Tell Your Staff 

Lesson 2: Topic 11 of 21

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Another thing: let everyone you work with know how they’re doing, both peers and subordinates. It’s too easy to focus only on the ‘squeaky wheel’ employees and those who need correction or discipline. Employees who are doing well need to know you’re paying attention to them, too. Whenever possible, praise in public but criticize in private. And as alluded to above, make sure that both your criticism and your praise are specific, not vague.  

Ambiguity is the antithesis of good communication. Clear communication protects you from misinterpretation. Any time you bring up general concepts, back them up with concrete examples and focus on observable behaviors. For example: instructing an employee about the need to “respect their coworkers” might be clear enough to you, but not to them ― whereas coaching them with “Rather than interrupting, let the other person finish before you speak” is precise, and therefore much easier to observe and act on. For another example, replying “No problem” when thanked may be subconsciously interpreted negatively by the other person (as in, “I’m a problem that must be solved.”). By saying, “You’re welcome” or “Glad to help” instead, you’re more likely to be understood positively; the person in need will perceive that by asking for help they made you happy.

Obviously you, as boss or supervisor, have every right to discuss work-related topics with staff. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring up their personal issues if it seems those things are negatively impacting an employee’s conduct, attitude, or productivity while on the clock ― however, since this sort of conversation could lead to misunderstandings (or worse), if you suspect there are issues outside of work that have made their way into the office, the appropriate thing to do is ask permission to talk about it:

  • “Do you have any objection to discussing __________?”
  • “__________ seems to be going on and people are noticing.” (Obviously not a question, this open-ended statement may lead to a valuable discussion.)
  • “Would you be interested to know more about __________?”
  • “Do you need some kind of help?”

Depending on the situation and the people involved, it might be prudent to not have these sorts of conversations one-on-one. Arrange for a third party to be present. 

One final element to communication: employee reviews. It’s very common to have a review at 90 days from date of hire, and annually thereafter. You might want to rethink that. Why not quarterly reviews all the time? You certainly wouldn’t accept a team member waiting a year to provide you with information critical to operations, yet that’s precisely what many employers do to the workers with an annual review. 

We also suggest revamping the review process to emphasize growth, not punishment. Too often reviews are used to withhold raises rather than reward progress. Don’t be that employer.