In spite of what we see on television and in the movies, there are very few truly cruel managers in the business world. Yes, there are managers who are incompetent, neglectful, and uncaring. But real cruelty is rare. Very few managers yell, scream, fire people at whim, or hang up the phone without saying goodbye (no one on television ever says goodbye before hanging up). On the other hand, we've all seen managers who often act as though their employees are "invisible." This article is about what managers do that make employees feel unimportant and therefore, invisible.
How many times have you stepped into a boss's office to discuss some matter and he or she takes a phone call in the middle of your discussion? What are you supposed to do, stand there? Sit down? Signal that you'll come back? Your boss has just told you; "For the next few minutes, you are invisible." How many times have you seen managers, either alone or in packs, pass by employees with absolutely no acknowledgement? Employees are quietly looking for some signal of recognition and receiving none, feel invisible. Or, you've been called to the boss's office and he doesn't look up until finishing the document he's reading. You don't exist. We've all had it happen to us and, if we're honest, we've done it to others. Employees will verbalize the situation with statements such as; "I don't feel appreciated," or "I don't feel valued." What these employees are really saying is; "I feel invisible."
I believe that this feeling of invisibility is a real problem in today's work environment and is the cause of a lot of frustration, unhappiness, and employee turnover. People want to feel recognized. People want to feel important and needed. Psychologists have told us for years that feeling needed and worthy of recognition is one of the most basic of human needs. It is very hard for employees to perform at their best when they feel unimportant. I remember watching a manager holding an important yet friendly conversation on a cell phone. The manager walked into a subordinate's cubicle and proceeded to rifle through some files that were on the desk, obviously looking for something related to the phone call. At no time did the manager even make eye contact with the person sitting in the cubicle, even though that person stared at the manager the entire time. Everything about the manager's behavior communicated; "This cubicle is empty." It wasn't.
Most of us don't purposely treat people as invisible. It is an error of omission. We get wrapped up in what we are doing or where we are going and we ignore everything around us. We put our heads down, hit the accelerator and everything and everyone around us disappears. But we don't disappear. Our employees see us and they know that we don't see them. And every time it happens their feeling of value slips a little more until they decide to go somewhere they feel appreciated. These employees will say that they are leaving for a new opportunity. But why did they seek a new opportunity? Because when you're invisible you don't see much opportunity in your current spot.
It doesn't take a lot of effort to make sure people feel noticed. A smile, a hello, a "how did your son's game go last night," are small courtesies that let your people know that you know they are there and are important to you. I vividly recall an incident that occurred many years ago. I was eating lunch with my boss, Bob, when an executive a few corporate layers up the ladder walked up, greeted us both, and said; "Bob, where have you been?" My boss had been immersed in a large project for a couple of weeks. They chatted about the project for a few moments, the executive showed genuine interest, joked a little, and the conversation ended with a friendly "see you later" to both of us. The whole interaction took 60-seconds at the most. I could tell, however, that Bob thought it was pretty cool that this executive noticed he had been missing in action for a couple of weeks. He was visible.
For the next 30-days, make a conscious effort to ensure that your employees don't feel invisible. Say hello, talk to them, have lunch with them, notice little things on which you can positively comment that let employees know that you see them. Some of you may be thinking; isn't this just an exercise? Yes. And exercise is good for you. If doing this 30-day exercise gets you into the habit of making sure those around you feel important and valued, then the exercise is worth it. If one valued employee who was considering leaving decides to stay because he/she no longer feels invisible, then the exercise is worth it.
Who in your work group do you imagine feels invisible? You know what to do.
About the Author
Dennis Snow is the president of Snow & Associates, Inc. Dennis worked with the Walt Disney World Company for twenty years and now consults with organizations around the world, helping them achieve their customer service goals. He is the author of "Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service" and "Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life." You can reach Dennis at (407) 294-1855 or visit his website at www.snowassociates.com.