“You Don’t Take Me Seriously”

I recently had two conversations with two employees in very different businesses. They were both fine employees with excellent track records. They’d both grown disenchanted with their managements. While the circumstances were different, their concerns could both be boiled down to these five words:

“You don’t take me seriously.”

They were thoughtful individuals but they both felt their concerns about organizational issues were being summarily dismissed.

When sizable numbers of employees feel like this:

“I’m not being listened to.”

“My opinions don’t matter.”

“I’m not being respected.”

It’s a good bet there will be trouble ahead for management.

Positive, productive relationships

Good managers intuitively understand that valuable, professional employees want to be taken seriously. They want to be listened to and valued. When they’re not, their loyalty to an organization, even loyalty that has been built up over many years, can fade quickly as the light of day.

In my decades in management one thing I noticed was that this sort of quality — call it empathy if you will, call it ability to relate well to employees — was something that managers usually either had or they didn’t. Those who had it tended to be respected and effective; those who didn’t had more difficulties with the role.

It’s hard to quantify, but if I were a head of HR and building a model for sustainable success in my management hires, this intangible capacity to build positive, productive employee relationships would definitely be near the top of my managerial food chain.

Which is why the basic disenchantment that the two employees discussed at the outset is important. They both at one time had been key players on a team, but now they both felt marginalized. In the months ahead they both plan to begin looking elsewhere.

Employee engagement is all about emotional commitment to an organization. That commitment is hardly unshakable; one problematic manager can shake it quickly.

Small things make a big difference in one’s experience of work. Attitudes matter. Once an employee feels he or she is “no longer being taken seriously,” there’s a good chance he or she won’t remain too serious about the company either.

This article first appeared at Forbes.com.

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