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  • Melissa Sims

Bridging the Gap

A new term is on the rise…no more “quiet quitting.” The new trend slowly creeping up on us? “Quietly Manage.”

Understanding the Disconnect Between Employers and Employees

More and more we hear from leaders that there is some sort of disconnect with the staff that they manage. Leaders expect a certain level of output and seem to be consistently underwhelmed by the productivity put forth. On the flip side, staff complains that they are overwhelmed, unclear on their priorities, and feeling unappreciated. So where is the disconnect?

This quandary stems from various factors, including generational differences in work style, ambiguous communication, misalignment in priorities, goals, vision, and an underlying anxiety about job security. Addressing this gap is crucial for creating a harmonious and productive work environment. Here, we explore the root causes of this disconnect and provide practical tips to bridge this gap.

Understanding the Root Causes

Generational work style differences is probably one of the biggest factors in this disconnect. Today’s often comprises a mix of generations, from Baby Boomers all the way to Gen Z. Each generation has its unique work style and expectations. For instance, while Baby Boomers might value traditional hierarchical structures, Millennials and Gen Z might lean towards a more collaborative and fl exible work environment. In fact, I recently read an article about how less and less younger employees are interested in climbing the “corporate ladder” and steer away from positions in which they may be promoted to a managerial position. They don’t have any interest in managing people. Managing others while still being productive in your own position is no small feat, as you know. It isn’t just babysitting someone - there’s a whole psychological aspect to it, as well as trying to lead by example, being an inspiration, etc. So, kudos to you. You’re doing something many shy away from.

Another aspect that could be contributing to the gap is a lack of clear communication. Often, leaders assume staff understand their roles and expectations without explicit communication. The younger the staff, the more clear and incredibly concise you need to be. There isn’t a lot of “reading between the lines” in younger generations. They want directness and if you aren’t specific, it will not get done in most cases. This can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. For example, you send an email with a list of tasks and simply say in closing “Let me know if you have any questions.” Well, if you’re waiting on a response like “Ok, thanks. Got it!” Or “No problem, I will let you know if any questions arise.” ….you can keep waiting. This is a bit old school for newer gens and while it is something that many of us are used to as a standard reply to the boss, it isn’t for them. Our expectations need to shift a bit.

There could also be a misalignment in priorities, goals, and vision. Sometimes, what a leader considers a priority may not be clearly communicated or understood as such by staff. This misalignment can lead to staff focusing on less critical tasks, causing frustration on both sides. This boils down to communication. Don’t assume they align with you or your priorities. Don’t be afraid to make it crystal clear.

To add to the stress of being a leader and a motivating force, there’s job security. Your staff likely has anxiety about it, and you may too. You don’t want to lose valuable employees, so don’t risk rocking the boat and firmly asking for what it is you are missing in the leader/staff relationship. Conversely, in our rapidly changing economic landscape, staff often feels insecure about their job stability. This fear can affect their ability to focus and understand their role within the larger objectives of the team.

Establish Regular and Transparent Communication: Encourage an open dialogue through meetings, feedback sessions, and clear channels of communication as it can help ensure that everyone is on the same page. Use these opportunities not just to convey expectations but also to listen to concerns and suggestions. This is where your skills with compassionate communication come into play. Make sure you are listening and clearly understanding, and expect the same from staff.

Develop a Clear and Shared Vision: Leaders should articulate a clear vision and set of goals for the team. This vision should be communicated in a way that connects with all of the generations on your team. Workshops and team-building activities can be effective in creating a shared understanding and alignment. You can always call us if you need help in this arena!

Provide Clear Role Expectations: Ensure that every team member has a clear idea of what is expected of them performance-wise. Unconscious incompetence is not acceptable, so something in writing could be helpful if allowed. This document should outline their responsibilities, how their role fits into the broader team goals, and how success in their position is measured. Don’t leave too much up to interpretation.

Encourage a Culture of Continuous Learning: The workplace should be an environment where staff are encouraged to grow and develop new skills. This approach not only helps in personal development but also ensures that team members understand evolving expectations in a changing work environment.

Foster a Culture of Security and Trust: Psychological safety is paramount to successful teams. An open line of communication is going to foster trust in a team, and being a receptive leader is key. Banking again on your compassionate communication skills will strengthen the team and create wonderful working relationships.

The disconnect between a leader’s expectations and a team member’s productivity and happiness is a multifaceted issue that requires a strategic and empathetic approach. By acknowledging the root causes and implementing these tips, you can significantly bridge this gap. This will not only enhance team satisfaction and productivity but also contribute to a more dynamic, inclusive, and successful workplace. In the end, the key lies in mutual understanding, respect, and a commitment to continuous improvement and open communication. By focusing on these areas, you can create a work environment that is not only productive but also enriching and fulfilling.


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