Caring about Your Employees Without Crossing the Line

By Nicholas Nigro

There are many considerate actions that you can take that are given the coaching and mentoring imprimatur. There are behaviors that show you care about your employees in both their personal and professional lives, while simultaneously maintaining that all-important personal detachment just discussed.

Personal detachment doesn’t ask that you remain ignorant of your employees’ personal lives or that you ignore events in their lives (like birthdays, deaths in the family, and so on). On the contrary, offering congratulations and condolences when appropriate is something you should feel free to do. Being detached doesn’t mean you function in a different dimension and forget you’re managing a close group of people who truly care for one another.

Here are some little things you can do for all of your employees that showcase your caring side as both a boss and concerned coach. If these things are meted out on a consistent and even basis, they won’t get misconstrued as manifestations of personal friendship or signs of favoritism.

Say Thanks
Say thank you for a job well done. On a regular basis, let your employees know that you appreciate what they’re doing (and continue to provide them with positive feedback when warranted).

Reward Progress
Reward progress–not just final results. Depending on what’s at your disposal (spot bonus, gifts, recognition in the company newsletter, and so on), let your forward-moving employees know you see and appreciate their progress. This is a great self-motivating technique. There’s nothing quite like giving deserving employees a day off, or half-day on Friday, as a reward for a job well done. A gift holiday, not taken out of their vacation time, generates good feeling.

Do Lunch
Take a deserving employee out to lunch. If you’ve established a criterion for such events, there’s no reason for anybody on your staff to misjudge the lunches as acts of favoritism. However, make certain these lunch moments are special occasions with a purpose (reward for a solid performance, discussion of an important new job or promotion, and so on). Pal-to-pal lunches are frowned upon, as you know.

Pass Along Compliments
Pass along any compliments about an employee that come your way. Whether they come from a person within your organization, or a pleased customer on the outside, don’t let such positive expressions live and die with you. An employee who is complimented merits knowing about it. It’s a two-bagger in one sense. Your employee gets complimented by a third party, and, at the same time, gets complimented by you, the big cheese.

Keep a Permanent Record of Good Performance
Employees always welcome positive performance reviews. When your employees do their jobs, prepare performance reviews for them. Detailed performance reviews pointing out their solid efforts and achievements are confidence boosters. They tell your employees that you both notice and value their special efforts in overcoming obstacles, solving problems, and achieving their goals.

Write a letter for an employee’s personnel file detailing any exemplary achievements on the job. Give the employee a copy of the letter, and let him or her see what you’ve written. Words on paper are permanent records and more powerful than verbal feedback, or even a bonus or raise. Letters are living testaments that’ll be forever part of an employee’s record.

Make Little Things Count
All of these seemingly little things really aren’t little things at all. Little things mean a lot. Some managers rely on the showy Christmas party, or a Memorial Day gathering at a posh resort by the sea, as a substitute for all of these so-called little things. They believe these extravaganzas show they really care about their employees. And there’s nothing wrong with pool parties and the like, but they shouldn’t be substitutes for showing appreciation to individuals on a one-on-one and regular basis.

Be Warm
Never underestimate the all-consuming power of kindness to make the workplace a better place. When employees are happy at their jobs, they are more productive and are more willing to reach for the stars, as it were. Simple gestures and a pleasant work aura can really make a positive difference in an employee’s job performance and overall satisfaction with his or her job.

The business world, in general, has got a reputation for being rather cold and sometimes even cutthroat. And it is a reputation that is well earned. Free-market capitalism, nevertheless, is still the only economic system ever devised that improves the lots of the greatest number of people. So, if a people-oriented management methodology like coaching and mentoring can ameliorate some of the harsher aspects of life in the corporate world and under the capitalistic thumb, it has to be welcomed with open arms. And this is in fact why it’s becoming more widespread in management circles everywhere. Coaching and mentoring practices are civilizing influences when done right. They never disregard employees’ personal lives or their feelings. This is progress.