I had a situation recently when a member of my team shared something that was troubling her, something that, although she said wasn’t that big a deal, was on her mind; a comment that made her feel a certain way about what she was doing in her role. I was so glad she felt she could talk to me and tell me how she was feeling as I had no idea that what I had said was being perceived in the wrong way and so next time, I will rephrase.
Luckily she felt able to speak to me without fear, but it’s not the same within every business.
We are a small team, and so creating an open and honest working environment is crucial in making sure morale doesn’t fall and that unhappiness in the workplace doesn't grow, and ultimately that business doesn’t suffer, but it’s just as important in every size of company.
As a leader and manager, I hope that I will always be approachable and available to speak to anyone within my team that needs to talk, however small the issue. It’s a natural instinct to grin and bear it sometimes, people can feel what they are thinking might seem trivial or be misunderstood if they speak up, so keep things to themselves, but if an issue is important to them you must give them an opportunity to talk to you about it. Having an “open door” policy encourages open communication and feedback as well as encouraging discussion about issues that may affect your business.
Seek Out the Issues
Instead of waiting to hear about problems, seek them out by asking questions of your team and ask them what issues they have, however minor. It makes things much easier to deal with if you can “nip it in the bud” before things get out of hand. Set aside time in meetings, or schedule specific debriefing sessions where employees can express their thoughts and ideas.
If you are met with silence in group meetings you need to find more ways of giving people the opportunity to express their concerns. Asking the question in an open meeting can make people feel uncomfortable at first so initiate one to ones, or more casual get-togethers, so people feel relaxed.
You need to be prepared to hear things that you may not like the sound of and disagree with, but it’s important to assess rather than assume. Take time to investigate and find out exactly what’s wrong. There could be many factors that are the cause of the issue, some you may be able to change, some you may not, but by offering the right support, you can make all the difference to that person.
Pass issues up the ladder, so people realise that if there is a problem you’ll try and do something about it – this will encourage people to come to you in the first place. Acknowledge what they are saying and tell them what you will try and do about it, although if you genuinely don’t agree you need to confidently explain why.
Admitting When You’re Wrong
Share your mistakes; we all make them, and this will encourage others to do the same. Things won’t always go perfectly, but if you know about mistakes you can help to fix them quickly – it’s that “nipping in the bud” again!
Mistakes can often be caused by processes rather than people, so can be a good opportunity to learn and implement necessary change so make sure there’s an honest assessment of the situation when it happens.
Keep Your Team Engaged and Informed
Keeping your team informed of how the business is performing, the problems it’s facing, future plans, and empowering them in their roles are all things that will help nurture an open working environment. For example, it’s no good keeping your team in the dark if the business is starting to underperform and then implementing a restructure that you think might fix the issue but that comes out of the blue to them and actually makes the situation worse by causing unhappiness within the team and more underperformance.
Employees must feel that they are a valuable and a worthy member of the team. The best places to work are ones where employees are valued and trusted, where their opinions, thoughts and ideas are listened to. They are places where open communication is encouraged, generating a good work ethic and motivated teams who come to work happy and ready to deliver!
Lynne is Managing Director of Personnel Placements and has been recruiting in Salisbury and the surrounding area for over 15 years. PP as it is affectionately known within the local business community is a generalist Agency that has been supporting local companies with their recruitment and HR for over 30 years. They are also an active member of TEAM – The Employment Agents Movement – which enables them to source candidates from all over the UK.