by Katherine Lee, LCSW

The process of communication between employees and supervisors can be imperative for each party in terms of satisfaction in the work place. In my Manhattan practice I often see individuals struggling with anxiety and discouragement on the job. Some are employees who may be younger in their career trajectories, whereas others are in positions of authority, and thus facing their own pressures. Oftentimes transitioning into a managerial role is more difficult that one suspects, and experts predict that if you were a high performer in your work previous to becoming a manager, this switch may feel particularly challenging. ( If you’re finding it complicated to motivate employees or to boost morale, here are 5 simple things to practice consistently that may make a difference.

– Provide a balance between positive and negative feedback

A common problem I hear as a therapist is when a client, particularly a younger or newer employee, receives consistent messaging about what they’re doing wrong, and minimal information about what they’re doing right. Alternatively, the trap that many managers find themselves in is feeling compelled to critique repeatedly in hopes that this will improve their employee’s work performance as quickly as possible. More often than not the opposite result takes place, and workers wind up feeling disgruntled and less likely to produce or stay long term in a position. Positive reinforcement is more effective in motivating others to produce change, which is why it’s essential to provide this, not only in annual reviews, but also on a weekly basis.

– Provide feedback, period.

Another frequent problem for employees is when they feel adrift in their responsibilities, with little to no feedback about how they are doing. While most places of employment should be completing annual reviews, this process sometimes falls by the wayside, and supervisors may find themselves too busy handling their own tasks to provide a steady means of guidance. The lack of providing directive feedback about someone’s work performance, in any capacity, is likely to create feelings of discouragement and isolation at work, and will seldom allow for growth in terms of productivity. Scheduling a weekly time to check-in (which is at the same time each week and works for both you and your employee) may help.

– Maintain appropriate and professional boundaries with your employees. “Schmooze” to a minimum.

Most people in the workplace want to be liked, and although a supervisor may find it helpful to schmooze with staff members, he/she sets up several pitfalls once this occurs. Giving into the urge to gossip about other employees, to over share personal information, and to blur the line between supervisor and friend may cause more trouble than it’s worth. Not only do you risk losing the respect of the individual working for you if he/she isn’t so keen on becoming “friends,” it may feel harder to ask people to comply with future requests and demands that you may need to make of them, as well as expect them to follow through with such demands. While you want to have a friendly rapport, I often dissuade supervisors from doing things like having lunch with an employee on a daily basis, meeting up regularly outside of the office, or asking for personal favors. It leaves too much room for the above experiences to occur.

– Work by the same standards that you demand of your employees

You’ve earned your role as supervisor/manager in the office after a lot of hard work, and with that probably comes a sense of entitlement. While it’s tempting to bend the rules for yourself when you’re the boss, it’s important to remember that people are watching you. Frequently leaving the office early, not sticking to a dress code, or relaxing other regulations that workers are expected to abide by means that you risk animosity. Making sure that you adhere to the universal rules of the workplace, although annoying, equals greater respect for your authority and greater likelihood that employees will do as you ask of them.

– Try to remain as consistent as possible when making requests from employees

Another situation that I hear about frequently involves management telling an employee to do something one way, and then telling him/her to do it a completely different way shortly thereafter. While a supervisor often has higher-ups and can’t always control for what a company or agency wants, it’s essential to try to stay as decisive as possible about how you’d like for things to be done. Sending mixed messages not only throws your workforce off track, but morale can suffer as employees grow more frustrated with inconsistency in terms of how they are expected to carry out certain tasks. If it’s not possible to relay consistent directions at any point in time, acknowledging this issue with some degree of transparency and empathy can help to quell any feelings of irritation or anxiety on the part of employees.

While these suggestions are not necessarily foolproof for creating a happy and productive work environment at all times, implementing them can hopefully help your company get on a better track. We all want to feel respected, content, and comfortable at work, no matter which role we play. These fixes, when practiced consistently, may help to achieve that desired outcome in the long run.