Manager-subordinate relationship – A two-way street

Quite often, the manager is held more accountable for maintaining the employee-manager relationship. Is that fair?

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When we talk about the relationship between managers and employees or subordinates, it is often perceived that managers are the ones responsible for keeping their subordinates engaged, inspired and motivated. That is why, they are taught to manage relationships with them, fulfil their training and learning needs, coach and mentor them, and create successful and happy experiences for all. In fact, in many organisations, first-time managers are trained on people-management skills so that they can take care of their employees. What about the other half of the story? Don’t employees have any responsibility towards their managers? Don’t they need to play any part in ensuring that their relationship with their managers and bosses is maintained?

“We speak so much about creating  trust in teams, but hardly speak about building trust with managers. Perhaps, the answer lies in addressing the employee side of the equation”

Satyajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton Greaves Electricals

Human resource leaders agree that it is not fair to always expect only the managers to take ownership of maintaining a healthy relationship with their subordinates. The employees are also expected to take the share of burden or responsibility to make sure that things are at the right place. “Organisations are expected to fulfil expectations when it comes to serving clients and customers. This requires collective effort and can only be achieved when managers and their subordinates strive together towards a common goal,” explains Avadhesh Dixit, CHRO, Acuity Knowledge Partner.

Satyajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton Greaves Electricals, has also observed that in many organisations the onus of relationship management is purely on the managers. “We discuss so much  about creating trust in teams, but hardly talk about ways to build trust with managers. Perhaps, the answer lies in addressing the employees’ side of the equation,” suggests Mohanty.

“When pride in the values of the company is felt in all employees and managers, equally, things become easier”

Gautam Srivastava, VP-HR, The Leela Hotels & Resorts

Surely, the manager – subordinate relationship is a two-way street. When bosses or managers are expected to play a mature role and be the centre point of maintaining a high level of engagement, it must be possible for employees to also do their bit.

According to Kamlesh Dangi, CHRO, Incred Financial Services, employees need to ensure that they win the trust of their managers. This can only happen when they fulfil their tasks, meet their deadlines and become dependable resources for their managers. “Employees need to repeatedly accomplish all tasks assigned to them and prove they are trustworthy, so that their managers can give them higher levels of responsibilities,” says Dangi.

Dangi adds that apart from making people work, managers also have their individual targets to achieve. If employees possess the ability to understand the goals of their managers too and go an extra mile to achieve them, the trust factor can be further strengthened. For instance, if the managers are tasked with fetching market intelligence to penetrate a new market, the employees can step up and help get that job done.

“We will sound biased if we say that ‘only’ managers should take the ownership of maintaining a healthy relationship with their subordinates”

Kamlesh Dangi, CHRO, Incred Financial Services

It is Dangi’s belief that employees can earn their managers’ trust by getting better at their own jobs and regularly updating their skills through training. Dixit reveals that Acuity Knowledge Partner runs mentorship programmes designed to help employees build trust, ownership and transparency with their managers, because the Company realises that maintaining the subordinate-manager relationship requires effort from both parties. As Mohanty reveals, at Crompton as well, a new initiative has started called Leadership Language at Crompton where the company is exploring the employee side of the equation – this includes improving the positive quotient of employees also to adjust to the changing and challenging dynamics.

Here, Gautam Srivastava, VP-HR, The Leela Hotels & Resorts, mentions the significance of ‘culture fit’ at the time of hiring. He feels that having managers and employees with similar behavioural traits is very important to make sure that their relationship is smooth. “When pride in the values of the company is felt in all employees and managers, equally, things become easier,” asserts Srivastava.

When it comes to the ownership of a positive relationship between managers and employees, it is more often the bosses who are expected to be more accountable and responsible. Should this be the case? While Srivastava and Dixit both believe that employees and their managers should share equal responsibility to maintain a positive relationship, Dangi believes that managers should take the larger share of responsibility in ensuring their relationship with their subordinates is fruitful. After all, “Managers come with a higher order of skills and experience, and that is why, they are leaders,” believes Dangi.

Mohanty feels that it is perhaps right to say that the “greater” onus is on managers, since the balance of power tilts towards them. However, we should not get blindsided by this. “At the end of the day, I have seen that even the so called ‘not great’ managers have team members with whom they have higher engagement levels. Normally, when managers enter a team, it is probably safe to assume that at the outset, they would have a uniform perspective about all team members. Then, how is it that after a period of time, some employees manage to build a good working relationship with the managers, while others do not?” questions Mohanty.

“We run mentorship programmes designed to help employees build trust, ownership and transparency with their managers”

Avadhesh Dixit, CHRO, Acuity Knowledge Partner

“We will sound biased if we say that ‘only’ managers should take the ownership of maintaining a healthy relationship with their subordinates,” mentions Dangi.

Managers are generally burdened with the ownership and accountability of keeping their team members and subordinates happy. This is normal human psychology. However, the employees should also play a part in maintaining that relationship. They can do so by understanding their own individual goals, fulfilling them and getting better at their own jobs. On the other hand, managers should gauge the needs of their team members and provide them with the required flexibility, mobility and agility to excel. Above all, managers need to understand the learning needs of their subordinates and facilitate the fulfilment of the same.

1 COMMENT

  1. I believe we(employees)are the driver of our career.Manager,HR, coaches are enablers to us.Also, managers have upper hand on power hence it’s equal responsibility to create trust and mutual respect.

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