Our thinking

Conversations every manager should have with their junior employees

Unrelenting assignments, frenetic schedules and the ease of scribbling off a quick email are just a few reasons why managers might have difficulty carving out time for thoughtful conversations with their junior-level employees. Clear, transparent communication can’t be discounted, however. A March 2020 Gallup article reported that “unclear” manager communications was one of the top five factors that contribute to employee burnout, a phenomenon 76 percent of surveyed workers reported experiencing. There are benefits to managers taking a vested interest in their employees. A July 2019 Gallup article noted that workers are nearly four times more likely to be engaged when managers take part in their goal setting.

For Beth Coakley, associate creative director, empowering junior-level colleagues means helping them understand how their work fits into the broader organizational framework. Why? “So they can build strong relationships with the people they work with day to day,” Coakley said. Of paramount importance, she added, is that communication is authentic and genuine.

What are the key conversations you should have with every junior employee?

“I always keep in mind that my direct reports are more junior not because of their potential, but because of their experience. Our conversations should focus on how to do the work and how to evaluate the work critically. We also talk a lot about how their role fits in as part of the whole team, so they can build strong relationships with the people they work with day to day. Conversations like these are important because they help build critical soft skills junior employees will need to progress in their careers.”

“Conversations like these are important because they help build critical soft skills.”

How do you ensure you and your team members get value from these conversations?

“In my experience, direct reports get the most value out of these conversations when they happen as organically as possible, rather than me coming in with an agenda. That means I mostly let them set the pace and tone of our check-ins. Sometimes we talk about work; sometimes, we talk about Beyoncé, Star Wars or astrology. I try to normalize their experiences by sharing times in my career when I experienced something similar and how I worked through it. I also follow up consistently with them on whatever we talk about. In fact, I have a neon pink, fuzzy notebook dedicated just for our check-ins. When my direct reports see me with it, they know I genuinely care about what we talk about.”

A version of this article appeared in Built In Chicago

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