6 Reasons Employees Don’t Talk to Their Managers
Employees talk more and managers talk less in successful one-on-ones.
6 reasons employees don’t talk to their managers:
- Cold professional culture. Caring happens outside work.
- Talkative managers.
- Curiosity about people is rare.
- Intimidating environments. What’s in your office that shouts, “Let’s have a conversation?”
- Busyness. People value results over relationships. Shift to results through relationships.
- Insecure managers. When managers are uncomfortable, everyone around them is uncomfortable. Tip: Gradually shift your mental focus from worrying about yourself to caring about others.
Information can be shared via email. But connection requires conversation.
7 talking points for a successful one-on-one:
#1. Imagine your best day at work. What are you doing? Not doing?
#2. If your best day at work is a 10, how would you rate your typical day? (“5” represents an average day.)
#3. Why did you choose that number?
#4. What could you do to nudge your number toward 10? (Generate a list of three items.)
#5. Which item would you like to try for the next two weeks?
#6. How could I help? (Only ask this question if you are prepared to help or to find someone who can.)
#7. What would you like me to ask you in our next one-on-one?
- Send talking points to employees two or three days before your scheduled one-on-one.
- Send an email the day before your one-on-one. “I’m looking forward to our conversation tomorrow.”
- Prepare for the one-on-one.
- Reflect on previous conversations.
- Remove distractions like phone notifications.
- Remove physical barriers. You might have the conversation in a neutral location or their office.
- List five qualities/skills you admire about the person before they arrive.
Successful managers seek feedback. Choose one of the following questions at the end of your one-on-one.
- How might our next one-on-one be a little better than this one?
- If I listened better, what would be true?
Why don’t employees talk to managers?
What talking points would make for successful one-on-ones?
Another great post and reminders. I really like the tip around removing physical barriers and making sure that the environment that you’re having a conversation is not a distraction but more of an inviting experience.
Thanks Ryan. Your comment helped me formulate a question. What’s in your office that invites people to connect? Cheers
Its all about “listening”, removing the blockage in our ears or brain, and paying attention.
I remember my father saying “listen” I knew it was important!
carry that through one ‘s life, it works!
Thanks Tim. Dang! It’s just so hard to listen. 🙂 …but so many leadership challenges are solved with our ears.
Excellent post. One reason employees don’t talk to managers is trust …. or, rather, lack of trust. If you have an intimidating manager, or one who is quick to throw employees under the bus, the result is an absence of trust and, consequently, an absence of communication. I doubt that any manager who is not trustworthy will have a solid relationship with his/her employees.
Thanks Daryl. You nailed it. I’m not going to talk to you if I don’t trust you.
If you said to the employee let’s go get lunch to discuss this would the employee be happy, surprised, shocked, or nervous? The answer is probably a pretty good indication of the types and tone of conversations you had with the employee in the past. Keeping that in mind going into the conversation will help you to make that conversation about what will help the employee most and not what will get them out of an uncomfortable meeting with a manager the fastest.
Thanks Bonnie. You are right on. It’s worth some time to ask are people trying to get away from me or do they feel energized after we talk.
Thanks for a great post, Dan. This one was very timely for me. I really appreciate the 7 talking points and the feedback questions. I’m positive those will help me create more engaging one on one’s.
Thanks Jill. It’s wonderful to be of use. As I read your comment I thought about Ken Blanchard who recommends letting employees set the basic agenda for one-on-ones. That’s an interesting option.
Thank you for this resourceful post. I will have new teachers on my team as well as a another team I’m inheriting back from my supervisor. I felt teachers were not heard to a level they were accustomed to in the past. I can admit with other transitions that were occurring last year, my focus was scattered. Being supportive and addressing immediate needs still can leave people with a void if managers are not stopping long enough to actively listen. I was struggling with visualizing how to make active listening a priority with a redesigned teacher team along with another fractured team I’m inheriting for the upcoming year. I read your article and the phrase “results through relationship” was a godsend moment. This post will become my framework for my leadership growth and relationship building with my teams next year. Thank you for your constant leadership guidance.
Great, affirming post! I really appreciate the 3 tips as well as feedback suggestions.
Trust and motivation are such an important bond. For weekly meetings with those I supervise or teams in my oversight, we keep a running queue, a dynamic electronic list with contributions by either parties in preparation for our meetings. We can embed links with details and track past conversations by adding to the top of the document. This has contributed greatly to mutual ownership and trust. Thank you for the reinforcement of concept!
I always started a discussion with someone in the power seat with, “Is this a discussion – a two-way dialogue – or do I just need to take notes?”
About 2 times out of three, the answer was something to the effect of, “Just listen.”
Why talk with them if they don’t care what you think?
And silence speaks … volumes.
Remember the words of the old British police caution “Anything you do say will be taken down in writing and used in evidence”.
Sometimes employees reveal (speak to managers) and sometimes conceal (do not speak to managers) as this can affect their appraisal in performance and likelihood of being overlooked for advancement in the organisation.
My company HR system recently replaced the standard bi-annual feedback sessions to more frequent quality conversations. The intent was to allow for more frequent relationship development and discussion along with professional development. Our department is very project based so we always managed it this way. You provide some thoughtful suggestions on how to structure these conversations more optimally.
Thank you for the post Dan.
I especially like the recommendations leading up to the one-on-one. I prep for my one-on-ones by listing the items I want to talk about, but I don’t shoot a note out to my team members prior to the meeting. I am going to put this in place this week. I have two one-on-ones scheduled this week.
Having conversation of such a nature can prove to be so effective and so worthy, as it helps to communicate any barriers that might exist and settle for misunderstanding that might have been created. Additionally, in some instance these can be more productive than doing any work for a whole day.
I have a manager that doesn’t stop talking. It’s hard to get a word in and she always manages to bring it back to her. How do I tell her that she isn’t adding value for me because she doesn’t listen as much as I’d like?
Dan … For me body language is also an important clue as to how well the one-on-one conversation is going. Their posture, eye contact, etc. tells me so much about how well we are connecting and communicating. My own body language is important too. Am I receptive to what they are saying … or am assuming a superior posture in my office behind the desk? I like to come from behind the desk and sit along side them as we talk and make regular eye contact. I sometimes change my feedback approach during the conversation based on the body language. Just some thoughts.
Thanks for the post, Dan. My wife and I each work in multi-national offices and lead teams based in countries with distinct cultural differences. We’ve each found this to be a barrier to communication (not a language barrier) at times. What’s your take on this reason why employees don’t talk to managers and do you have any suggestions for overcoming this?
Thanks Dan. So many great actionable ideas in a single post! I think of these 1-on-1 meetings as “person-based,” not “task-based.” Too often when we meet for the purpose of discussing a project, the focus is results only, and, as you said, this causes us to miss out on making a true relationship connection with employees. I recommend conducting the tasked- based meetings as needed, but Managers should purposefully and thoughtfully conduct “person-based” meetings with employees on a monthly basis.
I love this post and shared it with managers in my organization. One question came up – how do you create an office space that shouts “Let’s have a conversation?”. Suggestions?