The workspace is an interesting environment. Like an ecosystem, it has communities of living things that exist together and interact. Everyone in the workspace is connected in some way, which means there are several networks of relationships.
In a typical ecosystem, there are three major relationship types—competition, predation and symbiosis. In a competitive relationship, living things have to fight for the same resources (often in short supply). Meanwhile, predation is categorised by one living thing being the source of sustenance (prey) for another. And finally, symbiosis is a direct relationship between two life forms where at least one benefits.
These relationships are important because they ultimately shape how involved living things evolve or develop. And today’s evolved employee wants a good-paying job at a company that provides opportunities for professional development. How healthy that workspace’s ecosystem is depends, in part, on its managers’ values.
My manager and I discussed these values and how they result in a healthy working relationship. I’ll cover how I benefit here; stay tuned for my manager’s follow-up.
1. Clear and open communication
The quality of the communication between me and my manager has always set the tone for our work relationship. Clear and open communication lets me know what my manager expects of me and also represents an opportunity to give my feedback. It is also a way for me to measure my manager’s approachability and willingness to listen.
2. Consistent and multi-level management
Throughout various jobs, past and present, my manager has always represented a connection to the rest of the company. And since I am likely to interact with people below, beside and above me in terms of roles, it is useful to have insight into how others work or think. For this reason, I depend on my manager to communicate, where possible, information that helps me to understand the field. I shouldn’t feel like an island at work. That means, sometimes, my manager may need to be the firm and fair translator, mediator, buffer or escalator.
3. Recognition and constructive feedback
It isn’t random that formal education exposed us to stickers (stars, smiles, amazing etc.) when we did commendable work. It boosts morale. But somehow, for some people, that principle is lost. I’ve certainly never felt bad about being told ‘good job’ or the like, but I can recall feeling unappreciated because a manager who has never missed the chance to point out when something was wrong, never says it. Nothing is wrong with failure being highlighted. In fact, it can be a learning experience when it comes with useful criticism on how to improve.
4. Leadership (with trust and freedom)
As I’ve said, I don’t want to feel like an island. But if there is an island, I want to be on it with my team and manager, having some autonomy as I complete assigned responsibilities. I prefer my manager to be on the ground with me and trust my capabilities rather than hover and micromanage my every move. That is, more often than not, stressful, uncomfortable and can be professionally suffocating.
5. Setting an example of expectations
I think the most effective manager is one who exemplifies expectations set for supervisees. Unlike the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to leadership, this is a sign of good mentorship, leaves little to no room for distrust and, simply put, shows good work ethic.