Help Managers Better Understand Their Needy Employees

Managers actively listening to demanding workers is a great first step.

managing, needy employee, engagement, controlAccording to an Inc. , leaders shouldn’t avoid needy employees. You likely know the type: The employee who always seems to be asking for something: to head a new project, get a new title, maybe a bump in salary. This would be the person who wants more, believes they should have more, but their skill level and job results say different.

Still, managers can’t afford to ignore them, said Vip Sandhir, founder and CEO of the employee engagement technology company HighGround. “Sometimes their requests seem delusional — and that’s actually healthy,” he said. “It’s not healthy, however, when they are unable to accomplish what they think they can.”

When managers are faced with dissatisfied workers, instead of writing them off as being unnecessarily fussy, Sandhir said they should seek a deeper understanding of their concerns. He shared four areas in which learning leaders can strengthen managers’ ability to work with different employees with different needs.

Listen actively. Team communication has to be a two-way street — at the very least. Employees spend a great deal of time listening to their managers’ needs; the same is necessary in reverse not just for productivity’s sake but to build trust and drive engagement.

Look below the surface. A demanding employee’s requests might sound outlandish on the surface, but when managers learn how to actively listen, asking probing questions, they can get to the root of the worker’s frustrations.

Set goals. Managers are keenly aware of the work that needs to be done. They can help their ambitious employees reach their lofty goals by giving them structure. Managers will be doing themselves and their workers a favor by having candid conversations about goals, exploring what’s attainable, and together crafting measurable steps to get there.

Initiate more frequent performance conversations. Checking in on even a quarterly basis enables managers to become a performance coach of sorts for needier employees. During these meetings, managers can clarify expectations, provide feedback on employee work, ask what concerns they might have as well as recognize their achievements far earlier than would happen during an annual performance review process. That’s critical, the Inc. article said, because it’s motivating.

Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email