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Susan M. Heathfield

Satisfied Employees Emulate Hummingbirds

By April 10, 2014

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Employees should be more like hummingbirds. They are visible and clearly communicate what they need.

I feed birds and especially enjoy ruby throated hummingbirds, the only hummingbirds in my area. They have an uncanny ability to tell me what they need from me.

Hummingbirds announce their arrival by humming outside the window closest to where I am working if I don't yet have their feeder out to greet their arrival each year. When their feeder is empty, once again, they appear at my window letting me know they are displeased. Maybe I place too much emphasis on their communication, but they don't appear at my window unless they have something to tell me.

I'd like employees to be the same way. I really want to know what they need from me and few speak up. So, I spend a lot of time asking and also mind reading. But, mind reading is dangerous; what I may think employees want vis' a vis' what they think they want can radically differ. And, not all employees need the same things from their manager. There are commonalities in what employees want from work, but there are differences, too. As with most interactions, the devil is in the details.

But, employees who speak up and tell their manager what they need are much more likely to get their needs met. The occasional employee satisfaction survey provides overall trends, but the one-to-one communication of needs or desired interactions is best to get needs met. "I'd like to meet with you weekly; can we set a regular time?" "I'd like feedback on this project. How do you think it went?" These are approaches employees can use to tell their boss what they need.

Help employees tell you what they need for a satisfying work environment. If you're not hearing regularly from employees, ask yourself whether you are creating an environment in which they are comfortable expressing their needs.

Tell the Boss What You Need

I have mentioned in the past that each employee will be most successful if he or she takes 100% responsibility for managing their relationship with their boss. Be like the hummingbird. Tell your boss what you need. And then, increase your visibility at work via this effective communication. The good boss will appreciate knowing what you need and that you took the time to communicate those needs.

Image Copyright Patty Jenks / Getty Images

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