Employees expect managers to help with emotional issues

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently referenced a report in the latest issue of Academy of Management Journal which found that while managers see themselves as going beyond the call of duty when they help employees sort out their personal and job-related woes, workers see it as part of a supervisor’s job.

This new study conducted by the IMD Business School in collaboration with University College London shows that emotional support by a superior to a subordinate might not be returned in the form of gratitude.  Professor Ginka Toegel, co-author of the research, does not think managers should expect loyalty or commitment in return for assistance in the personal problems of their employees.  “Managers tend to regard emotional support as above and beyond their responsibilities and, therefore, worthy of reciprocation in the form of greater commitment,” he said.

The research Toegel conducted proved otherwise.  “Unfortunately, employees just don’t see it like that.  They view emotional support as part and parcel of what their superiors do and are paid good money for,” he found.  “Consequently, the shows of gratitude may never arrive – and the negativity can end up perpetuated, not by the employee but by the manager, who feels terribly let down.”

Dozens of workers were interviewed in the study and asked whom they relied on for emotional support as well as how they felt about that support.  75% of the middle managers and workers said their bosses were sources of emotional support, but they did not feel they owed any type of debt for that support.

While disappointing, managers need to be cognizant of their roles as coaches to their staffs especially since a preponderance of surveys and management articles on employee engagement and retention practices indicates that employees don’t leave companies but they leave managers.  In its 2011 Survey on Employment Satisfaction, SHRM reported that the 4th most important factor out of 10 factors was the employee’s relationship with his/her supervisor.  Gallup in its Q12 survey on employee satisfaction indicated that the 4th factor out of 12 factors was “My supervisor seems to care about me as a person.”

Managers need to be aware that while they may not get the debt of thanks they expect for helping an employee through an emotional issue, providing personal guidance to an employee is an important connection for overall employee satisfaction.  According to recent Department of Labor statistics, the average tenure of an employee in the U.S. is now only 1.5 years.  Utilizing management practices that strengthen retention and build connections with employees is a critical component to a credit union’s future success.