The art of conversation is a key element for successful business relationships. However, in our age of hyper uncertainty, a new survey has found evidence of a concerning disconnect between employers and employees, which could potentially be holding back individual career progression as well as business productivity.   

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, more than a quarter (28%) of UK workers wish their managers understood more about their financial challenges, while a similar proportion (26%) wish their managers understood more about the impact of work on their mental health.

The findings have been released by Right Management as part of the ManpowerGroup UK Hiring Forces and Employers Survey, which brings together the views of 2,030 UK-wide employers and 1,000 UK-based employees.

Sarah Hernon, Principal Consultant at Right Management, commented:

We’re seeing from this survey, as well as anecdotally, that a significant number of employees are expecting empathy or support from their employers, without necessarily communicating what it is they need.

Sarah Hernon, Principal Consultant at Right Management

The survey found that around a quarter of hiring managers (26%) say that hybrid workers are less likely to be considered for a promotion, while more than a third (38%) say that remote workers are less likely to spend any time with senior managers.

Hernon says that the survey shows why businesses need to adequately train leaders to manage expectations in a stretched market that is battling to retain talented employees. The key, she suggests, is for both parties to be cognisant of any blurred lines and to agree the limitations.

But as Health Assured, the UK and Ireland’s largest employee assistance plan (EAP) provider, has seen a 26% increase in the number of urgent calls over the last three years, businesses have to find ways to ensure leaders and managers are prompting and encouraging the art of conversation around challenging issues.

Hernon adds,

The art of conversation is one every leader should master. Managers need to have effective conversations with their people to understand their circumstances better. For example, a higher proportion of the remote workforce are women, often due to parental responsibilities – should they miss out on the opportunity for promotion because of this? Absolutely not.

Our recent research for International Women’s Day found that 80% of women want more work life balance, with most saying that being able to work at a time that works for them is most important. Another 80% of women also wish their manager better understood them – from their workload to the challenges of being a parent while balancing a career. Opening up conversations is the way to begin addressing these issues.

To ensure Hernon’s advice can be implemented, Right Management suggests three steps:

Earn trust

Businesses need to encourage managers to engage with their employees and build a positive working relationship. Doing so builds two-way trust, which is integral to a positive workplace culture.

Be honest and open-minded

When an employee trusts their manager and vice versa, they’re more likely to feel comfortable enough to reveal personal issues and the manager is better placed to give valuable support – whether that’s showing empathy, signposting assistance, or having a tough conversation if necessary.

Be objective

With the need for trust and empathy underlined, managers would do well to remember that alongside employee well-being, the best interests of the organisation also have to remain a priority.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.