During my career as a a people manager I found multiple type of employees and learning how to relate to each one and manage them properly has been a true challenge, professionally speaking. From a personal perspective though, the stakes have always been higher: I happen to care about those who decide to work for me.
As in life though sometimes caring means exposing one self, opening to the possibility of being hurt. It doesn’t sound quite professional, does it? I used to think that, yet I was surprised just enough times to think being open has nothing to do with being professional. If anything, it has opened my eyes to a question that we all ask ourselves as employees at least once: does my boss care about me, at all?
I remember a time when I would ask this to myself after any major milestone I thought I had achieved. I would look at my manager and try to figure out: does she/he care? At all? It would really bum me out if I thought they didn’t, and it would really inspire me if I discovered they did. It made a difference to me, it made a difference in me: it made me try harder just to make my manager proud if I had done it right, and even harder if I had not passed the bar.
I have discussed this point with a few fellow managers and with some psychologists as well. I figured there must be some connection between pleasing someone who holds some sort of power or authority, and productivity. My friends said maybe there was, the psychologist said there always is but none of them was able to respond the one question I had: should I care, or not? After all there’s no other connection than the professional one, yet it is obvious that the more an employee sees he or she can impress a manager, the more productive they become. It sounds cold business-like, but there’s more to it.
Why would you really, honestly care?
The answer’s come to me many times and from the first time it did I saw how true it was: because if you care, they will. And if they do care, their time with you becomes unique and who doesn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to work in a place, for a manager, that makes them feel unique? I know I do, having searched for this most of my professional life both as an employee and as a manager. And the results have been amazing, far beyond what I have ever expected: I have found amazing people, incredible human beings hiding behind the faces of employees and colleagues. Some of them remain closer to me today than those friends I’ve made outside the office.
Every manager should care about her or his team. Every good leader does. It’s not just about performance as much as it is about them. You should open yourself to learning more about them, to surprising them, to becoming more like them every day. They know as much as you do that you hold the power to change their lives for better or for worse but that doesn’t mean you need to go all Darth Vader or become a martyr. They don’t want that. They just want to know you care. They want to trust you, they want to be closer to you, and they will try to be there for you if you allow them to.
And if they don’t…maybe you should wonder why. People care about people, no matter how you meet them or how you interact with them. If they don’t care maybe it’s because you don’t do it, and if you don’t do it, why would they? The only way to stop a loop is to break it and you can do that with a simple, beautiful action:
Also published on Medium.