Studies and common sense tell us that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
If employees are happy, they’ll intentionally make sure customers are happy. If they’re miserable, they will unintentionally make customers miserable.
Because of this cause and effect relationship, as a supervisor, your employees must be your primary customer. It’s essential for you to focus on maximizing employee satisfaction. Your job is to pamper them; their job is to pamper the customers. High levels of customer satisfaction will follow.
There are many things you could do for your employees, e.g., give them the tools they need, acknowledge the impact they have on the business, pay them well, bring them donuts, etc.
But if you’re missing some foundational behaviors, all those things won’t have a significant impact on job satisfaction.
As supervisors, we feel like regular human beings. Most moments of most days, we forget our place in the organizational hierarchy of power. But those who we supervise are completely aware that we are their “boss,” particularly when an issue is sensitive or emotional.
For many people, “boss” represents an authority figure, much like our parents were for us when we were young. Many of us were raised to respect authority. We learned quickly that you don’t want to make an authority figure mad, or they could make your life difficult.
If an employee is unhappy, the supervisor is often the last to know. The first to know are their coworkers, spouses, and personal friends—all people who can do nothing to improve their satisfaction at work.
This lack of open communication is nothing short of destructive for the employee/supervisor relationship and employee satisfaction.
How do we open the lines of communication?
Trust is Essential
The key is simple but not easy. We must build trust.
Our employees must trust that they’ll be safe when they share potentially unflattering information with us.
We’re not talking about physical safety here; this is emotional, psychological, and financial safety. Put yourself in their shoes. As supervisors, managers, vice presidents, and CEOs, we all have a boss. What has prevented you from telling your boss the truth in the past? Your employees are worried about the same things in regards to you.
- Will you turn the conversation around and tell them all the bad things they’ve done?
- Will you start giving them the unpleasant assignments or schedules?
- Will you overlook them for the next promotion?
- Will their next evaluation look more average than superior?
- Will their next raise be more cost of living than a true increase in buying power?
Even aside from all the possible tangible consequences listed above, there are also emotional factors such as fear of looking sensitive or overreacting.
How do we build trust so that we can air any issue and improve satisfaction?
You Can Trust Me
One of my clients recently needed help with a serious employee situation. The employee was very uncomfortable with her supervisor’s comments about the employee’s age. She was uncomfortable talking to the supervisor about it.
She talked to HR, and HR talked to the supervisor. The supervisor recognized her errors and wanted to meet with HR and the employee to apologize. During that meeting, the employee and the supervisor agreed to meet individually to establish working agreements for their relationship. Everyone was satisfied.
Happy ending, right? Wait, there’s more…
Two weeks later, the supervisor had not reached out to the employee to set up the meeting as she was supposed to do. The employee called HR again to report that, as well as some new minor examples of what she felt were inappropriate comments made by the supervisor.
What happened? We thought the incident was over. What was the supervisor doing?
The employee didn’t trust the supervisor due to the inappropriate behavior. The supervisor was in a position where she needed to rebuild trust with this individual.
The very first thing she did was break trust again by not setting the meeting. In the supervisor’s mind, they had the meeting with HR, and things were fine. With all the other to-dos, this crisis was over, and she was on to the next one.
She didn’t intentionally break trust, but she failed to see how important the follow-up meeting was. It wasn’t just another meeting; it was a trust test, and she failed.
Do What You Say You Will Do
There’s a saying in sales and customer service that if you under-promise and over-deliver, you’ll delight your customers. For instance, if you tell them the product will arrive in ten days and it gets there in 6 days, they’ll be thrilled!
The under-promise and over-deliver approach is just as effective when supporting employees as it is when serving customers. The example above demonstrates the effect that the opposite of over-promising and under-delivering can have.
One of the best ways to build trust with someone is to tell them what you’re going to do and then do it in the timeline you promised or sooner. Do this consistently with your staff and they’ll begin to feel trust for you.
This trust will become the foundation for open communication on all topics, even sensitive topics that they may have been hesitant to discuss with you in the past. Read 7 Amazingly Simple Ways for Supervisors to Build Trust to learn more behaviors you can develop in order to become a supervisor worthy of trust.
What do you think?
A passage from this SHRM article states, “Numerous studies from the Great Place To Work Institute and elsewhere have found that companies with high-trust cultures have greater financial success than those that don’t.”
Please share your reactions and thoughts about how to ensure employee dissatisfaction issues are uncovered by supervisors in the comment section below. I look forward to reading your insights!
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