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Well, maybe. An open-door policy encouraging workers to visit and discuss issues and concerns requires more than simply a door swung open. You must also have a psychologically safe workplace. A psychologically safe workplace naturally encourages employees to stick their necks out, approach you, and take advantage of what you are offering. They do so because they are confident they will not be rejected or punished for admitting a mistake, bringing a complaint, asking a question, or offering a new idea. Help employees feel respected, accepted, and comfortable at all times. Model this to others. The bottom line is: How you interact with employees outside your office will determine whether they will walk through your open door later.

Studies indicate that 50% of employees have quit a job because of a bad boss. One study reported that 75% consider their boss a major source of stress, but most have no plans to quit. The health issue is stress. Here's a list of common complaints from a Harris Poll in order of severity:

  1. not recognizing employee achievements;
  2. not giving clear directions;
  3. not having time to meet with employees;
  4. refusing to talk with subordinates,
  5. taking credit for others' ideas;
  6. not offering constructive criticism;
  7. not knowing an employee's name;
  8. refusing to talk with people on the phone or in person; and
  9. not asking about employees' lives outside of work.

Nearly all of these complaints fall in the realm of communication, and some you may find surprising. For example, employees want you to know more about them personally. Do any apply to you? PAS can help you become a better supervisor on any of these issues.

Today's workplace has changed. Employees are much more desirous of positive, nurturing, and socially connected environments. This is especially true of younger workers, who also appreciate supervisors who are willing to be more vulnerable and open about their feelings with them. Given these new expectations and to help retain employees longer, offering guidance on coping with work stress is appropriate for supervisors. This can include, for example, counseling employees about taking risks, managing fear and work stress, coping with mistakes, not regretting missed opportunities, and overcoming fear of taking chances, as well as supervisors sharing information about their personal failures and successes. These things help employees build "emotional resilience" to better cope with errors, mistakes, work crises, coworker conflicts, disappointments, missed promotions, upsetting performance reviews, and more. All organizations want lower turnover, and helping employees build emotional resilience clearly has a business rationale. (NOTE: It is important to distinguish between the examples above from acute issues, which would dictate a referral to PAS.)

There are techniques for changing your mood. A frequent need to improve your mood could be a sign of depression or another medical condition. In this case, visit Personal Assistance Service for an assessment to see whether there are other steps worth considering. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Exercise regularly. It will influence your mood to keep it more positive.
  • Feel an undesirable mood coming on? Go for a short "exercise snack," a 10-to-15-minute walk outside or in a new environment.
  • Sit quietly, and for five minutes, imagine some activity you experience great pleasure in doing, such as fishing, gardening, hiking, or playing with grandchildren. This will influence a more positive mood, and it helps you keep life in perspective.

Moods are related to subtle negative "self-talk." Your mood can change as you change your inner dialogue. You will notice an improved effect with practice. Make an appointment with PAS if you remain concerned about the need to alter your mood, chronic feelings of irritability, or a communication style that does not facilitate a positive relationship with your employees.

Your fears may be normal in the face of a rapid rise in your career. Many people with fears similar to yours have discovered nothing came of them despite the anxiety they often felt. The collection of symptoms you describe is sometimes called "impostor syndrome." Don't panic. Talk to PAS, and allow professionals there to guide you in gaining relief. Be prepared to share more about your concerns, career path, supervisor relationship, and specific fears. Impostor syndrome is an internal sense of fear, not based on reality. The impostor syndrome can be exacerbated by a difficult relationship with the boss or peers, or by a true shortage of skills, but rarely by the inability to perform the job or rapidly learn it.

Giving feedback to employees is not about delivering the good with the bad and hoping for the best. Your attitude and approach are critical. Do you show annoyance over the shortcomings of your employee's work, or do you deliver feedback with judgment-free specificity? The latter approach works better because valuable employees are hard enough on themselves. More importantly, give feedback with the intention of motivating employees. If an employee is not energized following a feedback interview, you have taken a step backward in that relationship. Whenever possible, use feedback meetings to teach new skills. Develop good working relationships with your employees and discuss how you will give feedback to them. Let them know that the purpose of feedback is to help them excel, not to find fault or shake their confidence. Use these guidelines the next time you give feedback. You will enjoy giving feedback more often, and you'll do it more effectively.

There is a difference between employees expressing humor within a psychologically safe workplace and the supervisor over-employing humor as a way to interact and manage employees. Overuse of humor can heighten employee vulnerability and make supervisors less approachable. Ironically, some humor may contribute to an intimidating and offensive work environment. Overused, humor can also send a message that there is nothing very serious about what we do here-that mistakes and problems are not to be taken seriously. This results in the loss of a healthy sense of urgency and leads to diminished performance by employees. This dynamic can prompt employees to focus on personal matters rather than workplace productivity; indeed, research has shown this to be the case. However, humor is a natural human behavior. It is not something that has to be deliberately learned or practiced. Naturally occurring, it can be an indicator of a positive work climate where employees are able to be happy, healthy, and productive.

There are many reasons people hesitate to make decisions. Fear of being wrong is one, but it is worth exploring what drives this fear? Making decisions can sometimes be difficult, and anxiety around decision-making can translate into stalling techniques such as 1) perfectionism (it slows progress), 2) fear of disapproval, and 3) over-analyzing. Great leaders have a history of making and overcoming mistakes by trusting their gut, a process that improves over time. This is your goal: to be a great gut-level decision-maker who is often right, but not perfect. This is a skill PAS can help you understand more clearly.

The most difficult roadblock supervisors face in using PAS to manage troubled employees is making the switch from doing it all themselves to using a systematic approach to assess, refer, treat, and follow up on a troubled employee.

The old approach may include ignoring problems until they precipitate a crisis. Although an employee may sign a release that provides for limited feedback about PAS participation, a supervisor is, by design, removed entirely from involvement in the employee's problems. This shift can be difficult because the supervisor must give up the ability to control the helping process and its outcome. Turning these roles over to PAS frees the supervisor from the burden of being counselor and caseworker. While supervisors may feel competent in handling these roles and may experience satisfaction and meaning by involving themselves in their employees' lives, this approach carries significant risk for all parties concerned.

Demonstrating vulnerability will tend to improve relationships in your personal life, but it can undermine your supervisory role in correcting work performance. The workplace operates with a different set of dynamics than your personal life. There are hierarchical differences between workers and those who supervise them. Supervisors possess influence and leverage that allow them the power to correct problems, guide employees, judge performance, and discipline and reward employees. But these factors can be undermined. One way to do that is to give employees the impression that you and they are equal in work-related status. Self-disclosure (being too close and personal) produces this result. If you are perceived as a friend rather than a boss, your employees lose the sense of urgency needed to work under your direction. Coaxing and pleading become faulty tools of persuasion. The same dynamic occurs when parents forgo discipline to become friends with their children. If a supervisor needs help with how to connect with workers and how to share their own issues, PAS can be a good resource to help make a plan on how to do this.

When tragedies like the one you describe strike the workplace, the immediate response is usually obvious - engaging first responders and immediate needs. Days later, supervisors wonder, "What's my role in helping everyone? What do I say? How do I act?" You will make a huge impact on employees with the simplest things: being more available, being empathetic, engaging PAS, modeling your own need to process and share feelings, being a good communicator, making it easier for others to spend time discussing or processing their reactions, finding ways to lighten the load, and being flexible with work demands. You will be surprised how employees will thank you later. You may think to yourself, "Wow, I didn't do much." But in fact, you really did all that was needed. Supervisors represent the organization, and tragic events are always remembered in terms of how "the organization responded." That's you.

In the past, the same argument was used to minimize the impact of sexual harassment in the workplace. Today, sexual harassment is illegal. Research has now documented its true cost. Bullying in the workplace is rapidly receiving the same level of recognition, also supported by research. See this citation on abusive supervision. Do you ridicule employees? Have you put employees down in front of others? Have you accused them of incompetence, kept them away from “the good assignments,” not given them credit for their work, yelled at them, or invaded their privacy by asking probing personal questions? Many of these behaviors were once considered natural elements of the traditional workplace, but not today. Talk to PAS about making changes. Most employees who complain to supervisors about bullying say they do not see substantive changes from their tormentors. This implies that changing these behaviors can be tough. Still, you could remain at risk for employment or legal claims if your tactics don’t shift.

Like any employee, PAS is available to discuss and resolve problems you experience. This includes issues of supervision, your role, management principles, etc. If PAS can’t assist you because of a lack of its direct experience with the issue you bring to the program, it can still research and examine what resources can assist you. Note that all of us have manifest problems that appear in our lives. These roadblocks to other goals may be difficult to surmount because of our psychological issues, scripts, self-esteem problems, etc. These are the less visible but latent issues that the PAS counselor may help you spot and troubleshoot in your pursuit of the ultimate goal.

As you point out, a more complete supervisory relationship with employees has many payoffs. Beyond focusing on quality or quantity of work, these payoffs include improved communication and a closer, more trusting relationship between the supervisor and employee. This reduces supervisor stress and negative emotions that create unwanted, unnecessary distraction when problems arise. Employees become more interested in their work, improve self-awareness, accomplish more goals, and experience improved job satisfaction, which can reduce turnover and loss of a valuable worker. Ultimately, proper employee management reduces conflict, too. Trust and respect between the worker and manager grow, and a collaboration develops that benefits the work unit. PAS can help supervisors develop more engaged relationships with employees by helping analyze personnel problems, conflicts, and communication issues, as well as assist in finding creative approaches to help workers make changes that the supervisor can consider.

Employees who raise concerns about personal problems with supervisors often have more than one reason for doing so. One, of course, may be a sincere desire to find a solution. But consider the high likelihood that similar discussions have taken place many times before with others outside the workplace, particularly with family and friends. It follows that an employee's desire to focus on solving a personal problem is in part motivated by a need to shift attention away from any performance issue and its consequences. A discussion about the nature of a personal problem and its resolution would certainly be more satisfying. Even if the supervisor has the skills to help the employee, engaging in the problem-solving process ultimately requires follow-up. These include, motivational counseling, relapse prevention, and detection by the counselor as to whether treatment is being accomplished, or whether it is being resisted or applied in only half measures. It is unrealistic for a supervisor engage in these elements of problem resolution, and risk increases when supervisors play the counseling role.

The counselors at PAS have extensive experience helping employees with problems, many of which are associated with different absenteeism patterns. The more information you provide about the history of the employee's attendance issue and your attempts to resolve it, the more effective the PAS interview will be. This means a faster resolution to the problem. Problematic employee absenteeism may be ongoing and consistent, cyclical, or sudden and unexpected. Each includes different degrees and forms of communication (or lack of it) with the employer concerning the absences. This history gives PAS clues about the nature of any personal problem that may be associated with the absences, even when an employee is not completely forthcoming in an interview. For example, an employee who suddenly does not show up for work and does not phone in, and whom you can't reach, will have a personal problem far different than that of an employee who phoned you the night before with notice that they were taking unapproved leave without pay.