The foundation of efficient management in your workplace relies on strong communication. The problem with the age old saying “no news is good news” is that it’s based off assuming nothing is wrong.
As a manager you should never assume everything is running smoothly, due to a lack of new information coming your way. The harsh reality is that no news can actually mean quite the opposite. So why aren’t your employees telling you about problems?
Problems are being hidden.
When you don’t tell your boss about a problem it goes away right? Of course not – but some of your employees could be thinking this way. Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because you don’t hear from a subordinate, problems don’t exist.
Hiding your problems can be easy, because well… you don’t have to deal with them. So start asking the important and relevant questions to your employees to find out if they are keeping something from you. One sign of an individual hiding problems is when they keep changing the subject when you do ask the right questions. Hearing excuses, or delay phrases such as “I’ll handle that next week” won’t help either.
Problems aren’t recognized.
Sometimes you have to be the one to go out looking for problems. The reason being is that a problem (or lack thereof) is perceived on an individual level. While some might see the increased price of copy paper to be a non-issue, an advertising manager could view the increase as a nightmare scenario.
All of your employees will view situations differently, but there are steps you can take to get on the same page. Create a protocol, or a situation list to highlight what kinds of problems require the most amount of attention. Or you can develop various levels to problems (where a level three problem might be something minor and a level one could be an extreme situation).
By categorizing problems, each employee in your company will know the severity of a “level two” problem before they gather the essential details. Force people to be on the same page as quickly as possible.
Fear of discovery.
There are a handful of reasons why your employees might hide problems from management. The most obvious explanation is that they’re worried of the potential repercussions. However, if your employees are afraid of reporting issues to management, you may have an issue with workplace communication. Stress the importance of two-way communication and give positive feedback to avoid this type of stressful work environment.
Yet just like everything else in life, you want to practice moderation with this approach. Megan Reitz and John Higgins recently wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review on how being too much of an open boss can turn against you. You certainly don’t want your subordinates running your way every time the vending machine takes their money – so emphasize what kinds of problems you want them to report.
Check out the infographic below for some valuable insights and statistics regarding workplace communication.