Do you ever get the feeling that no matter what you say, some employees just aren’t listening?
Or, perhaps you and an employee agree on a certain plan of action, and then they do something completely unexpected? Communication breakdowns occur for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common are also the easiest to fix.
1. Speak the same language
Some people relate well to anecdotes and emotional appeal (higher column three on the Omnia Profile). Recite bare facts without offering something they can relate to, and you’ll probably lose them. Don’t say: “Sales are down by 20 percent this quarter,” instead say “Sales aren’t where they should be this quarter, let’s set a lofty goal and hold a contest to see who can get there first.”
More pragmatic employees (higher column four on the Omnia Profile) will likely relate better to a no-nonsense, straightforward style. Instead of saying: “Customers won’t be happy with a product that hasn’t been quality tested,” say “Consumers buy 50% more if a product is rigorously quality tested.”
2. Repeat Yourself:
Or, better yet, have the employee do it for you. When you’ve explained something, especially something complicated or brand-new, have the employee repeat what you’ve just said in his or her own words. If they say something in a way you don’t understand, clarify that item for them and repeat the process.
3. Know Your Employees:
Are you working with a leader or a follower? Does the employee you’re communicating with tend to be stubborn when pushed? With someone who is content to follow your lead, it should be easy to outline guidelines, but you’ll need to remember to be on hand to clarify any problems that arise one the project has begun. More independent employees, on the other hand, will likely prefer some general goals and guidelines and some freedom to do things their own way.
4. Control the Flow of Information:
Employees generally have small pieces of information that relate to their own specific job duties. It’s common for employees to gather around the water cooler, put all the pieces of information together and assume they have a full picture, when in reality what they have is a very distorted image. Keep confidential information absolutely confidential and let employees who must know such information that it is vital to keep it to themselves. Be open about other information and disseminate it often, perhaps at a weekly staff meeting or through an internal e-mail or newsletter that’s published weekly or monthly.
5. Remember Respect:
Whether you’re managing minimum-wage-earning teenagers or high-power executives, no one likes to be talked down to. If correction is required or if suggestions need to be made, do so tactfully and honestly. If the employee you’re dealing with tends to be defensive, give him or her a chance to explain his or her actions.