People-focused Managers Retain Better People

When you think about the first time your child gets sick, your company’s senior management is generally not a core piece of that memory. However, I remember my VP on that day as much as anything else.

I worked for a large corporation not known for forward-thinking attitudes toward benefits or perks. The large number of colleagues who had been with the company for 5 or 10+ years often surprised me. A few months into my tenure, daycare called while I was putting out a small fire. I found my manager and VP in an office together and said “My daughter’s temperature is 103.” The VP, a stern unreadable man, softened instantly and said one word in a gentle voice. “Go.” I started to summarize the fire that I’d been addressing. He interrupted me. “This is family. Go.”

I stayed with that company for 5 years after that, giving my working hours everything I had. My focus at work increased because I knew I didn’t have to let balls drop at home to maintain job security.

As Product Managers, or managers of any kind, we have the opportunity to create the same mindset for our teams. Sometimes it feels impossible because of pressure or culture created from above. However, some things can be done in any company, within any group, that will support the individual in a way that increases productivity. 


Allow, but do not force, open lines of communication

Tell your team that they can let you know if there’s a likelihood that personal time may be needed. Remind them that they are showing dedication to the job by allowing you to make yourself more aware of what they are working on and create contingency plans for a possible absence.


Give personal time when possible

When allowed to take needed personal time during the workday, an employee’s willingness to put in extra hours when necessary later increases.


Be clear about what’s important

You work for a company, and you have numbers to hit. Communicate important meetings, deadlines, and tasks early and often so that work can take priority when needed.


Be the example

It is extremely difficult for someone to tell an overworked, burnt-out manager that they need time off. Show your team it’s ok to be a real person as well as an employee.