I am a newly promoted engineering supervisor, with a team of four engineers reporting to me. I have worked with them for several years before being promoted and we have a great, friendly dynamic. That has not changed, but what has changed is that I now have 1-on-1 meetings with them to discuss their tasks and performance (all great, no hard conversations). In these meetings, we sit across from each other and talk.
Two of my engineers are clearly uncomfortable in this set up, unable to maintain eye contact and so look around the room as they talk most of the time. It doesn’t bother me that they are looking around, but I don’t know what to do myself in this situation. I want my employees to be comfortable and able to talk openly to me. They don’t interact with customers so I have no need to change them, and they are both excellent at their jobs.
My natural response is to just keep looking at them and smiling, but I worry this is not helpful. Looking away myself feels dismissive. I am hoping someone who doesn’t like eye contact can offer me some tips!
I’m asking what I can do body language wise to reduce their nervousness. The relationships are good, we just never had conversations like this before as peers (one on one, task-focused) and so I don’t have any experience to inform me.
Does me keeping looking at them make it worse? Should I try to look away more? Should I try to ditch the sitting across from each other and try sitting on the same side of a table?
Second Edit: Thank you so much, everyone! I’ll add a couple of things for further clarification, but I have great ideas for improvements thanks to y’all.
Intimidation is not a significant factor - I came in as the ‘lead’, formed the good relationship I reference, was the only one who went for the promotion — I was the obvious choice, and there were no hard feelings. It was a very seamless transition. I imagine there are some nerves present as we move through this transition, but I generally think it’s more about who they are as people (some don’t like eye contact!).
One is male and another one is female, so it is not obviously gendered. There are two other engineers who make an ‘expected’ amount of eye contact, so these two I am discussing are a contrast in their lower amount in the same situation. They do make eye contact with me at intervals, I just think they, as people, don’t like eye contact very much. If just not messing with them is sufficient, wonderful! That’s what I’m hearing.
I don’t know they are uncomfortable necessarily, more like, I, a social person, have not encountered this situation and myself am uncomfortable. Based on input, they don’t care what I do really, which is a relief!