By Laura Stevens
Overcome the fear of employee communications.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw, Playwright, Critic and Nobel Prize Winner
In any relationship, be it personal or professional, communication builds trust. But what about those times when we have to communicate something negative? For managers, this can be one of the most challenging aspects of employee relations. In a survey conducted for Interact, nearly 70% of managers expressed a fear of talking to their staff—the primary reason being they were uncomfortable with having to give critical feedback on an employee’s performance. Rather than hurt someone’s feelings or trigger a dramatic episode, some managers prefer to avoid communication all together.
That said, OfficeVibe reports a whopping 96% of employees stated that “receiving feedback regularly is a good thing.” Other studies have shown that regular feedback, whether positive or negative, results in increased productivity and job satisfaction.
The following steps can help assuage the fear of workplace communication and improve employee relations overall.
1) Meet regularly. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings serve to foster communication, build stronger working relationships and help manage employee goals and expectations. Consistent team meetings and one-on-one consultations also allow for better collaboration and more informed decision-making.
2) Use the appropriate tool. While email and chat software are among the most common methods of internal communication, they are not always the most appropriate. For negative news, a private conversation in person (or by phone if necessary) is often the wiser choice. Lengthy, complicated emails run the risk of being misinterpreted or ignored all together. Consider the nature, length and urgency of the message, as well as the number of recipients. Email is an effective way to communicate simple messages to several people at once, provide brief updates and ensure a record of your communication.
3) Be present. Saying your “door is always open” doesn’t necessarily translate to “I’m listening.” Genuine relationships require your undivided attention. (This means not looking at your computer screen or phone while someone is speaking to you.) According to a Salesforce Research study, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
Laura Stevens is a marketing communications writer and content strategist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.
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