Worked Up At Work

How to handle sticky office situations

Managers Need to Listen Too

Managers need to listen as well as talk.

It sounds obvious, but two-way communication is not happening enough in many of today's businesses and organizations.

In a recent USA Today survey, only about 31 percent of employees reported that their boss listened to them. This is a significant problem on several levels.

From the employer's vantage point, employees know most, even all of the problems associated with their work and workflow. If they are not encouraged or inclined to communicate with supervisors, then supervisors will miss that information.

In previous blogs, I have quoted the Gallagher statistic that only about 25 percent of employees are engaged, and the rest are disengaged (working against management) and apathetic. By management being accessible and sharing its most valuable commodity-time and attention-more people can be encouraged to join the engaged group. The engaged group is the extension of management as they are the ambassadors, the role models, the ones that can be counted upon to consistently produce at the highest levels.

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Managers and owners, take a minute to imagine this: without spending a penny more on payroll, imagine what it would be like to have 60 percent to 80 percent of your employees engaged and none disengaged. The potential is staggering.

From the employee's vantage point, they need to feel informed and a part of the organization. By specifically seeing the connection between what they do and the bottom line, their contribution becomes real. This is the technical part of the foundation for becoming and staying engaged. The other side is the interpersonal part; they need to feel an interpersonal connection to the owner and managers. They need to feel appreciated.

There is a "Cohen axiom" that is applicable here: healthy employees need to have their say, unhealthy employees have to have their way. Mentally healthy employees need to have a say in what happens around them. If they are denied the ability to have some kind of legitimate say in what happens in their work's orbit, they will become apathetic. The logic behind this attitude is "Nobody seems to care what I have to say, so why should I care about what they (management) are saying?" When one sees employees demanding their way, one is seeing abnormal and unrealistic expectations. This is an unhealthy personality and needs to be addressed very carefully.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., C.M.C., is the president of Labor Management Advisory Group and HR Solutions: On-Call, and the author of Mess Management: Lessons From a Corporate Hit Man.

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