There Seems to be A Disconnect Between Management and Employees, Again.

Specifically, as this article points out, companies seem to think they’re doing a bang-up job supporting their employees during all of this forced work-from-home stuff, and pandemic fears, but employees don’t seem to agree:

Nearly three-quarters of managers in the survey say they’re helping their staff learn skills to work in a new way. But fewer than two-fifths of employees think they’re getting the training they need. They’re missing the face-to-face interaction being in the office brings, too.

The divide is even starker when it comes to supporting physical and emotional health. Eight out of 10 managers say they’re doing just that. But only 46% of workers believe their organization is doing enough to help them with their well-being.

There are several things going on here that I’d like to theorize about, so let’s dig in:

  1. Management sending out emails about EAP resources, for example, is good. You should remind folks that those resources are available to them when they need help. You should remind employees about taking their PTO, recharging, etc. But, do you also walk that walk? Do your managers send emails or Teams messages at all hours and expect replies? Do your customers expect immediate assistance when they email someone, regardless of the time of day? Do you schedule meetings to run after normal office hours because we’re “all just at home anyway”? This is a disconnect. You’re “officially” sending messages offering support for employees, but their day-to-day keeps going in the opposite direction.
  2. There will always be an inherent disconnect due to the power structure. Again, look at this from the employee perspective. Sure, you’ve sent messages about taking care of themselves, but you’ve also either laid some people off already, have talked over and over about cost-cutting measures, are implementing various technologies to increase efficiency instead of fully staffing projects, and consistently talking about all of the steps you are taking to, hopefully, avoid layoffs in the future, especially “doing more with less”. If any of this is happening, which employee do you want to be, the one who’s taking proper steps to draw boundaries around their work and non-work lives, looking out for their mental health, the one who’s taking advantage of flexibility to take care of young kids who are also at home all day, or the one who’s willing and available 24 hours a day? Seriously, you can talk all day about flexibility and having a diverse workplace, but we all know which one stays if you have to choose at some point. Employees feel that, much more than they feel your quarterly reminders about the EAP.
  3. Most managers do not know how to communicate well when working in an office, so they sure as heck don’t know how to communicate well remotely. I’ve worked remotely for a number of years now, off and on, and one of the first things I tell people new to remote work is that you cannot over-communicate. There is no such thing. Effective communication is redundant communication. In a remote workplace, that goes double, maybe triple. Employees are disconnected from each other, if you want a message to truly be heard, you need to repeat it across different platforms. Yes, send the company wide-email, then make sure each manager talks about the message in the email in their next team meeting and again when doing one-on-ones with their directs. That’s how you get a message to sink in and resonate with people, not sending one email that half of them never read. Don’t just tick the box on your checklist and call it good; follow up.
  4. Speaking of ticking checkboxes, one last question for your management and CEO-types. So, you’ve provided resources, maybe you’ve even built out collaboration platforms or invited your folks to create non-business, casual places for interactions. I see a lot of these attempts to “recreate the water cooler”, but before you tick that box, do you use them? Are you, or anyone in management, an active participant in those things? If not, think about the message you’re sending. Maybe two messages that you’re sending that are not encouraging anyone to actually use these tools.
    1. The important people in management don’t have time for this.
    2. We want to recreate the water cooler but in a place where we can also see what you’re saying to each other.

Look, let me boil this down for you. Management is ticking all the boxes and assuming they are providing what their employees need, but employees are not going to agree with that assessment as long as they don’t see the owners and managers in it with them. People see what you do far more easily than they hear what you say or read what you write. What do your actions tell employees? That resonates.

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