7 Issues Employees Refuse To Tell Their Manager

by Peter Stark November 8, 2015
November 8, 2015

Great leaders are in tune with their team and aware of what they’re really thinking and feeling. When we think about the competencies of a great leader, the following are some of the key attributes:

  • Communicates a compelling positive vision of the team or organization’s future
  • Provides clear direction, expectations and goals to measure accomplishment
  • Provides positive feedback
  • Coaches and counsels employees when performance needs to improve
  • Mentors employees to help them grow and develop
  • Resolves conflict
  • Hires and retains good employees

One skill that is not listed above, and that many people often gloss over, is the skill of active listening. Listening is the manager’s key to finding out what makes your employees love to come to work or what makes them want to run straight to another manager or another company.

When we consult with teams, employees often share a number of concerns with us. When we ask them why they haven’t shared their concerns with their manager directly, we often hear:

“I have communicated my concerns before, but he didn’t do anything about it.”

“She’s quick to anger, and doesn’t take feedback well.”

“He’s too busy, and won’t give me the time.”

“She told me I’m wrong, and my issues aren’t really a concern.”

Some managers may feel good about not having employees burden them with their concerns, but there is a fundamental problem with this flawed belief. When a manager doesn’t do a good enough job listening to their employees, they both directly and indirectly communicate that they don’t really care about the employee. Employees who feel their manager doesn’t care will refuse to communicate their concerns. As a result, the manager is making decisions regarding people that are not based on the reality of the situation.

Some issues are easier for employees to bring up than others. Being in tune with the reality of your team requires a leader to listen attentively, even if the employees aren’t talking. Here are 7 issues employees may be reluctant to share with you.

“I’ve lost hope in you as my leader”

The employee feels they have tried to talk to you in the past to share their concerns. But, since there was no positive action taken on your part as the leader, the employee has no reason to believe that bringing up the topic a second time would be worthwhile.

“I’m afraid of you”

The employee believes that if they do bring up their concerns, there will be a negative consequence inflicted by the manager. When we ask employees what this looks like in real life, the following types of comments are shared:

  • He will be angry
  • She will withhold future projects or projects
  • He will withhold a raise or bonus
  • She will try to fire me

When employees are fearful of their manager, the manager will almost always be operating without important information. People simply fear sharing the whole the story.

“I don’t trust you”

The employee is hesitant to share information with the manager for fear that the information will not be held in confidence.

“You think my concern is petty”

If a manager does a good job making an employee feel inadequate or awkward for bringing forward a small issue or problem, the manager is guaranteeing the employee will never bring forward a “real” or big issue.

“You are not adding value to this work relationship”

When managers don’t listen well, they lack the knowledge of what the employee really wants and needs from the manager to be successful in their job, and to further their own personal development.

“Your meetings are a waste of time”

An employee once told us that during their weekly meeting the managers are plenty busy talking at them, but the rest of the team is checked out, answering their emails. Since no actions are taken and no progress is made, there’s a good chance they’ll hold the exact same meeting next week.

“I think you’re unfair”

Fairness has a lot of different interpretations from different employees. For some it is an issue of how the workload is distributed. For other employees, fairness may be related to how promotions, bonuses or raises are handled. For others still it may encompass how time-off is approved or which employees are allowed to work from home.

Great leaders are in tune with the reality of their team. What your employees think matters! To build trust and respect, the Best of the Best leaders actively seek out and listen to the employees’ thoughts and opinions on how to improve both the organization and themselves as a leader. They truly believe that great ideas come from the people doing the work, and they make it a point to listen attentively any time their employees speak.

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