Is one of your team members in your office again? Is this the same team member who has been complaining about the same issue for months? It would be easy for you to play the blame game and decide this employee has an attitude problem. The decision would allow you to justify continuing your current mode of operation. A more difficult and time-consuming solution would be to determine whether the real problem is your listening skills and to promise to improve.
“There’s a big difference between active and passive listening,” notes a post on training.businessmanagmentdaily.com. When employees ask for a few minutes of your time, do them the courtesy of shifting into active listening mode. This means putting aside your thoughts about what you plan to order for lunch or how soon you can get to that email you’ve been meaning to answer.
In addition to clearing your mind and focusing on what’s being said, use nonverbal communications. Don’t look at your phone or your computer monitor. Make eye contact with your employees regularly during these conversations. Nodding and smiling also signal that you are paying attention.
If, at any point, you’re confused about what employees are complaining about, ask questions. If someone edited their work, and this practice goes against company protocol, ask when it happened. Ask exactly which documents were edited. Find out who has been doing the editing work and promise that you’ll speak with them to figure out why this is happening.
In some cases, active listening sessions require you to interpret what employees are saying to you. For example, the phrase “I don’t see how I can advance here,” is a warning sign. Employees are worried about their future at the company, and they’ll move on unless you do something about it.
Show you’ve been actively listening by summarizing what’s been said. Verbalizing in this manner indicates you understand the issue. Beyond that, promise to take action. Such as — you’ll investigate the matter and get back to them. Or ask the employees to enroll in specific training to develop skills that will qualify them for a promotion.
It takes courage for employees to speak up about job concerns. To keep them motivated and engaged, show you care by paying attention when they come to you and take concrete steps to help.