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The business case for caring

(November 7, 2023 Newsletter)

  • Does my boss care about my wellbeing?

  • Does this company’s leadership have my back?

Over the last month, most people I know have been asking themselves these questions. If the conclusion is “no,” they’re wondering whether it’s time to move on, and those who answer in the affirmative have described an uptick in loyalty and a desire to stay put.

I made this simple 2x2 to demonstrate my point:

For managers, here’s the basic logic: “If my boss doesn’t express that they care about me, why would I give them my all?”

  • A study published by UKG in January showed that managers are tied with spouses/partners as the people who have the biggest impact on one’s mental health.

  • This makes a lot of sense – it’s the person with whom you interact the most who has the most power or influence over your professional future, a person you feel the need to please regularly, and a support with whom you want to have a trusting relationship.

How can you express care as a boss?

  1. Do regular personal check-ins while giving the person your full attention; offer compassionate responses, ask thoughtful follow up questions, remember what they say and follow up in subsequent conversations.

  2. Let them know you see their dedication and appreciate their focus even if something is negatively impacting them outside of work.

  3. Ask what they need to feel more supported and follow through on (feasible) requests. Make sure they’re taking care of themselves outside of work hours.

What about senior leadership?

The same UKG study highlights a perception gap: “While 9 in 10 HR and C-suite leaders believe working for their company has a positive impact on employees’ mental health, only half of employees agree…7 in 10 would like their company and manager to do more to support mental health.”

Here are some comments I’ve heard in the last month:

  • I was so moved by the statement put out by the CEO. It’s like they really see me.

  • Too little, too late. If that’s what he has to say, it would have been better if he didn’t say anything at all.

  • What the hell does it mean that I’ve reached out to HR and haven’t heard back in days?

  • The CEO even asked me directly how I’m doing! And meant it!

  • I really appreciate the detailed list of mental health resources that HR sent out. Did you know we have something called an EAP?

The basic business case: Since most working adults spend the majority of their waking hours doing their jobs, motivation matters. Gone are the days of demanding loyalty from employees.

  • One of the most straightforward ways to earn fealty is to equip your leadership with the skills to express care, starting from the top and all the way down the org chart.

  • Final stat from the UKG study: “Two-thirds of employees would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness — and 70% of managers would, too.”

Where to start?

As a client said to me a few weeks ago, “Our leadership asked that we check in with our teams, but I looked around the management table and thought, man, half these people have no idea how to have that conversation.”

Right now, I’d buy and send every people leader in your company a copy of David Brooks’ new book, How to Know a Person, which I mentioned last week. He breaks “the art of seeing others deeply” into a series of concrete skills and puts them into three categories: I see you, I see you in your struggles, I see you in your strengths.

  • This would be a great “book club” for your leadership team – I’m happy to chat about planning a professional development series around it, too, if you’d like.

Wrapping up: It seems hard to escape the fact that companies are made by people, for people. They are not distant entities with no feelings – they are messy because humans are messy. But messy doesn’t mean hopeless; it just means there’s work to be done. And trust me, it’s worth it.


The Coaching Corner

Have you noticed our new segment on LinkedIn and Instagram yet?

Welcome to the Coaching Bank – one coaching question per post, with a short but clear explanation of:

  • The purpose of the question

  • Variations (so you can use your own words and make it sound like you)

  • Possible follow up questions

Scroll back through the batch of posts and like and comment on your favorites. Please share them onto your page too, to encourage others to follow along and use them.



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