Leadership has always been demanding, but the stress and burnout of managers are constantly increasing. A November 2022 Gallup Institute survey found that 35% of managers feel burned out "very often or always", compared to 27% of freelancers.

By Mia Kollia

When you feel constant psychological pressure to complete a job, and at the same time, your expectations are not met, then your judgment as a manager becomes blurred. That is the exact opposite of what your employees need. In healthy workplaces, leaders know how to balance the demand for results with empathy. One way to do this is to have a positive discussion about the problems that have
arisen rather than just reacting with irritation. This tactic will have better results in the long run because employees feel they can learn from their mistakes, grow, and be more engaged.

For this reason, leaders, when faced with a problem, should first think calmly and not allow the pressure of the high demands of their position to lead them to attack. When we feel let down by our team members, it's helpful to ask ourselves the following six questions. They will serve as a checklist to ensure we are showing the empathy needed to encourage the performance of our employees.

1. Was I clear about the expected work results?

Leaders often need to pay more attention to the need to communicate. We must consider how effectively we have shared our expectations regarding roles, project elements, support, and outcomes. Clearly defining the success of a particular project in terms of quality and desired impact can enable others to organize their time, energy, and other resources more effectively. Frequent communication helps convey a clear vision.

2. Are my expectations reasonable?

We think about the specific project and compare it with a similar one we have commissioned. Is the current project adequately resourced? If not, we may need to find additional resources or lower our expectations. Is it a job meant to challenge or contribute to employee development? If so, we may need to provide more guidance and support. We consider whether we have made enough time available to our team for questions and any necessary approvals. We evaluate the schedule and ensure our team is adequately supported to meet our expectations.

3. What do I know that applies to this specific employee?

When disappointed with a person's performance, we take a step back and consider them holistically. We assess his knowledge, skills, and abilities. We believe in what his strengths are and in which areas he needs support. For example, some people may act independently better, while others prefer more communication and connection.

If we notice a drop in performance, we have an immediate and polite conversation to find out what's happening. Personal issues may include an ill family member, a breakup, or additional caregiving responsibilities.


4. Am I getting results?

Successful managers focus on results rather than how or when the work is done. Everyone has their nique way of working, which may not be what someone else would follow - so we are careful to refrain from imposing on others precisely how the work should be done.
Micromanaging means we infringe on our employee's autonomy, a basic psychological need. By setting a clear vision for results, we empower employees to step forward or ask for more guidance.

5. Do I hold all employees to the same standard?

Despite our good intentions, unconscious bias can cause us to favor some people over others. Understanding the uniqueness of each employee, we must consider whether we treat all team members the same way. Are we harder on men, women, or people of other nationalities? Are we investing time in developing our team proportionately? Are we guessing based on age? Answering these questions as clearly as possible can help us avoid unconscious bias.

6. Do I provide clear, firm, and polite feedback?

If something concerns us regarding our team's project, we should not hesitate to comment on it. As soon as a potential misstep occurs, we point it out because fixing the mistake soon is much better than letting it develop, complicating things even more.

Honest conversations build trust and commitment. Employees who feel supported by their supervisor experience greater job satisfaction, and companies with a high-trust workplace culture perform almost twice as well as those without.