did a great job on getting the project off the ground and making the team feel included”: This phrase is not about handing out gratuitous “way to go” phrases that become common after a while. The key with this kind of praise is to comment on the specifics of what an employee did well. Honing in on specifics indicate that you are paying attention to the contributions of your team members, and subtly suggests behavior you'd like to see more of in future. Again, this kind of praise goes a long way in fostering a culture with high morale.
I encourage you to use these phrases even when the weather is lovely. Saying nice things makes people feel good. Some of these suggestions are ways to foster an organizational culture of civility, and others are more strategic moves that also allow for the construction of community. Remember, the best supervisors are the ones that are communicatively competent: both effective at task accomplishment AND interpersonally oriented. I hope this post brightened your day!