Bosses don’t want to be reminded of old habits. In fact, they may even turn off their computers at the first hint of a little reminiscing.
Some managers are just as suspicious as workers are of comebacks, the researchers claim. They tend to respond negatively when your boss experiences a bit of the old ‘back to work’ blues – partly, researchers say, because they don’t know when their own fate will take such a course.
In contrast, most workers don’t even seem to have any such ideas. “Workers feel positive about returning to work because they often relate it to accomplishment, improvement of personal skills, and a chance to regain feelings of independence,” the authors write.
“Workers don’t let go of their jobs, but at least think of themselves as autonomous.”
Lead researcher Matthew Perreault says that, from his own experiences, bosses have negative perceptions too, in the same way that workers find their feelings of familiarity and authority sated by their daily interactions. “Bosses are cognisant of their own control in the dynamic, but also recognize the interplay of other partners,” he says.
The managers studied generally considered a return to work as a step taken with thoughtfulness and thoughtfulness; just perhaps for a “gap month”.
They tended to express more negative feelings when they were approached to make a mid-year return (October, October, November, December, January, February, March) than when they were approached on the day of their self-planned July return.
“A key difference in negative responses from workers is the sense of control versus the feeling of empowerment. Workers understand that they are in control, but they are also aware that they cannot stand on their own two feet,” says Perreault.
“We found that workers not only felt more autonomy, but that they were more efficient, which is important in a labour market driven by low employee turnover. On the other hand, workers were more exhausted. They were likely focused on achieving a tight return on investment (ROI), which may have led to a greater loss of face, especially when they are expecting to continue new work for the very next two weeks.”
Dr Clifford Nass, co-author of the study, said the findings are important for managers. “Avoiding the fact that a return could feel stressful, disruptive, or beyond their control isn’t practical or likely to work,” he says. “Effective managers know that a well-thought out return policy is well within their control and they are aware of how this impact will look to their employees. Such policies are especially important for those employees who have work load reductions or reduced hours, and are therefore tied to their return.”
If you are a manager who returns to work with your boss, go into the conversation with confidence. Don’t be timid. Express yourself, confidently and persuasively. And don’t worry about the boss. They’re probably just happy to see you again, according to most workers.
Dr. Ann Harrison, co-author of the study, says it is an important resource for the managers who want to make a smooth re-entry.
“The evidence shows that most managers are in the best position to gauge the feelings of their employees and react effectively to work-related stressors,” she says. “There is so much weight on the employee’s side that supervisors need to give real value to the employee’s return to work.”