The relationship between employee and manager can be a fraught one. Although both parties are striving for the same goals, it can sometimes seem as if they’re speaking two different languages.
But even though a manager might have a radically different idea as to how to approach an objective than their direct report (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean conflict is a foregone conclusion. To get back on the same page (or maybe back in the same book), managers and employees should use the following phrases guaranteed to strengthen relationships and forge trust.
1. “Jeez, that’s a hard thing to deal with.”
Work isn’t a cake walk. Difficult situations crop up regularly and take an emotional toll on team members and their leaders.
With this in mind, listening and empathizing when frustration bubbles over can go a long way to diffusing charged situations. Letting your direct report or manager vent and validating their emotions is an incredibly human thing to do. It can speak volumes about how much you care.
2. “What do you think?”
My-way-or-the-highway attitudes are toxic. No matter how strongly you feel about your ideas, remember that other perspectives exist. Actively seeking out your manager’s or employee’s opinion shows that you value their input and often helps you make a more informed and wiser decision.
3. “I’m struggling with . . . ”
The manager-employee relationship suffers in the absence of honesty. For employees, admitting that you’re struggling in a certain area can open the door for your manager to provide guidance and support. For managers, admitting weaknesses can make it okay for employees to own up to their own challenges, and show that you’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
Remember: Employees and managers work together for a reason. Why carry a burden alone when you have someone who can help shoulder the load?
4. “I’ve got your back.”
You don’t have to agree 100% with someone in order to support them. This phrase fosters trust and makes it okay for both managers and employees to go out on a limb and take calculated risks.
5. “I loved how you did X. That was awesome.”
Who doesn’t love a genuine compliment? When someone does something remarkable, give them the praise they deserve. Not only do affirmations help strengthen relationships, but they also provide positive reinforcement for desired behavior. Employees — don’t underestimate the power of praise when managing up.
6. “What am I missing?”
Neither employee nor manager knows it all, and admitting this can act as a salve for even the most damaged relationship. Regardless of how carefully you may have scrutinized a situation, recognize that you’re only getting half of the story unless you ask for others’ points of view. Posing this question at the end of a conversation shows the other person just how important they are in your eyes and lays the groundwork for honest dialogue — the Holy Grail of manager-employee relationships.
Whether you’re managing up or down, realize that you and your counterpart are on the same side. Instead of fighting against each other, join forces for maximum impact.