People Issues: Silent Treatment

Have you ever walked into a room and everyone went quiet? Then they shifted from all they were doing prior to your coming in? Yet on the other side of the door, you could hear sounds of laughter and freedom? It is the most annoying/ unsettling feeling, not to mention heartbreaking that they can’t be that free with you. Now put a twist to it and imagine it is your staff who do that. People with whom you entrust your most valuable customer, people who you bank on to bring you that six-figure income and be glad to share the success with you.

Do you purpose not to be that kind of an employer? Would you like your staff to know that you are their leader and you work as a team? It may be your name on the company ownership documents, but it sure is the whole team including you, that makes it stand and do something every day of its existence.

So what do you do when your team is giving you the silent treatment?

We thought a few of these ideas that may help you change the office aura and deal with this dangerous monster!

a) Encourage communication – not for you but for the business

From time in memorial, communication between managers and employees has always a been a “them versus us” issue. Employees want guidelines from their supervisors, and the management staff wants input from their team; and just like climbing a tree, information coming downwards has no problems. You wait until it is time for information to flow upwards. Then you will see what happens! If you observe many companies, too much of what should be said goes unsaid because most of the staff will stay quiet about what they need and even what they know needs to be done. As a result, the individuals and company miss great opportunities, delayed projects become the order of the day and failed initiatives mark the beginning of a huge labor turnover.

But why would your staff keep quiet even if you treat them well and your company is a great place to work in? A couple of reasons – some employees will reason, “Who am I to offer ideas to management?” or “I don’t want to appear incompetent” or “my supervisor will think I want his job and will make my life in the office uncomfortable”. Someone once asked our resident consultant, “what difference will it make? After all, they are too busy with long-term planning and strategic initiatives!” Your best shot at dealing with this is to build a quality interaction between the staff management team.

Break the “we vs. them” mentality. When you break through the barriers and get the employees and managers working together, everyone begins to understand how his/ her contribution is so invaluable towards the achievement of the company’s strategic vision and objectives. A successful organization recognizes four key elements to its survival and growth – organizational communication, people skills, motivation (not necessarily financial), and people empowerment.

b) Communicate Needs

Communication is a two-way street and a shared responsibility. Employees have just as much responsibility for speaking up, for setting expectations and requirements, and for communicating barriers and opportunities as does the management team. It is through such that people understand each other’s roles in the organization, set clear and reasonable demands within the prevailing constraints, budgets, and expectations. After all, if your organization wants to produce results that leave your customers and organization stakeholders wanting more of you, everyone has to understand what it will take.

[bctt tweet=”Employees have just as much responsibility for speaking up, for setting expectations and requirements, and for communicating barriers and opportunities as does the management team” username=”@wangarimaina”]

c) Kill the knowledge thief syndrome

There are some people for whom sharing their knowledge is a no-go zone. You would imagine they swore to withhold all information. For such people, you need to make them understand that most of the time, sharing knowledge is actually an opportunity to gain even more. Nobody knows everything, and I am yet to hear of another King Solomon in our century.

While most people are knowledgeable and skilled in their assigned duties, many managers are unaware of their employees’ skills. The danger with this is that a lot of it either goes to waste and rots in the brain due to non-utility or, it ends up straight in the boardrooms of a competitor who realizes that your staff has a skill that you are not exploiting. The flip side of this is that the staff fails to share it with you and he would rather improve on his life with that knowledge while you are still paying him a salary for only that knowledge that you are worth having from him!

Encourage your employees to educate you about their job specifics. Ask them to explain what goes into each successful project not because you want to replace them but because it creates a window of opportunity for you to see how much more they can give the company and get compensated for it in more ways than one. Discuss which ideas and actions have worked in the past. Go over survey results, customer satisfaction ratings, complaints, feedback etc. Ask questions to get your employees to offer suggestions about the present situation. As you listen to the feedback, offer your thoughts – and not in an imposing way where it will be said, “the boss said this is the way and he shot down my opinion”. This will prompt them to get involved in the decision process.

d) Create a Motivation Cycle

Make communicating with management easy. This is because your input plays a big part in motivating employees to communicate with you. They need to see a leader, not a boss. Some suggestions to consider include:

  • Call for a brainstorming session when embarking on or stuck in the middle of a project (that you started together) or when doing a strategic plan.
  • Send employees a personal thank you note for a job well done, complete with the management team’s signatures.
  • Set aside time to officially conduct roundtable discussions with employees to address their concerns. For instance, you could say, every Friday afternoon, with no fail, you will be holding a session with each and every employee – one on one sessions
  • Do not have such stuck-up management that cannot go for team building sessions with the rest of the staff. Attend the sessions so that it is a team effort in the office. When the employees see you and other managers taking an interest in their responsibilities, they’ll be excited to complete their tasks to the best of their ability. You get full dedication. Staff will actively be innovative and creative to advance the organization and will share those ideas with you. The result will be a greater increase in the organization’s success.

e) Empower Your Staff

Empowerment is about setting expectations. You and your team need to have a common understanding. Like Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, write a one-minute goal and the requirements in 400 words or less (half a page). Discuss the goals and measurements with everyone involved before you begin delegating tasks so that as a team you can make the needed tradeoffs to ensure a successful outcome. When everyone knows what is expected of him/ her, they are then on a higher ground (empowered) to create the desired results. The bottom line for this interaction is communication, and the quality of the communication determines how empowered you and your team are.

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