To Be Flexible, Provide Structure

May 15, 2013

Workplace flexibility is often cited as a tool to improve employee engagement, especially with the younger generation. But flexibility is not just whether someone works from home or flexible hours. It’s a management style that can help you develop employees. As a manager you must provide conditions where people can support themselves with structure, training, and resources wherever they are working. The manager must also engage and provide guidance but not too much as to interfere but just enough so the employee learns.

How do you balance the need for workplace flexibility and the need for structure?

Actively listen to them and don’t be afraid to tell ‘em like it is – straight. Flexibility works for a business only when it improves productivity and the bottom line. Be flexible in areas where you can flex; but be firm in areas where you must be firm. After all, it’s an employee’s job to accommodate the ways of his or her employer or move on.

What’s more, as savvy managers will tell you, younger employees welcome the definition of roles and responsibilities. It provides structure they need to use to succeed. It also helps define for them what workplace flexibility means to you, their manager, and to their workplace. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Tell them what they need to hear. Pulling punches does no one favors.

Make no mistake: managers do not make their living by dispensing advice but they do earn their keep, as well as the loyalty of their employees, when they do step up and provide feedback and insight employees need to grow and develop themselves.

Provide workplace flexibility, but do it within defined structure so the employee knows what you expect.

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About The Author

John Baldoni, chair of leadership development at N2Growth, is an internationally recognized leadership educator, executive coach and speaks throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. John is the author of more than a dozen books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership, Lead with Purpose, Lead Your Boss, and The Leader’s Pocket Guide. John’s books have been translated into 10 languages. In 2015 Trust Across America named him to its list of top 100 most trustworthy business experts for the second consecutive year. In 2014 listed John as a Top 50 leadership expert and Top 100 leadership speaker. Also in 2014, Global Gurus ranked John No. 11 on its list of global leadership experts. John has authored more than 500 leadership columns for a variety of online publications including Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Businessweek. John’s leadership resource website is

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