by Janette Levey Frisch
Why I Love Employers Who Talk -and Listen-to Their Employees..
I know, this may sound a bit too touchy-feely for some of you, but give me a minute here. This is a solid tip that could make your lives as managers, employers, business owners (or insert-other-appropriate-title-here) significantly easier. Who wouldn’t want that?
I understand you’re not there to make friends with your employees…
You have a job to do and so do they. One of your jobs as an employer is to provide a safe and discrimination and harassment-free workplace. Federal (and often state and local) laws say so. This is the reason for talking and listening to your employees. They are your best source of information as to problems or even potential problems.
We have been hearing all too many stories of workplace shootings, sexual or other types of harassment. Often, particularly in the case of workplace violence, management is surprised, but co-workers are not. Some co-workers do complain. Some are afraid and do not.
When you talk and listen to your employees, you can often find out about issues before they escalate and become serious allegations — or worse a charge filed with the EEOC or its state counterpart, or, even worse a lawsuit, and worst of all an episode of violence.
No, this does not mean you have to be a quasi-therapist. You don’t have to get their life stories. So, what should you talk with them about? The short answers: their jobs, and how it’s going for them in the workplace. Their concerns. Anyplace they may need some help. Suggestions they may have to make the workplace better, and yes, sometimes knowing that an employee who is acting erratically is having a personal problem, you might be able to refer them for help (especially if your company has an EAP) before things get worse — for them and for you.
Sometimes the situation is less extreme, but still an issue. Maybe there’s no actual violence, or a lawsuit or a charge. Maybe though, due to low morale caused by bullying, harassment or discrimination, your employees are less productive.
If you show that you care, by starting a dialog, and of course following up on it, you might be able to reverse the pattern. So, yes, every once in a while, get out from behind your desk (or, if you are an executive, that corner office) and have that dialog. What do you have to lose?