How and why tweaking your management style can boost employee engagement

Leaders should be willing to listen and learn—and humble enough to change course to cater to workers’ strengths. 

Why managers must adapt

Adjusting your management style can increase employee engagement.

Every employee is unique, and we all get motivated or turned off by different tactics and treatment. The trick, for managers, is having the willingness to discover what makes your team tick—and to modify your communication style accordingly.

A real-world example

Imagine your organization has hired a person to manage the social media accounts. Her manager sees what a great job she’s doing and wants to add a bit of marketing responsibility to her plate. She tells the manager that she’s not interested in doing marketing work. However, the manager feels that it’s important for her to try it, so the manager insists.

The employee gives it a go, but the more she learns about marketing, the more she hates it. She tells the manager that marketing is not her thing. The manager encourages her to persevere, noting that the work is valuable to the organization and that it’s good experience for her career.

So, the employee carries on, balancing her social media duties with marketing tasks. She starts to dread coming to work, and she avoids her manager as much as possible. Eventually, she threatens to quit if the marketing duties are now a permanent part of the job.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In this case, the manager might have had good intentions. All employees crave career development opportunities, right? Many do, but some employees just want to do exactly what their job description states.

A great manager takes the time to anticipate what might make a worker disengage—and an even better one has the humility and wisdom to change course when something’s not working.

Being willing to learn—and adapt

If the manager mentioned above had adopted a different management style, the problem would have been avoided. For instance, the manager could have had an initial conversation to gauge the employee’s interest in marketing. The manager could have also reversed his decision the minute the employee expressed angst over the extra work.

Managers today must be adaptive, flexible and willing to learn, as the workforce is getting more diverse. Managers might have to communicate with five generations in the workplace. Being willing to adjust your management style has never been more important.

Managers should take the time to learn what their employees do well, what excites them and what doesn’t. This comes from listening and having conversations throughout the year.

The onus is on leaders to understand which type of employee they’re shepherding, and to adjust management styles accordingly. That’s how you boost—and maintain—engagement.

Chris Fields is a social media and communications manager based in Memphis. A version of this post first appeared on ADP’s Spark blog.

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