4 Things Employees Say Behind The Manager's Back

Every manager has to deal with it: the nagging feeling (or worse, sound) of employees talking behind their back. It's frustrating and can be a drain on your culture and productivity - but the tips below will tell you about 4 common things employees say about the manager behind their back, and what you can do to overcome them.

1. “She plays favorites.”

As much as you try to treat each and every employee equally, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll be perceived as having favorites among your staff. Personalities alone account for a huge difference in how you interact with each of your team members - not to mention the nuances of your particular relationship and the amount of time you have face-to-face with certain employees.

It can be tempting to throw up your hands in defeat - after all, it feels like you can’t win. But instead of letting this perception get the better of you, try a more overt approach at interacting with your employees consistently. For two weeks, make a mental note of how you treat them during the course of their shift: how do you greet them? What’s your tone like? Do you share jokes? How do you give feedback? This simple step will help you take an objective view of your relationships and keep this comment in check.

2. “They're always so hard on me.”

Giving feedback can be tricky business - especially when it’s constructive criticism. Sometimes employees (especially young ones) tend to take criticism personally. And in a world where misery loves company, this can mean lots of pouting and snide remarks among your staff about your approach to management and feedback.

In this situation, the first thing to remember is that feedback is a critical part of your job - and as long as you have your employee’s best interests at heart - and are working toward the good of the company - you shouldn’t feel bad about providing some tips. If you’re dealing with an extra sensitive employee, it might be worth sitting down and asking how they prefer to receive feedback - at the very least you’ve shown you’re willing to listen and you’ve paved the way for open communication on both sides.

3. “That’s not the way I would do it.”

Be honest: you’ve probably had a job where you looked at your manager and thought “I would be so much better at that job than they are.” Now that you’re a manager, you understand the intricacies and layers of job, and it’s probably a lot more complicated than you ever thought. Some of your employees have yet to realize this, and as a management figure, you unfortunately become a common target when this phrase takes hold amongst your staff.

It’s probably tempting to offer to give them a day on the job (it’s not recommended), but one approach that’s more effective is to be more open about the details of your job. Typically, managers keep the details of the job from most employees as a way to separate duties and layers within the organization. But helping them understand what it entails - which is often much more than they expected -  can generate more respect.

4. “He doesn’t listen to my ideas”

Are there members of your staff who are always bringing up new ideas about ways to do things? It can be a tricky balance, helping them understand the meaning and importance of process while remaining enthusiastic and supportive of their ideas. And for the employees suggesting things, one or two ego blows means they might turn to their co-workers for a sympathetic ear and some less-than-kind words about your management style. And while you want to be open to new ideas, some ways of doing things are set for good reason - they simply work better.

If you catch wind of this phrase going around your workplace, the best thing you can do is listen. Spend more time listening to the ideas that your employees bring you, and show that you’re interested and supportive of the spirit. Ask questions, and be as clear and open as you can about the realities of the business and your current processes, and how new ideas will or will not work within them. At the end of the day, if your employees feel they’re heard, they’ll feel better about continuing to bring you their thinking.

Have you faced this problem in your workplace? What did you do about it?