Few things are as stressful and frustrating as having disloyal direct reports. You're never confident whether they're giving you the right information, alerting you when there are problems, giving you the benefit of their expertise -- or really, doing their job at all.
On the other hand, having loyal employees makes your job far easier and more enjoyable. Let's look at five ways to encourage loyalty in the people who report to you.
1. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
It's pretty common for an employee to have a brilliant suggestion -- only for the boss to swoop in and steal it. Watching your idea passed off as your manager's does very little to endear you to that person.
You should be careful not to take ownership for your direct reports' work. If they produce something great (which hopefully they will), make sure you present it to your bosses or co-workers by saying, "John Doe, who works under me as a Python developer, came up with a really innovative proposal for debugging our software more quickly..."
When your employees are physically in the room for this dialogue, it'll be effective in inspiring trust. When they're not in the room and you still give them credit, they'll likely hear about from another source ("Great job on that debug concept, John!") and will infer that you're the type of boss who doesn't need or want to steal the praise.
2. Talk About Their Career Goals
Another way to help your employees trust you? Make sure you're talking about their career goals. You'll show that you're invested in their professional development and future career, not just what they can do for you right now.
If you have scheduled check-ins, consider setting aside five or 10 minutes during each to ask where they see themselves going, what their ideal jobs are, what lessons or skills they need to get there, and how you can help.
If you don't have scheduled check-ins, then remember to ask the same questions throughout your day-to-day interactions.
3. Be Their Advocate
Yes, your direct reports work for you, but you also need to work for them. To instill commitment in them, act as their champion within the organization.
If you notice an employee with a long commute is struggling to make it to the office on time in the morning, ask your boss to relax the office start time for those who live far away. Or maybe your team is frustrated with an out-of-date policy or program. Take those frustrations to your manager and explain why updating the policy will benefit the entire organization.
Your employees should know that you'll act on their behalf. If you stand up for them, they'll be motivated to work harder, and if anything negative happens to you, they'll definitely leap into action.
4. Be Transparent
Transparent organizations usually have devoted employees. When the team feels like they're informed, they also feel more responsible for the company's success.
If you're a mid-level manager, you're probably not going to be calling the shots about how much you tell your direct reports concerning business financials, status, upcoming changes, expansions or reductions, and so on. You can, however, ask your boss if you can share more with your team in any of these areas.
Explain the benefits and what information you'd like to update them on. Even if you don't get the green light, you can get some of the same effects by implementing transparency within your specific department or team.
5. Spend Time With Them
Different offices have different norms about how often (if ever) team members socialize with each other. At some companies, employees go out together two or three times a week. At others, you only mingle with your coworkers on company retreats.
Whether you've got a social office or not, try to hang out as much as you can with your direct reports. The more you get to know each other on a personal, rather than a professional, level, the closer you'll feel and the more loyal they'll be.
Start by treating your team members to lunch. No one says no to free food. You can also invite them to after-work events, suggest office field trips (perhaps to see a client or check up on a vendor), start a sports league with a rival department or office... the possibilities are endless.
Creating a trusting relationship between you and your direct reports will have beneficial effects on both your work and theirs. Maybe a boss can't be a friend -- but a boss can definitely be an ally.