Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Employee Relationships 101
Maybe you’re coming into this book review thinking “Catchy title, but I’m not managing anybody” and that’s a fair thought! After all, the full-length title is “Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting good people to stay — 26 engagement strategies for busy managers”, so how can you apply these strategies as an employee? Let me tell you how to use them for yourself, and how you can use them to help your manager be the best they can be for you and your colleagues!
Ask: What Keeps You? What do you really want?
Consider what your manager can do to keep you (the talented employee) where you are! They should be asking this kind of question often and listening carefully to your answer. They should also be partnering with you to help get more of what you want, where you already are. If no one is asking you these questions, start asking them of yourself and presenting those findings to your manager.
Maybe you’re thinking “A raise would make me want to stay!” and yes, money may help in the short term, but if you really want to work from home two days each week, or you’re itching to learn something another department handles, you may end up looking elsewhere once the glow of that raise wears off.
If your gut response to “What keeps you in your current job?” or “What more do you want from this job?” was “I don’t know” then make this a reoccurring question you ask of yourself until you’re ready to respond with a clear answer. The top 5 reasons people stay, according to Love ’Em or Lose ’Em authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, are as follows:
- Meaningful, challenging, and exciting work
- Supportive management/bosses
- Being respected, recognized, and valued
- Career development, growth, and learning
- Flexible work environment
Are you surprised that fair pay isn’t on that list? It’s actually number 6! It is key and plays a factor in what keeps people around, but it won’t do the trick if they’re already unhappy or dissatisfied in the other important areas.
Buck: It Stops here.
Many managers tend to blame upper management or lack of funding completely for their inability to keep good people where they are, but what it really comes down to is them. Most of the important factors in employee satisfaction, commitment, and engagement are in their hands! As mentioned under Ask, we know that chances to learn and grow, engaging work, recognition, respect, and a good boss fall under the top things that keep us around, and all of those are within your manager’s control. We thrive on relationships, and research has shown that 75% of voluntary turnover is influenced by management.
At Echobind, our managers do a great job of building these relationships! During my time here, I have had two managers who were consistent with seeking ways for both myself and themselves to improve as well as by effectively communicating areas where I’m doing well.
Admittedly, managers do not have total control, as they are bound by their own managers, budget constraints, and policies or culture. These things may present more of a challenge, but thinking outside the box, or simply considering the requests instead of a quick “No, we’ve never done that before” will go far in the influence of making employees feel heard within the workplace.
Careers: Support Growth. Are they helping your future or standing in your way?
Career opportunities are one of the top reasons that people stay where they are and produce. Many excuses may be preventing your manager from starting the conversation on this topic, but starting that talk about your abilities, ideas, and choices opens that dialogue. If your manager tends to ask yes or no questions, offer up topics that you can steer into deeper answers, such as:
- This is what makes me unique in our organization
- Here is a list of what I am proud of accomplishing in my time here
- My most important work-related values are… They are/are not met here.
This may be uncomfortable for those of us who are not natural “braggers” but you should be proud of what you bring to the table and voice those things. Seek out development feedback, the kind that is focused on the future and targets areas with a need for improvement. Most people have a desire for constructive criticism when it has the potential to help them grow their careers. Remember, these kinds of meetings are yours to steer — if you want more feedback regarding areas you need improvement in, ask for it! Make sure your career goals are in line with reality (IE: the next step is not a multi-level jump within your organization and matches the growth you are working on).
Also, consider other departments that you may not currently be part of: does the sales team have an opening that matches well with your skills? Sometimes career growth can be a sidestep instead of an upward move, it could be an expansion of responsibilities within your current role, or it could be a relocation. Obviously, that last one is the last resort for when your aspirations cannot be met where you currently are. Making sure you are aware of upcoming opportunities within your organization can allow you opportunities to consider the alternatives to seeking other employment.
Echobind has supported my career growth by maintaining what we call the “career ladder”. This is a chart that outlines clear expectations for each level of software engineer (as well as having separate tracks for our creative and strategy teams) throughout the entire company. This makes it easy to evaluate where you are fitting in and what level you are accomplishing work at.
Making sure you also have a career plan increases your commitment to growth. It allows you to pinpoint any potential roadblocks and plan for responses to them. Your manager should care about you and your career — it benefits them to have you engaged and growing in their team.
Dignity: How do they show respect for you?
The behavior that most talented people refuse to tolerate is disrespect. If your organization wants to keep you (a talented person), they need to recognize your unique qualities and show respect consistently, in irrefutable ways. Our differences are part of what makes us valuable as employees, part of what we bring to the table. Things like cultural differences, geographical location, learning style, and personality can all bring challenges, but also tremendous benefits if we’re willing to figure out how to utilize each person’s talents. Valuing diversity does not necessarily mean changing your feelings, but it does mean treating everyone with respect and valuing them as a part of your team.
Another part of treating others with respect means managing your moods — yeah, yours! If you are guilty of having rollercoaster emotions (and we all have those days), you need to notice and work on controlling them. We all have big feelings, but handling them so that they do not hurt others is the right way to deal with them. If you have a moment where you slip, then apologizing is the right next step. We all make mistakes, and you show respect for your coworkers when you acknowledge those slip-ups.
The last piece of dignity we’ll cover here is trust. When you treat others as trustworthy, they feel respected. Think back to a time when a boss allowed you to complete a task in a way that wasn’t “by the book”. You probably felt like they respected you and trusted you to get the job done!
Respect goes both ways, and to quote Remember the Titans: Attitude reflects Leadership. Our actions are sure to reflect our attitude, and by that, the chain is formed. If our managers lead with a positive and respectful attitude, their employee’s actions will display that.
Enrich: Energize The Job
The most valuable employees (ie: YOU!) are the most susceptible to boredom within their day-to-day jobs because they are normally creative, self-propelled, energetic workers. They need challenging work and opportunities for learning. Lack of such opportunities or work may make you consider moving on, or worse — simply make you disengage or provide mediocre effort in your daily tasks. The good news is, this is a preventable or actionable issue! All it takes is a manager willing to allow room for initiative, creativity, or implementation of new ideas. Letting you (that talented employee, once again!) contribute to or set goals within your projects or sculpt the process of how things are done allows you to feel involved and refreshed, which is exciting!
You might be wondering why, if enrichment is so helpful, why it isn’t standard practice? The answer is because what enriches the job is totally dependent on each person’s feelings. Some people want to teach and mentor, others seek variety in their daily work. You can start energizing your work by asking for it! If you’re bringing this conversation up, you can also tailor your requests for change in ways that are specific to how YOU want to be doing things.
At Echobind, they’ve set aside roughly 8 hours each week for our team to do just this. We have investment time, where we can dedicate that time toward thingsthat helps us grow as engineers and benefit the company. The opening lines of the employee handbook state: “While client work is our top priority, Echobind also invests heavily in employee development. One of the biggest ways we do this is through scheduled investment time. It is up to each employee to work with their manager to determine the best approach to leveraging investment time. The goal of investment time is to invest in Echobind, the team, and each individual, so investment time is structured around concrete individual quarterly goals with that in mind.” Ideas that have been suggested are producing blog content (like this post!), contributing to open source projects (like Echobind’s bisonapp), or taking on mentorship opportunities.
By this point, you’ve probably realized that part of helping your manager be their best involves taking an active role in advocating for yourself. It can be challenging but it is also just one more way that you can make your job more rewarding for yourself.
Family: Get Friendly.
Would you leave your organization over work/family conflicts? Yes! Lately, it’s become a hot topic in business magazines to talk about “family-friendly culture”, but break that down into more than buzzwords. People want a workplace that allows them to balance their personal lives and their work lives, instead of expecting them to choose work over family. Employers are beginning to recognize this, and you see it reflected when they offer perks like:
- Flexible work schedules
- Remote work
- Extended maternity and paternity leave programs
- Childcare and Eldercare assistance programs
Giving people flexibility in how, when, and where they work is becoming more and more popular. If your organization already offers these, that’s awesome! If not, you can reach out to your HR department with information and suggestions on what would make you a more dedicated, energized employee. The other option would be to approach your manager about being family-friendly. They are more directly able to approve things like starting meetings only after 9 to ensure that those with kids to get to school don’t miss anything important to their work. Minimal things like that send the message to your team that their work-family balance is important to your manager.
It’s important to note that family doesn’t necessarily mean the stereotypical picture of two parents and little children. It can, but it also means single people (and their pets!), newlyweds, those caring for elderly parents, or members of a large extended family. One strategy will not fit all of these cases, so there should be policies built to work best for each. The more flexibility an organization can offer, the more employees grow committed and loyal to that company.
Goals: Expand Options
While you probably have many goals for yourself, this is focused only on career-related ones. This boils down to goals for learning, growth, and success at work! this ties back into energizing your work — you need to be growing, stimulated, and offered new experiences. Beyond finding a new job, It could look like this:
- Enrichment: Growing in place
- Lateral moves: Moving across or horizontally
- Realignment: Moving downward to fresh opportunities
You may need to consider a change in department, location, or responsibility. It could even be a physical move, such as to an office within the company but in another city, state, or country!
It doesn’t have to be that dramatic of a change though, it should begin with enrichment. Doing what you can to learn and develop further is the easiest place to start. The biggest question to consider is: What can employees do, or learn to do, that will energize their work and bring them closer to achieving their goals and the goals of the company?
Lateral moves give the opportunity to diversify your skillset. It means applying your current experience in a new job at the same level with different challenges. It also gives talented employees (Yoo-hoo, you!) a chance to help expand and grow in and with the organization.
Realignment is a sticky topic. Most people view it as a demotion, and that’s the opposite of what we want, right? However, a step back can ease job stress or put you back into a role you really enjoyed. Careers shouldn’t be thought of as only moving up. It’s good to try out the next step if you have the opportunity, to see if it’s the right fit, but after giving it some time, if the fit isn’t there, don’t be afraid to take a step back. If you’re part of a supportive company, work with them to see what opportunities are available within any part of the organization. Most companies would rather keep a good employee and find the right fit than lose a good employee altogether.
Sometimes, these aren’t the answer to your goals. That’s what brings us to moving up or moving on. Sometimes, there is a chance to move up within the company, and sometimes you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time or just the wrong fit for the spot. It happens. This is when you usually start looking around for other opportunities that better align with your goals. Make sure you’re not missing something that would make you the right person, at the right time, for the right spot within your own company by talking with your manager.
Hire: Fit Is It
This chapter is mainly management-directed since as an employee, they’ve already hired you! That doesn’t mean though, that you can’t be paying attention here though. By seeing what your managers are looking for in the people they bring on to your team, you have a great chance to highlight your own strengths and weaknesses to become the best team player, and discover ways to increase your own value to the organization. This may encourage you to level up your technical and communication skills, and leadership abilities.
I hope this taste of Love ’Em or Lose ’Em has inspired you to bolster your relationship with your manager and advocate for yourself to have the best job experience possible. If you’re hooked, read on for topics from Information to the Zenith: going for it.