How to Get to Know Your Employees Without Getting Too Personal

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As a manager, you owe it to the coworkers you lead to be available and open to discussion should any work issues arise. Colleagues will feel like they can trust you if you treat them like human beings and get to know them better. However, there’s a thin line between a good work relationship and a friendship, especially for managers. Straddle this line effectively by opening yourself up without getting too personal.

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Earn Your Degree

Earn your bachelor’s in management not only to increase your potential for greater pay but to learn the best ways to build rapport with your colleagues. If you don’t think you have time to go to classes, online classes are the perfect solution to a busy schedule. Whether you were promoted for your experience at work and you never earned your bachelor’s or you earned an unrelated degree, going back to school to focus on management studies will improve your communication at work.

Remember Family Member Names

You don’t want to know every detail of your colleague’s personal life, but remembering each employee’s spouse and/or children’s names demonstrates you care about them as individuals. Ask about their family members on occasion, and if you have kids about the same age, feel free to share some stories about how they’re doing at school without getting too long-winded. A manager cares enough to spend a little while most days talking about non-work matters with employees but is focused enough not to let the conversation get carried away.

Encourage Open Communication for Work Issues

When it comes to work-related issues, keep your office door figuratively or even literally open. Encourage employees to meet with you in your office if any work issues arise, whether you have an open-door policy for a certain number of hours each day or you ask them to schedule an appointment. Hold regular meetings where departments can come to you as a group to touch base on how projects are going and make suggestions on how to improve work policies. Your employees should feel comfortable coming to you with any issue related to how to make their work easier and better, but not comfortable enough that they come to you for any other issue, other than perhaps asking for some personal time for their personal problems.

Never Bring Up Personal Issues

A work atmosphere that encourages personal talk can quickly get out of hand. Set an example and never go to your employees with personal issues. If a family emergency arrives, tell them only if it requires you to leave work. Don’t complain about your spouse, in-laws or children’s teachers, for instance, with any of your employees. If you’re good about keeping personal details to a minimum, workers will likely follow your example.
If they start telling you too much regardless, gently steer the conversation away. For instance, you might say, “That sounds frustrating” and ask about the employee’s progress on a project. If she or he persists, you might encourage her or him to meet with someone who can help work through the issue, such as a doctor or counselor. If human resources can connect employees with counselors, even better. Tell her you’d be glad to recommend an appointment with HR to help.

Socialize in Small Groups

See your employees outside of the confines of the office, but only on occasion, and never one-on-one, as that may feel not only awkward for both you and the employee, but may also start rumors that you’re too friendly with one worker over another. Take small groups out to lunch or dinner and keep the rapport basic — ask about their family members — before diving into work-related issues or upcoming industry events. If you want to keep the lunch totally work-free, steer clear of potentially hot-button topics like politics and religion and instead discuss pop culture news, information about their hobbies or vacation destinations.
Forbes explains effective managers know how to build rapport with their teams while also establishing credibility and authority. Remaining diplomatic and effective isn’t a simple task, but there are many resources for the manager to improve her techniques, including online school and keeping avenues of work-related communication open. The better your relationship with your colleagues, the more effective your leadership will be, but a too personal relationship can prove just as damaging as a too impersonal one at work.

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