COVID-19 has certainly taken a toll on the mental health of individuals across the globe. Part of the mental health crisis has stemmed from social isolation. As diversity and inclusion have been a long-standing struggle in most workplaces, now is the time to close the divide and bring employees together to celebrate their differences.
Bridging the Gap Between Managers and Employees
One of the major hurdles to celebrating diversity in the workplace is the divide between managers and employees. For example, the difference between the levels for which managers appreciate employees and the levels for which employees felt appreciated. This problem stemmed from managers’ incorrect assumptions that employees recognized how managers felt about them. Another issue [stemmed from] miscommunication between managers and employees. For example, some managers struggled with balancing feedback and employee misinterpretation. Other managers felt their efforts may be too routine and seem impersonal or meaningless.
To assist with bridging the gap between managers and employees, employees provided the following tips:
- Check in regularly. Acknowledging and checking in with employees may seem mindless or unnecessary but have proven to be integral interactions. These interactions have shown to indicate connection and recognition for employees. Simply saying, “Hello” or “Good morning,” can be enough for an employee to feel recognized and appreciated from a manager.
- Provide proportionate feedback. Despite popular belief, the sandwich technique (providing negative feedback between positive feedback) actually confuses employees. Be sure to provide both developmental feedback and positive feedback, as well as ensuring they are separated and easily understood by the employee. Not only does developmental and positive feedback offer opportunity for growth and job satisfaction, employees seek both. For example, an employee who only receives positive feedback might question the validity of such feedback due to lack of developmental feedback.
- Present potential growth opportunities. Like most employees, they seek growth opportunities. Managers should take the time to thoughtfully review growth opportunities and strategize with employees. Employees typically interpret growth discussions as being valued.
- Extend flexibility. Working remotely or flexible work arrangements usually leads employees to interpret it as a sign of trust and appreciation.
- Develop a routine. While you don’t necessarily need to create an appreciation system for your employees, managers should express appreciation regularly in a way that’s natural to them. This can be done via tangible gifts, such as food or gift cards, daily check-ins with employees, or shout-outs during meetings for a job well-done. Whatever expression of appreciation feels best, ensure that the gesture is consistent and evenly distributed.
Fostering a Positive Work Culture
Fostering a positive work culture takes time and consistent effort. The first step in fostering a positive work culture is understanding the interests and needs of employees, the impact of a negative work culture, and evaluating adequate business solutions.
For example, according to the American Psychological Association:
- 550 million workdays are lost annually as a result of job-related stress
- 60%-80% of workplace accidents result from stress
- More than 80% of doctor visits are stress related
According to Harvard Business Review, there are six essential characteristics of an effective, positive workplace culture:
- Empathy at all levels
- Supporting others, especially during times of struggle
- Forgiveness and discouraging shame culture
- Encouraging inspiration and motivation
- Partaking in impactful work
- Basic principles of treating one another (i.e., trust, respect, gratitude)
To develop these characteristics, managers may implement the following tips:
- Develop genuine connections. Studies have shown that positive relationships at work generate better results, including less illness and absenteeism, quicker adaptation and retention of skills, improved coping and problem-solving methods, higher performance, and improved mental clarity. Poor social relationships can lead to disease, illness, and decreased life expectancy.
- Express empathy. Empathy has shown to have a positive impact in the workplace. Specifically, when employees experience an empathetic manager, they are more likely to show less avoidance and negative emotion. Additionally, research shows that empathy strengthens resiliency in times of change or challenges.
- Go above and beyond. Managers who support employees without being prompted to increases employee loyalty. According to New York University’s Stern School of Business research, leaders who are fair and self-sacrificing increases employee loyalty and self-confidence, and thus more likely to reciprocate the act to other employees. This type of leadership also produces more employee trust and productivity.
- Encourage open, honest dialogues and support. Workplace cultures where leaders are inclusive, humble, and receptive encourages improved learning and performance results. Creating a safe workplace environment where employees feel comfortable discussing important issues with leaders also promotes innovation. A Sheffield University study shows that encouragement, combined with training and collaboration, leads to higher performance.
If you’re looking for ways to boost or create a positive, diverse and inclusive workplace, please contact Harbor America. We value the integrity of business best practices, which is why our human resource management specialists can provide ongoing employee training, develop employee handbooks, and continue ongoing employee education. Contact us today to learn more.
 Harvard Business Review: The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated
 University of California, Irvine
 University of Michigan
 The Journal of Product Innovation Management
 Rotterdam Scholl of Management
 Research Gate