I needed to have an important conversation with my new employee. She had been late for work twice this week and as her supervisor, I was obliged to say something. I have dealt with late employees before and as I stared at her from across my desk, I wanted to set the record straight. No more slacking off.
I had been talking for about 20 minutes and working my way through my notes on the subject. I had told her about my concern with employees not adhering to company protocols and informed her of some of the ways the company has attempted to correct these errors. I made it clear that there was a negative impact on co-workers and production, and even made a couple jokes about a former employee who took two-hour lunches and that’s why he’s a “former” employee, but she didn’t laugh. She just sat there, her eyes glossed over and a stunned look on her face.
“Well,” I said, “What do you think?
“I’m not sure I understand what you are saying,” my employee responded.
“I beg your pardon? Haven’t you heard what I’ve been saying?” I asked in disbelief.
“So, I’m fired?” she asked hesitantly, with a look of fear in her face.
“No. I want you to try to get to work on-time, okay?” I responded.
“Oh. Okay,” she said with a weak smile. “I’m sorry. I also work nights at the hospital and had to catch a bus to get here. I will catch an earlier bus for now on.”
Mission accomplished. But what exactly was accomplished?
The supervisor in this story made a few errors when communicating with staff.
First, he made an assumption that she was like the employee he had to fire for taking long lunches, and that she was deliberately late because she was slacking off. The employee now knows that her supervisor sees her not an individual, but just one of the many problematic staff. Second, he didn’t engage the employee in a conversation, but merely lectured her. The employee now knows she is not invited to speak up and share her ideas. Thirdly, he wasn’t clear on why he wanted to talk with her. He fell into the trap of talking too much without saying anything about what he wanted to say. The employee now understands that when this supervisor communicates, he likes to hear himself talk and it’s not worth listening.
The Corporate Champions Program offered by Great Traits is a high-performance applied leadership training program. If you want to be a high-performing leader, this blended course will show you how and give you lots of guided opportunities to practice in the workplace. You will learn how to communicate effectively so you can avoid the situation outlined above. From creating an environment of comfort and engagement to noticing the reactions of others, the program walks you through exercises and activities to improve your skills. Participants in the program have found one exercise, the communication survey, to be eye-opening. One person realized he needed to be more succinct with his direct reports. He noted, “I feel as though I ramble on and on and try to over explain.” Instead of rambling, he has learned to take a breath, seek feedback and invite others to offer perspectives and ideas. A simple, small step but it’s already paying off!