Why Your Employees Aren’t Listening to You
There’s a fog of inattention seeping into your workplace. Morale seems lower, intrigue and insubordination higher. Your team is less cohesive than it should be. How did things become this way, and more importantly how can you fix it?
Don’t blow your top or despair just yet. It’s never too late to reinvigorate your team and reclaim their focus. It’s all about integrity, availability, and recognition of their talents. Here are a few tested strategies for getting back on the good foot with your employees.
Lead From the Front
Zhou Qunfei once made watch lenses for less than $1 a day. Now she’s the richest self-made woman in the world. Her company supplies the cover glass for billions of computing devices, and her success came from an encyclopedic knowledge of her workers and their tasks.
“She’ll dip her hands into a tray of water, to determine whether the temperature is just right. She can explain the intricacies of heating glass in a potassium ion bath. When she passes a grinding machine, she is apt to ask technicians to step aside so she can take their place for a while.”
The lesson here: get your hands dirty. Literally putting yourself in the place of your employees gives you appreciation for their hard work, refines your process knowledge, and garners respect and loyalty from those you lead.
Revise Your Communication
You’re probably tired of George Bernard Shaw. He had the temerity to observe “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. One quip, and ever since talk is cheap.
Make sure yours isn’t. Your employees aren’t just listening (or not listening, perhaps) to the words coming out of your mouth. Real communication lies in tone, empathy, responsiveness, and revision.
Read up on body language and active listening. Be concise, specific, and factual with all your directions. Most of all, learn about your employees and invite their observations. After all, why should they listen to you can’t return the favor?
Respect the Chain of Command
Some wise words from Saving Private Ryan: “Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you.”
Think for a second. Do you ever find yourself visibly exasperated with your own superiors? Ever make a biting comment or incensed gesture towards them in front of your team? You’re sending the wrong message- “Since I disrespect my boss, you can disrespect yours.”
Set an example. Gripe up. Always up.
Praise and Encourage
Your employees are people, and people are easily discouraged. A typical existential monologue goes something like this: “Why am I spending my life doing this? Does anything I do make a difference? Why do I get up in the morning? What’s the point of everything?”
While no one expects you to be a philosopher or cleric, a boss does have to furnish some context and meaning. So take every opportunity to show your employees that they and their work are meaningful.
Start right now. Delegate an important job, something that will empower that person and showcase your trust in them. Lavish awards on your team. Talk less about project setbacks and more about singular contributions. Believe in them, and they may surprise you by reciprocating.