We have all likely seen variations of the same studies reflecting the major reasons why people leave their places of employment.

It’s not the work, it’s not even the pay or benefits, it’s the relationship they feel they have with their supervisor. Many people feel, at best, a distance, and at worst, a disconnect, in their relationship with their supervisor.  lack of intentional connection can build into the feeling on the employee’s behalf of abandonment. If they don’t feel their supervisor is looking out for them then why would they, or should they, feel engaged and excited about the work itself?

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that any supervisor can use that help close this perceived gap.

  • Feedback: First and foremost, team members want to know how they are doing. I have found two consistent questions over the years: “How is my work?” and “What do other team members think about me?” At the end of the day, those are often the largest two ingredients in how a team member feels about their job. If their work is solid and on target, tell them and tell them often. Don’t be afraid to coach them on any areas that could be better and give them the tools/means to make it so. Pass on when you notice or hear others appreciate them. This type of information becomes the foundational discourse between you and the team member, and the right flow of the right information will increase their levels of satisfaction and energy for the work itself.


  • Boundaries and Guardrails: Once a team member understands their work is valued and they are doing it well then, the next logical question they will have is around what freedoms they do and don’t have. Often team members underperform because they are not clear on how far they are empowered and don’t wish to overstep. As trust is earned then team members should feel the freedom to think and try novel approaches. If a leader wants to encourage this behavior, they cannot assume it will happen, they must communicate they want to see it. The same conversation will also include areas where the team member will, at minimum, need to do an alignment check with the supervisor before going ahead. It’s equally important to know what shouldn’t be done and what they are encouraged to try.


  • Connection & Input: Once the first two steps are in place a natural dialogue should start to develop and evolve between the supervisor and the team leader. Shared enthusiasm around certain work and results starts to be recognized and celebrated. Trust is built as a team member begins to feel they have an advocate in their supervisor who knows their work and values their contributions. As this trust is built, the supervisor can take it deeper by proactively asking for input and feedback from the team members. These insights might be around work efficiencies, team culture, career paths, or whatever engaging opportunities arise. These opportunities will increase the team member’s confidence in their value and their desire to contribute to the work at hand.

While there are many other values a supervisor can help add to the environment through intentional relational investments in team members, putting these three steps in place is a strong starting point.

Take the challenges today to invest at a deeper level in your team. You will see your relationships at work deepen and become more fulfilling as the quality of the work and employee engagement also improve.

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