Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Employee Relationships 102
Welcome (back) to Employee Relationships, which reviews the management strategies from Love ’Em or Lose ’Em and gives them a twist — how you can use them to become a better employee, and how you can help your own manager become their best.
Information: Share It
It’s easiest to do your best work when you have all of the information. Imagine trying to decide on vacation plans without the weather forecast — you’d probably decide against going sailing if you knew a storm was rolling in! The same is true in your work. You wouldn’t design a management system for Accounting when HR is actually the one who needs it. Making sure you have all pertinent information is a big part of doing your job to the best of your ability.
Information is power, and you make yourself a better colleague when you share the knowledge you have with others and empower your entire team. Now, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean spilling the beans on every secret you know. Context is important, and sharing information when needed is the key.
At Echobind, management has a clear dedication to sharing information. They hold a monthly meeting where they go over incoming and outgoing clients, margins, percentages, and promotions as a team. The consistent pattern of celebrating and discussing our company progress as a team goes a long way toward making employees feel “in the loop”.
Jerk: Are You One?
Let’s get down to brass tacks here: We’ve all been a jerk before.
Avoiding this topic would be easier, but it would fail to address a BIG topic in how we can improve as employees and with our managers. Learning to recognize poor behaviors in ourselves leads to becoming better in those aspects of our lives.
Think about how often you do things such as talk condescendingly, show disrespect, start your sentences with “I”, or interrupt. What about failing to listen, lacking patience, or overusing sarcasm? Likely, at least one of these things falls on your shoulders. We all do these things, but acknowledging them and working on doing them less is the takeaway point. We all have bad days or moments, but we can not take those moments out on other people.
The last part is the hardest piece of this section, changing those jerk-like tendencies. If you’ve got colleagues around who have been a target of these behaviors, apologies may be in order. I’m not talking about extravagant and elaborate displays, but about sincere and short acknowledgments. “I’m sorry I spoke to you rudely the other day. I’m working on handling things like this in a better manner.” and then, do the work and make the changes! You become someone others can trust when you are honest about your shortcomings.
Kicks: Are We Having Fun Yet?
You may be wondering how fun fits into the workplace since you’re there to, well, work? While this is true, we tend to overlook the fact that creating and supporting fun at work is one of the best ways to stimulate creativity in people
Two of the biggest myths surrounding this are that Professionalism and fun are incompatible, and that fun at work will compromise the company’s results. To break these down:
Professionalism and Fun Are Incompatible: This is not indicating banana peel slip type of humor, but it could be small things such as having those who don’t have something to contribute to a team meeting tell a joke in its place. We’ve incorporated something similar into our Friday Demo meetings at Echobind, where if you don’t have anything to share, you’re invited to tell us a fact that no one on the team knows about you. Little things like that add some fun to meetings and ensure that people are participating more often.
Fun Time at Work Will Compromise Results: It tends to be the exact opposite! Many managers worry that their employees are wasting time by spending time laughing and joking with their coworkers. Little things like celebrating a colleague's birthday with a half-hour of cake and chatter can boost morale and send people back to their desks feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of their work with renewed vigor. In a remote company, you may not have the physical act of sharing lunch (or cake) but the celebration remains, our team shares photos and video clips of their weekend adventures, such as motorcycle rides, special desserts they’ve made, or their kids.
The biggest factor to having fun AND productive workplaces for yourself and your team is setting clear goals for yourself to accomplish.
Link: Create Connections
It’s true that it's easy to leave a workplace where you feel no camaraderie, connection, and you lack pride in the company’s purpose or mission. The opposite is also true — it’s hard to leave a workplace where you have “links” or connections to your coworkers, team, and company.
Linking up, or getting to know other departments (creative, strategy, engineering) and functions within the company allows you to create strong work relationships, which can make or break your workplace experience. As you are a talented, productive employee, your manager should be striving to help create and foster this kind of interaction opportunity for you and with you. Getting plugged into social groups within your workplace can be as simple as eating lunch together, holding weekly watercooler meetings, or celebrating teammates' birthdays with goofy gifs (we do these last two as a fully remote team at Echobind!).
Hopefully, you also feel connected to your company. Ways that this connection can be fostered is through community involvement. If your organization offers things like charity donation matching (Echobind does!) or partners with local or professional communities, this is a good way to connect. Echobind offers something like this to its team — we meet up once a year for an in-person summit, several days of getting to know your team who you may have only seen online until then, as well as being involved in tech conferences such as RenderATL.
Mentor: Find One
People with mentors are twice as likely to stay and typically produce more, so get you one! Hopefully, your manager is already acting as a mentor for you. It doesn’t have to be a big lavish thing, something as simple as having someone to lean on when you hit a problem within your code or office politics is mentoring.
At Echobind, we have a program in place called our apprenticeship program. This brings on engineers with little “real world” experience and pairs them with an engineer with several years of credibility, with the goal of hiring them into a full-time position at the end of their 3 month learning period. On top of that, every engineer is paired with a senior, and they meet once a week to discuss current projects & investment time use, as well as being a source of help if you’re stuck.
Many good managers mentor naturally. MENTOR stands for the following 4 things: Model — Walk the talk. Encourage — Find where your mentee needs more support and provide it. Nurture — Show that you care about them and their growth. Teach Organizational Reality — Tell it like it is, and help your mentee avoid those workplace pitfalls not listed in the handbook.
Numbers: Know Your Value
High turnover rates are a bummer for everyone — companies must spend the money to replace those employees who leave, and employees must fill the gaps left behind in the meantime. 1 in 5 of those leaving are high producers, and both employees and companies feel those losses even more sharply.
What does that mean for you? Knowing your value can make all the difference in your ability to negotiate and find the best fit with (our outside of) your current company to help you reach your full potential. Not being fully present in your position hurts your performance and that of your department or company as a whole.
Opportunities: Find Them — Inside and Out
Sometimes we are at the top of our performance as employees, and this is where opportunity comes knocking. Keeping an ear to the ground and being in open dialogue with your manager can make a huge difference in the chances you have to move (either parallel or up) within your company.
Seeking these opportunities and being open with your manager about your interest in something new or different can allow you to flourish where you already are. Often, there are things on the horizon that employees may not yet have heard about. They can also give you needed feedback to help make that next jump.
Passion: Find The Work You Love Without Leaving
Maybe you’re passionate about creating new products, about crunching numbers, about managing others, or being part of a hands-on company that’s doing important work. Whatever lights your fire — find a way to incorporate that into your work. When people do what they love, they’re at their best. When employees work can be connected to their passions, the team and company reap the benefits.
Start out by telling your manager what you’re excited about. They may know of ways to tie your skills into an upcoming project or an internal opportunity. Maybe you had passion when you started your current job, but that fire has gone out. Finding ways to tie into that can rekindle your love of the work you’re doing.
I hope this round 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 haven’t yet you can read part 1 of the series, or wait for part three to explore topics from Question to the Zenith: going for it.