Tips to Managers: Show You Care

An overall approach to showing you care involves acknowledging individual views, encouraging people, and being sincere in your interest. As a manager, there are four primary ways you can demonstrate to your direct reports that you care:

  • listening and being in the moment with your people when they are explaining their problems
  • sharing and disclosing information they will find useful or interesting
  • knowing something about each of your direct reports
  • showing concern, but not counseling

Caring by listening

For listening to be an effective part of showing you care, you have to be in the moment. If you are easily distracted, lost in thought about other pressing matters, or restless and eager for the conversation to be over, then your people will get exactly the opposite impression. It will be clear that you don't care.

Avoid impatient behaviors such as cutting people off in mid-sentence or trying to rush them to make their point. These behaviors tell your direct reports that other things are more important than they are.

To listen in a way that shows you care, actively try to understand. Allow people to finish what they are saying, summarize what they say, and ask questions to ensure your understanding.

Caring through sharing

Sharing and disclosing is about creating an exchange of information that builds trust and shows you care. When you ask for an opinion from one of your direct reports, you should be willing to share your opinion as well. In this way, as you learn about your employees, you allow them to learn about you.

Sharing includes passing on information that direct reports would find relevant to their jobs. This shows your willingness to help them develop in their jobs and their careers. It means going beyond providing the basic information that your people need to do their jobs. Try to pass along anything you think they might find of interest or that will help expand their horizons.

And also disclose appropriate personal information whenever possible. Being a caring manager requires you to make a connection with employees. To do this, you'll need to know something about them, so it's only fair that in return you provide some personal information about yourself.

Caring by knowing about direct reports

To care about your direct reports, you must know them as individuals. To accomplish this, you can ask questions about their lives and observe their behaviors at work. The point is not to pry intimate details from them, but rather to acknowledge and understand their different skills, abilities, and areas of interest. And you can't just do this once and assume you understand them. You must keep in touch with employee concerns and emotions as time goes by.

Treating everyone the same sounds egalitarian and fair, but in practice, people have different needs, aspirations, and tolerances. They're not the same, and treating them as such is the quickest way to demonstrate you don't care about them as individual people. Get to know your direct reports individually. Some may need more attention than others. Some may be motivated by money while others may be focused on having more time off. Discover their individual needs and concerns.

One way to get to know your direct reports is by getting their perspective on the situation, rather than simply having them complete tasks. In addition to asking informational questions such as "Have you completed the inventory?" or "Did you run into any problems?" you need to ask curiosity questions.

Curiosity questions show that you're probing deeper because you care what your people think and how they feel. You show that you respect their various points of view. For example, you could ask "What did you learn from this experience?" or "How would you have done things differently?"

Caring through showing concern

As a manager, it's important to let your direct reports know that you want to understand what they're up against. When you show you are sincerely concerned with the things that affect your people, you build trust. But as a caring manager, you need to strike a balance. You must show concern, but avoid taking on the role of therapist.

Part of showing concern is being empathetic. But being empathetic doesn't mean taking on people's troubles; it means understanding how they feel about things. It involves asking yourself questions such as "How would I feel if it were me?" and "What would I want others to say or do?" It also involves keeping an open mind and being receptive to other viewpoints. You'll never understand your direct reports if you hastily dismiss what they say or respond too quickly to other ideas.

As a manager you will have to deal with a wide variety of people in many different situations. When doing so, keep the focus on being helpful, recognize what you can and cannot help with, and find a balance of being empathetic but also firm. There are many techniques you can use to show you care:

  • Help, but don't go overboard when someone brings you problems on a regular basis. Select one issue and help with it, but refer the person to coworkers who can help with the others.
  • If people ramble and repeat themselves, interrupt to avoid wasting time, but do so by summarizing. This technique shows you're listening.
  • Allow venting without encouraging or resisting. If someone is angry, empathize and express your understanding, but don't encourage or resist what's being said, so that eventually the person will run out of steam.
  • Deal with chronic complainers by moving them toward solutions. Get them to write down their problems and solutions before you'll discuss things.
  • If you need to criticize someone, do so constructively with the focus on helping the person. Be sure to point to the benefits of changing the behavior.
  • Ask people how things would need to change to get them more involved. If someone is demotivated, get the person's take on what would make work more exciting and get things moving in that direction.

If you demonstrate to your direct reports that you care about them as individuals, you'll be more likely to build strong, loyal relationships and successful teams. The four primary ways in which you can do this are to listen attentively, share information, know something about each of your reports, and show the right amount of concern. Being able to show your direct reports that you're aware of them as people, understand their needs, and are concerned about those needs is key to managing well.


What People Want: A Manager's Guide to Building Relationships That Work

2006, Bacon, Terry R., Davies-Black Publishing, 9780891062165

The Transparency Edge: How Credibility Can Make or Break You in Business

2004, Pagano, Barbara and Elizabeth Pagano , McGraw-Hill, 9780071422543