What should the relationship between a manager and his or her staff members be like? Should the manager be a friend or maintain distance and act disinterested? It was once more commonly thought that work and personal relationships make for a bad mix. Today, most organizations realize that such demarcations are not easily drawn. People are bringing their work home with them, and their home life inevitably influences their work -- making strong relationships between managers and employees all the more important.
The statement, "My supervisor, or someone at work, cares about me as a person," is one of 12 items on Gallup's Q12 Employee Engagement survey. We've determined time and again that strong ratings on this item are part of the foundation for a highly engaged workforce -- the workgroups whose members are most likely to be engaged have managers who make their employees feel like they care.
Best Care Anywhere
Ratings of the "cares about me" question are relatively high in the healthcare field, although this question typically scores higher than the "overall satisfaction" question across industries. But among best-practice workgroups in healthcare, caring relationships aren't reserved for patients alone. These workgroups often see themselves as "families," and extend this same treatment to patients, visitors, doctors, and even vendors. Within these successful workgroups, the "caring" mindset pervades all interpersonal relationships, allowing employees to feel at home with their managers and coworkers.
Why Care About Employees as People?
Obviously, a feeling of caring between managers and employees creates a more pleasant work environment, and facilitates trust, cooperation, and teamwork. But there can also be more specific benefits for managers who get to know their employees as people.
During a recent staff training session, I met a healthcare manager who has young staff members paying off large student loans or working to save money for their first home mortgage. Because she knows this about her young employees, they are the first people she approaches when she needs someone to work extra hours. Unlike other members of the workgroup, these individuals do not view such requests as an imposition, but relish the opportunity to make some extra money. Knowing about her employees' personal lives helps this manager to deal with the demands of increased work volume while keeping staff members motivated and happy.
Despite the healthcare industry's positive scores on the "caring" item, there is room for improvement even among those units identified as "best practice" workgroups. Even in those groups, about two in five workers do not "strongly agree" that their supervisor or someone at work cares about them. Improving scores on this item is beneficial not only to the employees themselves, but also to the managers who are constantly working to streamline the performance of their workgroups while simultaneously sustaining -- or improving -- employee morale.