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Communication between employee and manager, Part 3: How to converse as a manager?


Mental wellbeing

In this three-part article series we’re looking into how to clarify concerns between employee and manager. First, we discuss why communication can be difficult. Then we describe a way how the employee could explain his or her worries or needs to the supervisor. Finally, we look at how the manager could build up communication with the employee.

Communication is a two way street.

The previous article in the series concentrated on how an employee can discuss what they need to complete their tasks, or to share information that the manager might lack in a troubling situation.

The other side of the coin is how a supervisor could respond to what is worrying their employee.

1. Concentrate on listening

The first thing as a manager is to listen without giving any judgments. Besides that, keep in mind that it’s not your place to immediately start offering solutions. Concentrate on actively listening and asking questions to get additional information on the situation.

Although we are concentrating on a situation where a problem has already become apparent, listening should be a daily rule of thumb. In everyday discussions ask your staff about what is going on with them; what their opinions and requirements are.

2. Find a solution together

The employee might approach the manager when the problem has already grown out of proportion. In that case, often the employee is holding on to the last straw and will express it accordingly.

You’ll hear how the staff member is burnt out, too tired and overall can’t handle anything anymore. When you happen to stumble on that kind of an extreme conversation you might think you need to jump in and immediately solve the damaging situation. But perhaps you don’t have to?

Before offering solutions, ask what the employee needs. Answer ‘ok, I see that this situation is very difficult for you, what do you need?’. Give the employee a space to think about it and only start thinking about possible solutions when they really don’t know how to go on.

Most often, the employee will have suggestions. That’s half of the job already done! From there on, start a discussion if and how you can meet your staff member’s requirements. Perhaps together you will find new alternative solutions that suit both parties.

Overall, keep in mind that suitable advice matching your specific situation should be given by a mental health professional. As luck would have it, communication is a skill that can be improved by training and practice.

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