The Work Topics Employees Wish Managers Would Pay Attention To

At Work


Katie Kwon O’Donnell

Too many managers spend their days focused on hitting quotas or pointless process, or obsessively monitoring worker productivity. But when they’re not scrambling on projects for their boss, your boss is meant to guide and help solve problems for you and their other reports. And most of us have a Niagara Falls-extensive list of things we wish they’d actually do something about (thanks for the daily reminders to take the company’s security training, though!).

They might not have immediate powers to make major overhauls without a green light from higher-ups, but there are more accessible ways most managers can help improve their team members’ work lives. Below are five hot-topic issues employees are shouting—over the internet, where else—for their bosses to pay attention to. Take notes if you’re in the position to support your people in these ways, or “accidentally” drop this link to your manager during your next 1:1.

A flexible work culture is everything

There’s no question that most people who can do their jobs at least somewhat virtually benefit from less-strict policies in terms of work hours and location. And we love to see it! According to Forbes, work flexibility is currently the most important leadership skill. Name an employee that doesn’t have school pick-up, medical appointments, therapy, pets, deliveries, or urgent home maintenance to deal with, at some point, between 9 am and 5 pm—we’ll wait. Plus, of course, people work better based on different factors like environment and time of day.

Managers: Cultivate an ethos of understanding and self-responsibility when it comes to your team’s time and work, and advocate for their hybrid-operating needs. As the internet loves to point out, micromanaging people’s time is the definition of having no chill. Getting clear on the company’s policies, setting expectations, then letting individuals make their own choices in how they get there, empowers them to work in a way that, you know, works for them (and in turn increases employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention, cute!).

Perks are great, but getting paid is too

While we’re living for the enthusiasm around better benefits in this current labor moment—yes, we absolutely will take those subsidized healthcare premiums, TYSM—the consensus, not surprisingly, is that soft perks like fancy seltzer and fitness-class stipends shouldn’t be lumped in as subs for compensation. Per the internet (and common sense), we’re literally all here for a paycheck. Sure, there are tons of reasons people love their jobs, but uh, have you met⁠ inflation? So we’ll gratefully take the branded dad hat, but about that raise…

If you’re part of that process as a manager, don’t dance around it. Have regular convos about progress and performance, and get honest and specific about raise requirements like taking on additional responsibilities. If the company has the means to increase pay (spoiler: they likely do), fight for your team. If you get dead-ended, be transparent with the employee and help them set up a game plan for moving forward. Just don’t expect them to work above their pay grade.

How you talk about personal values hits deep

Like we said, there’s more that goes into choosing and staying at a job than just money. If you’ve even glanced at the internet lately, you know that social issues are colliding with the workplace in ways that affect pretty much all of us who show up to one. All eyes may be on major corporations as they take a stance on public issues like reproductive rights, but your team is tracking your company’s messaging around beliefs that are meaningful to them even more closely.

Part of the culture you help create as a manager is expressing people-first values, and putting them into practice. When it comes to attitudes like nurturing an inclusive workplace, your reports look to you as an example of thoughtful leadership and care. Empathy and active listening make a huge difference, as does seeking out solutions that make people feel seen. Start by getting educated on topics that may affect team members, such as equitable accessibility. Remember, employees don't leave jobs, they leave (problematic) managers.

Say it with us: Protect PTO

Blame the generational divide if you will, but workers can’t stop sounding off about bosses who obliterate healthy boundaries around vacation, personal time, and sick days. People managers, check yourself when it comes to the precedent you’re setting with your own time off: Are you checking emails post-surgery, chiming in from your honeymoon, or apologizing for taking off for a family emergency? Are you demanding an explanation for time-off requests or pinging “offline” team members?

Hello, emotional damage for your employees! We hate (actually, love) to inform you that this behavior is simply, not it. Build trust and collaborative accountability with your team, and next time they take a well-earned vacay, maybe they’ll bring back the good duty-free chocolate.

Appreciation goes a long way

This one almost goes without saying, except that the internet continues to have to call it out. Don’t forget that in the day-to-day frenzy of deliverables, project reviews, and constructive criticism (a classic), positive feedback can make your team’s at-work experience feel so much more worth it. Social media may be a death spiral of content about burnout and job insecurity, but real-life recognition can help us all feel a little more validated in our work. I mean, managers, is there anything better than a thank you for being a decent boss? We’re not crying…

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