Do you joke around with your staff during lunch and then find it difficult to command their respect during meetings? While it is beneficial to be on good terms with your employees, certain lines ought to be drawn between the employer and their employees. Work is work, and there are moments where strict guidelines are needed to retain that professionalism.

On the other hand, when you’re too severe to your employees, it can work against you; employees are often unmotivated to do their job well when they hate their boss.

So how do you earn both the respect and trust of your staff? We ask two Singapore experts for the best approaches to employee management.

Be a better boss and up staff morale and loyalty with these tips. Image: Corbis

Good bosses need to earn the respect of their employees without crossing the line. Karin Clarke, regional director at Randstad, a recruitment and HR service provider, shares these tips on establishing effective relationships with employees:

  • Recognise and treat them equally – this means exhibiting fairness and a consistent approach to your staff.
  • Practise active listening and follow-ups – all employees want to feel appreciated.
  • Let go – effective relationships also possess an element of autonomy. Empower your employees by distributing power and designate workloads in line with their interest and ability.

Ultimately, they want to see you as a leader and someone they can look to for guidance in advancing their career. Whether the relationship translates into friendship at the end of the day, should not be a priority or expectation.

Timothy Chan, director of Singapore Polytechnic Business School, says that in order to motivate your staff, you first need to develop a deep understanding of their needs by putting yourself in their shoes. Rely on your observations and interviews, paying particular attention to their emotional needs.

Recognising the different personality types lets you better manage people. For example, Karin says that high performers’ high intensity can often mean they are difficult to manage over long periods and are more demanding than other employees.

You could always set clear directions and goals, then step away. Build in new goals and challenges once existing goals are close to being achieved, and introduce tangible rewards for milestones.

Employees who feel unappreciated may be the first to quit –including your most experienced and valued individuals, warns Karin. Take time to communicate with your staff to get regular feedback and try mentoring them as well, to help create a positive environment with achievable goals and expectations.

Understand their “pull factors” – salaries aren’t the only reasons why employees stay with companies. The majority also look for additional benefits like healthcare, training and career development opportunities.

Effective communication requires commitment, emphasises Timothy. Place a premium on staff collaboration and practise openness in the workplace with proactive communication and always stating your expectations clearly.

You could use formal channels like regular face-to-face dialogue sessions in small teams, town hall meetings and e-mails, or informal ones like social gatherings and functions.

When handling complaints, you need to keep personal feelings out of the equation, says Karin. Use the complaint as an opportunity to improve workplace culture. Not only will it enhance the reputation of the company, it also gives you – the manager – a good reputation.

She recommends viewing things with an open mind. “Don’t get defensive; both parties should deal directly with each other. If the dispute is not settled, it should be taken to the next level of seniority. If that fails, the employee can seek out your HR manager, who can act as a mediator.”

If they’re hot-headed, allow them to first vent their frustrations. Once they’ve cooled down, you can get a clearer picture of the real problem. “This shows your willingness to listen, and assures your staff that you take their issues seriously,” says Karin.

Randstad, a recruitment and HR service provider situated at 50 Raffles Place, #17-02/05, Singapore Land Tower; Tel: 6510 1350. Find out more about the company’s recruitment and HR services at their website:

This article was originally published in SimplyHer July 2011.