Communicating with the Employee
When the time comes that you need to address a policy or procedure issue with an employee there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure that you understand the policy or procedure in it's entirety and that you are correctly following that policy or procedure. Then you need to communicate that policy or procedure to the employee. But what is the best way to communicate with the employee? Will you send them a memo or email (written communication) or will you seek them out to speak with them one-on-one (oral communication)?
There is a time for each method of communication and when you need to make an immediate correction you will want to use oral communication. So go find them and speak with them face-to-face. When you do, make sure that you have a copy of the policy or procedure with you to reference and to provide to the employee as a reminder of your conversation.
There are many factors that you want to ensure that you cover when you speak with the employee but don't panic as many of these are simple factors and will be easily covered during your conversation. Here is a handy checklist that will help you remember when you speak with your employee.
A checklist to help you professionally communicate with your employee
One of the most important tasks for a supervisor though is to actively listen. This isn't always the easiest skill but it is a skill you will want to master. A few tips to remember and help you actively listen are:
- Stop talking. You can't listen if you're talking.
- Show them you want to listen. If they don't know you want to listen they aren't going to say what needs to be said.
- Remove distractions. Ask them to go somewhere quiet where you can be undisturbed throughout your conversation.
- Put them at ease. Don't accuse them. Help them calm down and understand what they are saying.
- Empathize with them. Understand what they are saying. Put yourself in their shoes and understand how they are feeling.
- Be patient. They may need time to figure out themselves what it is that is bothering them. Give them that time.
- Hold your temper. Even if it feels like they are attacking you, you must remember that ultimately, the conversation is about them, not you and you are there to help them.
- Don't Argue or Criticize. You are there to help them and arguments and criticism won't accomplish that.
- Ask relevant questions. (Clarify) Make sure you understand what they are talking about. Sometimes they won't even know themselves what they are talking about but you can help them figure that out.
Your body language is also going to be an important part of how you communicate to your employees and others throughout your career. Be aware of your:
- Posture. The way you carry yourself, standing or sitting, directly relates how your message will be conveyed to people. When you are speaking or listening to someone, make sure you are facing and looking at them. Don't cross your arms as many people know that this indicates you are not interested in hearing what they have to say. Point one of your feet at the person you are talking to as this will help you stay focused on that person.
- Tone of Voice. Keep the sarcasm out of your voice. Remember that your emotions will come out in your voice so be truly interested in who you are speaking with.
- Facial Expressions. Look at your speaking partner. When you are constantly looking away you are telling them that they are not interesting enough for you to bother looking at them. Is that the message you are trying to communicate?
- Silence. One of our most powerful tools is silence. Human beings don't like silence and when presented with the situation in a conversation most people will fill that silence with further information. It may even be what you were looking for or at least help you get there.
Make sure that you avoid misunderstandings on your part and the part of your employees. To help you employees you need to ensure that you are precise and specific with your word choices. Don't use buzzwords, those words that are unique to a profession or hobby, unless you are absolutely certain that your speaking partner will understand them.
You'll also want to be sure that you are focusing on the behaviors of the employee and not presenting them with a personal label. What am I talking about? Well, don't call a employee lazy, present them with objective reasons for the discussion like you have failed to complete the last two reports delegated to you within the time frame given.
Cultural differences are also going to be something that you are going to want to always be aware of when you are dealing with employees. An example from our local region is that among the Hmong community they may not look you in the eye if you are their supervisor. This is especially true with Hmong women. So when you are supervising people of other cultures you need to be sure that you understand their culture.
Then there are the times when you will want to use written communication. If you find yourself in need of communicating to many of your employees or the matter is not time-sensitive then you will want to use written communication. Sometimes this is as simple as a one-page memo, Email, or even a text to your employee. However you are delivering the information you will want to ensure that you clear, concise, and professional.
Many of the same tips and recommendations that were discussed for talking with people are just as applicable to your written communications. Avoid buzzwords. Be precise. Be clear. Be objective.
Remember that you are presenting yourself in every communication you make with an employee and that written communications are permanent. So don't neglect your skills when you are writing. To help you out, here is a checklist to ensure you don't embarrass yourself or worse.
A checklist to cover those written messages to your employees
Always remember that employees are happier who know what is expected of them and it is our job as a supervisor and manager to ensure that our employees know what is expected of them. Take the time to communicate with your employees. And always remember, A happy employee may not leave a customer happy but an unhappy employee will always leave a customer unhappy.