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Feeling a Little Communication Shy? Get Over It!

Communication is really important to employees. Like, really important.

So often we leave our employees in the dark. We leave them to their own devices, unless something bad happens and then we “deal with it”. Often, the only time employees get a true idea of how they’re doing on the job is during the annual performance appraisal.

Res, non verba – action, not words

The people who work for us want to know how they’re doing—even if it’s not great. Providing feedback helps people to know what they’re doing well, and to fix what needs fixing. This kind of feedback is one of the most important things managers can do to support their employees. Care to know why?

  • Providing quality feedback will lead to better performance. If an employee doesn’t know their performance doesn’t meet standards, then how can they know to fix it? Letting them know what needs to be tweaked and how to best do that is the first step in improved performance.

  • Sometimes employees start out on a course of action, only to find out that’s not the best, or safest, practice. Clear and thoughtful communication upfront, outlining expectations and any execution and completion considerations, will not only make sure the job is done well, but it will also mean reduced need for re-direction and less stress for everyone.

  • Employees want to feel supported in their jobs. Providing feedback on the good and on what needs to be changed provides that support. Employees feel they’ve been seen, and their efforts have been acknowledged. This, in turn, builds confidence, in themselves, their boss, and their company…

  • … which then leads to greater retention and loyalty.

The problem is… most managers are afraid to give feedback.

Nobody wants to be told they’re doing a bad job. But it’s worse to be blind-sided at the annual appraisal or fired because of poor performance. So even if it’s not great news, employees would still prefer to hear it. However, managers are just as afraid of delivering the bad news as their people are of hearing it. (Maybe even more so.)

According to a Harris poll, managers are uncomfortable about communicating, in general, and with the idea of delivering feedback.

Managers are Uncomfortable Giving Feedback Graph Source: Interact survey and HBR.ORG

This presents a problem that has to be overcome. We know the advantages to engagement, retention, and performance achieved by feedback and communication. But, if our people leaders don’t want to communicate with their reports, the repercussions for the company are huge!

I think, sometimes, that people get all up in their heads about what workplace communication means. Sure, there’s a work twist to it, but communication boils down to talking and listening. Finding time to meet one-on-one, asking good questions, and then listening to the responses is key to finding out what’s going on and if it needs to be fixed. That’s why I feel so strongly about one-on-one conversations. It’s in these talks that you learn about the people on your team—what drives them, what concerns them, and what makes them proud. It’s also the ideal time to communicate what’s happening with the company and how that affects their jobs. Finally, these conversations provide the perfect opportunity to fix what needs fixing.

Some time ago, I read a survey about customer experience. That survey stated the most important thing to customers is to be heard and understood. If we look at employees as our customers, it’s easy for us to come to that same conclusion—being heard and understood is very important. A manager that doesn’t communicate with them is someone employees don’t want to work for.

Managers who carry out regular one-on-one conversations, including providing feedback, with their reports will feel better in the loop, have more control over situations on the work site, be better able to guide employee development, and will have teams that accomplish productivity goals much better than those who don’t. Worth investing the time, I’d say.


The One-On-One Conversation is one of the foundational pieces of my manager training programs. Learn more here:

Or check out my book, where how to hold effective One-On-Ones is outlined. I also have a free One-On-One conversation template on my website. Please feel free to download and use.

If you like this blog, please comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts. And feel free share it with anyone else you think would like it.


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