You know those annual surveys consultants and HR folks send out every year or so? They’re designed to chart the state of morale, levels of engagement and satisfaction with leadership. After the surveys are completed, I’ve been asked to confidentially interview employees to get more specifics about their concerns. You won’t believe what they’ve said!
(Image by my brother the artist and photographer: EricSchickler.com)
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
- We watch you when you arrive in the morning to see what kind of mood you’re in.
- A smile, a hello and a few minutes to see how I’m doing would mean a lot.
- I’d like regular feedback about my performance, delivered somewhere other than the parking lot, the hallway, the bathroom or on your way to a meeting.
- When you go out on leave (maternity, disability, etc.) check in with us once in a while so we know you haven’t forgotten us.
- We listen to the way you talk about your peers.
- Your meetings are too long and little gets done. Give us an agenda, stick to it, address people who monopolize the discussion and end with actionable items of who’s going to do what by when.
- Please deal with the person who is disruptive, disrespectful and a slacker. The longer it takes you to handle that situation, the less confidence we have in you.
- Ask for my opinion once in a while. You’d be surprised what I know.
- Flexibility with my schedule, especially for family activities, is one of the best things you can do for me.
- Training will make us better at our jobs. Please give us some.
- We love it when you stick up for us.
- We’d ask more of our friends to apply for work here if they were treated better during the application process.
- It would be nice if someone got to know me as a person.
- You make us crazy when you change the rules without telling us.
- Posting a policy on the bulletin board is not enough communication.
- Yes, you ARE asking too much when you hold meetings at 5pm on Friday.
- Since you now hold meetings at lunchtime, even the 15 minutes I used to have with a sandwich at my desk is gone. And you wonder why “engagement” is only at 30%.
- Internal transfer requests should count as turnover and retention bonuses should reflect it.
- Don’t ask me to come to you with solutions. I’m not a whiner. I should be able to tell you about something that’s going on without the pressure of having to solve every problem.
- It’s okay to say you don’t know. I’d rather you be straight with me.
- You don’t have to try and be our friend, but it would be great if you could be friendly.
- We watch how you treat our vendors. Aren’t they customers too?
- I’d like to tell you I’m too busy to take on one more thing, but I’m afraid how you’ll react.
- I’m tired of them telling me I have to be more “strategic” and never explaining exactly what that means and how to do it.
- Want to make our day a little better? Surprise us now and then with something small: a shorter meeting, a thank you, smoothies in the foyer, a clean refrigerator, etc.
- It’s time to tell the lady with the low cut blouse and the guy with the racy calendar to clean up their act.
- We could cut out 50% of our emails and get a lot more done. We don’t need a class to teach us how to manage the email volume we have. We need standards and practices to eliminate the unnecessary and CYA messaging.
HOW TO GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Nobody wants to burn a bridge when they leave an organization, so exit interviews don’t get to the heart of the matter. People who speak up are labeled “not a team player” so they learn it’s not worth it to voice their concerns. And leadership books that tout 7 Steps to XYZ ignore the granular issues people struggle with on a daily basis.
I’ve heard more supervisors say, “If I ask them to tell me what’s bugging them, I’ll get a laundry list of things I can’t change or they’ll ask for perks we don’t have money for.”
So our managers don’t ask or cut short the discussion when it starts to feel like a gripe session. They think it’ll open up Pandora’s Box. They think there will be a price they can’t afford to pay to even listen.
But those conversations will still take place – just out of earshot. The feelings and frustrations will still be there. And you’ll wonder why productivity is suffering.
It’s a heart problem, not a systems or process issue.
So if you really want to have an impact, make it a better place to work and get honest feedback, here are four steps you can take:
1. Hold a regular weekly meeting. Allow time (and permission) for people to speak up, ask questions and raise issues about things that are bugging them. If you can’t give them an answer right then, go find out and get it to them before or at the next gathering. Just the fact that you encourage open discussion will let a little steam out of the pressure cooker. Listening is half the battle. If people won’t talk, don’t lose heart. Try it again the following week. Be sure to thank those who do speak up and for goodness sakes, don’t dismiss their concerns or laugh at them.
2. Instead of a Suggestion Box, create a Question Box. People can anonymously pose their questions and you can answer them at your meeting, in your newsletter, via email, or all of the above. Asking them to provide solutions can squelch feedback. It’s much easier for people to ask a question.
3. Use a Pain Scale to rate key aspects of your workplace. Take the pulse of your organization by asking, on a scale from 1-10, where they’d rank communication, trust, confidence in their supervisor, freedom to express themselves, time-wasting practices, how difficult or easy it is to get their work done, their stress level, etc. It’s often easier for people to put a number to something than explain themselves using words.
4. Have the Strengths Interview conversation as recommended in First, Break All the Rules by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham. If you start the work relationship by showing your employee you take an interest in them, they will be more likely to trust you and give you honest feedback. You can also create an anonymous survey based on the 12 Critical Questions that define a good workplace.
I VALUE YOUR FEEDBACK TOO
In the weeks ahead, I’ll write more articles about issues people struggle with, whether you’re a supervisor, manager, business owner or frontline employee. Don’t be shy. Anything you email me will be held in confidence. Is there something you’d like to get off your chest? I’ll compile and feature key concerns and comments, anonymously of course. Don’t rely on me to make this stuff up. Give me something to work with!
Articles in the weeks ahead:
- 27 Things I’d Like to Tell My Employees
- 27 Things I’d Like to Tell My Customers
- 27 Things I’d Like to Tell My Co-workers
Let’s see if we can’t shake things up a little and make the world a better place in the process!
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