Do you ever feel that there are things your employees are not telling you? Perhaps you have heard through the grapevine that one team member is unhappy about something going on in the office. Although you may maintain an "open door policy" with your staff, many of your team members will not come to you with their concerns. As a manager, you must be able to anticipate when your team needs you but also rely on those employees to tell you when they need help and guidance. We offer a couple of simple solutions for not being "in the dark" when it comes to your team's needs.
You do it all right – you have weekly staff meetings, performance reviews, and meetings to discuss current projects and deadlines. There is plenty of time for communication, right? That may be wrong. Many employees do not voice their concerns for a few reasons, including fear of retaliation and the possibility of an ineffective complaint where nothing is done. There is even the possibility that the employee feels at least partially responsible for the problem and does not want to risk being reprimanded by bringing an issue to light. For example, perhaps two employees engaged in a more personal relationship outside the office and one of them ended it. Now, one feels uncomfortable or harassed and may not make a complaint with you or HR out of fear of getting in trouble for the relationship in the first place.
These situations are common, and there may be tension in your office that is preventing your team from working well together. One way to identify possible problems is to have meetings set aside just for status updates from each employee. Ask how they are doing in their jobs, how they feel about their work, and if they are encountering any issues. Be open to what they have to say. Make sure to do this at a separate time from their performance evaluations, as they may not be open to discussing issues if you have just told them about areas where they need improvement.
Another way to find hidden issues with your team is to have an anonymous box where each employee can leave a complaint if they choose. Let them know that the issues will be addressed in a very general matter at the next staff meeting. For example, perhaps one team member feels that he and others are expected to stay too late after work, but does not want to address the issue with you outright. This can give you the opportunity to examine your team's schedule and find places where you may be able to reallocate cut back on workload so that goals are met but each person still gets home at a reasonable hour.
Finally, the best way to invite your staff to be open with you about their concerns is to be the kind of manager that does not unnecessarily intimidate them. A good manager will be firm with their team members when needed but also kind and understanding when there are issues. In last week's post, we provided a quiz for managers to test themselves and their management skills. Take a look at your management style and find out if you may be the type of manager that is available and open with your team member here.
No matter how you handle an employee grievance or concern, simply knowing there is an issue is half the battle. With your support and problem-solving skills, you can help your team to communicate well with you and feel good about contributing to a better working environment for all.
Readers: How often do your employees come to speak with you about a concern?