Do Managers Need to Be “Warm and Fuzzy”?

We’ve all heard about employees who are unhappy with the leader or manager who is “cold” or “not warm and fuzzy.” Many times our first thought is: if the leader or manager is competent and getting the job done, isn’t it enough for him or her to be polite and not unpleasant? 

Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” Why? I’m not sure. But we live in a culture (at least in the Pacific Northwest) where niceness is highly valued, where the boss is expected to care about his or her subordinates as people, and where people are quick to be offended or hurt.  Television portrayals of bosses don’t help: they may be jerks, but at some level they’re still a member of the workplace gang.

So if our leaders need to be “warm and fuzzy,” how do those who just aren’t that way become friendlier without seeming false and forced?  Here are some suggestions.

First, the leader or manager needs to accept that it is part of his or her job to relate in a warm, friendly manner with subordinates and that it will make a difference in their effectiveness. This is the hardest part because many complain, perhaps with some legitimacy, that these qualities shouldn’t be a requirement. Acceptance is also the key part – with it, the rest will follow.

The next step is for the leader or manager to determine how they act with people they like. Do they smile? Ask interested questions? Take the time to relax and listen attentively?  It’s important to be  specific.

Third, they’ll want to figure out when and where they can exercise these behaviors with others in the workplace.  Being friendly at a time and place where a number of employees will observe the friendliness, even if it isn’t directed toward them, is one possibility.  For example, a walk through the cafeteria or getting in the same coffee line as employees are good times and places to chat with employees.  Another possibility is to attend meetings where subordinates will be — and actually talk to them.  If the manager already attends these meetings, he or she can use the opportunity to engage. 

Even a sincere hello in the hall goes surprisingly far.  I talked about this in an earlier post, “Just Say Hello.”  It matters.

Finally, while an “open door policy” is good, it won’t accomplish anything if the leader or manager is not welcoming when people walk through that door.  A  friendly, attentive manner is essential when employees come into the office — to talk, complain, drop something off, whatever. The word will get out.

Any other ideas for increasing a leader’s or manager’s “warm and fuzzy” quotient?  ~Amy Stephson

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