Do your workers listen to you?

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As consultants we hear the phrase “My employees are more likely to listen to you than us” from more managers than we care to count.  This article will explore some of the reasons why workers don’t listen to management.

Good management is a bit like parenting:  Set your rules, stick to them and reinforce them where they aren’t adhered to.  Invite your kids to discuss minor issues, before they become serious ones. Listen to what they have to say, act on it and when they perform well praise them.  You can apply this to the workplace too.  By adhering to the following you’ll maintain a healthy dialogue with your kids / employees.  You’ll show you listen to them and they’ll listen to you .  It’s really that simple for both parenting and management.

Setting expectations

If you don’t set policies, rules and target expectations how can your kids / employees be expected to know what they are supposed to do?  

When you set expectations, make sure the expectations are understood and those impacted accept them. It’s important to set good expectations. See our objectives workshop to help set expectations.  Consult with those impacted by the expectations as this helps them to feel part of the process.  Listen to any reasons why expectations can’t be met or shouldn’t be imposed.  Kids / employees may have good reason for not being comfortable with the expectations.

Don’t be afraid to drop or amend an expectation based on feedback and make sure the people providing the feedback know why you listened to them.  This shows you value their opinion and encourages people to keep contributing.

Expectations can change, but they mustn’t be changed arbitrarily.  Too many changes gives the impression that the expectations are fluid or flexible.  Flexible expectations will never be met.   

Reinforce Expectations

If expectations are established properly, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be adhered to.  And providing you are comfortable the expectation is sound you should enforce compliance. 

Challenges to compliance with expectations should always start with a question: Why wasn’t it complied with?  There maybe good reasons, but if not, you need to take action.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s removal of pocket money / bonuses, a stern talking to or just to reinforce it with some education, something has to happen to show that you stand by your expectation.  Sticking to your guns and providing clear boundaries is part of leadership and helps employees understand your intentions.

We’ve all seen the kids in the shops being told repeatedly ‘Jessica dear, don’t do that’.  The reason the kid ignores her parents is because she knows that ignoring her parent has no consequences.  If Jessica had been sat on the ‘naughty chair’ once or twice she’d behave differently.

Do you remember the ‘naughty chair’?  Kids hated the ‘naughty chair’ because it was labelled the ‘naughty chair’ and they were forced to sit on it when they misbehaved.  Kids / employees do not like to be reprimanded.  They like to be praised so let the kids / employees know if they have done well or if they need to do something differently.  Make sure the consequences of failing to meet expectations are known and followed through with.

If you don’t stand by your rules / policies it’s a sure-fire way to send the message that you aren’t serious and you don’t need to be listened to.

Listen to your kids / employees

Proper consultation involves putting forward an expectation inviting feedback.  Understanding the feedback is vital, before deciding whether to act on it.  So investigate further if needed before letting people know the outcomes.  Understanding feedback requires good listening.

The best parents / leaders talk less than they listen.  A leader / parent needs to be able to take on board feedback from a range of stakeholders (wife, kids, mother-in-law, mates / employees, managers, shareholders, executive boards, interested parties) and determine the appropriate path.

The more you listen the more likely people are to provide high-value feedback.  People who feel valued make good contributions, while people who don’t often contribute nothing.  It’s a two way street.  Listen to them, only talk when you have something of merit to say, show you mean what you say and then kids / workers will listen to you.

Praise compliance

As already mentioned, kids/ workers generally want to do well so it is important you recognise this.  Many workers leave their jobs because they aren’t feeling valued and believe their workplace to be toxic (see related article about Toxic Managers).  Kids also disengage from dialogue with parents where they don’t feel valued.  And it is when they disengage that things can go very wrong. Many workers cite their boss to be the reason they left a Company.  This is usually because they felt they weren’t able to please them and healthy communication had broken down.  It is often the same with kids leaving home at an early age. They could just be the adventurous type, but more often than not it is because the relationship with parents has broken down.

At school they hand out bits of paper to recognise good work.  You wouldn’t believe the value kids place on a piece of paper.  The same is true of workers.  You don’t have to provide money to incentivise workers.  The best incentive is to be told you’re doing a good job, be valued in the workplace. Valued people are more likely to listen to those that value them.

How do you keep someone on side even when they are not meeting expectations?  You may have consulted with them, set clear expectations, reinforced and consulted with them.  Start by praising for the what they are doing well.  Again consultation is important – you may find there is good reason why they aren’t able to meet expectations.  Focus on trying to get them to do more of what they are good at and provide coaching in the things they’re struggling with.  Obviously there is a limit.  At some point you may have to call it quits.

It is often surprising how easily people tell us things they should be telling their boss, but don’t.  Help them to help you.

If your employees don’t list to you and you need help then contact us.


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