Adjust Your Management Style to Keep Employees Engaged

A hedgehog sits on a branch outside.

Did you know that adjusting your management style could increase employee engagement?

No one likes to be micromanaged by their managers. We're all aware of "bad" management styles but even the best HR leaders should know when adjusting their management style is the right thing to do.

Adjusting your management style shouldn't be a problem for good managers who take pride in motivating employees to explore careers options and push themselves further than they ever thought they could go. But does that style work for every employee? Could there be an employee who is totally engaged at work but simply wants to come in and do the specific duties outlined in their job description?

A Real-World Example

Imagine your organization has hired a person to manage the social media accounts and that person does a wonderful job. The manager sees what a great job the person is doing and wants to add marketing to their duties. The social media person says to the manager that they are not interested in doing marketing work yet. But, the manager feels that it's important for them to try it and truly believes once the employee tries it they will like it, so the manager insists.

The employee tries it and the more they learn about marketing, the more they hate it. The employee tells the manager that marketing duties are not exciting or interesting to them, and in fact it's affecting their morale. The manager encourages them to continue on, noting that the work is valuable to the organization. So, the social media person pushes forward until it gets to the point where they resent coming to work and no longer look forward to interacting with their manager at all. This does not stop until the social media person is fed up and threatens to quit if the marketing duties are now a permanent part of their job.

This employee has gone from being engaged to disengaged and is potentially looking for other opportunities. The employee's relationship with their manager has been compromised. The manager didn't mean to damage the relationship with the employee. After all, they were simply trying to further develop the employee, but they didn't take into account that this particular employee did not want further career development (at least not in that area).

Adjust Your Management Style

By simply adjusting your management style this entire problem could have been avoided. For instance, the manager could have had a conversation to gauge the employees interest in marketing. Another thing the manager could have done is not only listen to the employee when they expressed dislike for the additional duties, but the manager could have stopped the experiment altogether. Managers must understand that not all employees want additional duties and career development opportunities, and that even when they do, it may not be what the manager had in mind.

There's a well-documented management concept known as the "Hedgehog Concept." The fox, an attractive, sleek, quick and smart creature, is compared to a hedgehog, a slow and lumbering animal. If given a choice, most people would choose to be a fox over a hedgehog. Yet, in head-to-head encounters the hedgehog always defeats the fox because of its sharp needles that protect it from predators. The lesson in management is this: The hedgehog succeeds because it knows what it does well, and it sticks to it (no pun intended).

The workforce today is the most diverse in history, as noted in U.S. News & World Report. Today's managers and HR departments have five generations in the workplace, as noted by Entrepreneur. In many ways, adjusting your management style has never been more important.

Managers should know what their employees do well, what excites them and what doesn't. They can accomplish this by listening and having simple conversations with employees throughout the year. The reality is that some employees are foxes and some are hedgehogs, and it's up to managers to understand which type of employee they're managing and adjust their management style accordingly.

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