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#1 They avoid eye contact 

Take note of whether your staff is able to maintain eye contact with others, but not with you. “It’s a subconscious signal – they are hiding how they really feel about you,” says Jaya Dass, country manager of Randstad Singapore, a recruitment and HR services provider. Grace Lim, a human resource executive, adds: “I avoid eye contact with my boss because I feel that he has an authoritative air about him… I find him unapproachable and I’m afraid that if I were to look at him, he’d point out my faults at work.”

#2 They stop talking when you are around

It’s normal to engage in more work-related topics in front of the boss. However, it’s a red flag if, instead of making a smooth transition to such topics, your employees cut the conversation once you enter the room. This shows that they do not consider you part of their group, says Jaya. “The moment my boss is nearby, my colleagues and I stop talking,” says Doris Kwoh, a customer service executive. “We feel very uncomfortable because we know that he’s staring at us.” What’s more, her boss once e-mailed her supervisor, remarking that Doris was “distracted at work” after he saw her chatting – no prizes for guessing why they clam up when he’s around.

#3 They give you short answers

It’s one thing for your employees to get straight to the point, but curt answers also show that your subordinates are uninterested in small talk. This could mean that they see you strictly as a “boss” and are drawing professional lines… or that they simply don’t like you and don’t want to build a relationship. Assistant manager Wanda Lau says: “I don’t want to have too much interaction outside of work, or build any relationship other than the employee-employer one, with my boss. I don’t see the need to be friends.”

#4 They are passive-aggressive 

Few employees would confront their bosses head-on. Instead, they usually opt for passive-aggressive behaviour such as feigning ignorance about their bosses’ instructions or choosing not to act on them. “This shows that your employees do not respect you,” explains Jaya. They would rather go their own way than follow your lead.

HOW TO FIX IT?

#1 Get your team to warm up 
Appreciate them. Recognise and hone your staff ’s strengths (by sending them on courses, for example) and have their backs during trying moments – pitch in during busy periods, or shield them from unreasonable client requests. 

#2 Create fun moments to bond
“Bosses need to engage their staff on a level that is not solely work-related,” says Jaya. Initiate activities like team meals, office parties, and after work drinks. 

#3 Change your language
Not just in terms of your choice of words, but also your body language. Don’t interrupt or talk down to them. “Let them voice their opinions and listen with genuine interest. Don’t put down their ideas,” says Josh Goh, marketing director of recruitment and workforce solutions company Manpower Group Singapore.

This story was first published in the August 2016 issue of Her World magazine.