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Healthy Staff Relations Start with Great Communications

Job Number One for Competent Leadership


(HRD) - You must have heard this old saw, "My boss treats me like a mushroom. I'm kept in the dark and fed BS." This clichéd complaint has some truth at its fungal heart. A quick Google search of the top complaints about "The Boss" identifies poor communication skills as one of the most maddening mannerisms of any mediocre manager.

This is unfortunate because good communications between the various levels on a company's org chart can mean the difference between having an unproductive, toxic work environment and having positive, engaged employees tackling their tasks with enthusiasm. You can easily guess which model significantly enhances profits. Hint; it's not the toxic choice. Workplace toxicity impacts on staff morale directly and is responsible for increased absenteeism, low productivity presenteeism and high turnover rates for HR to spend resources on.

Effective Communication Must Be A Two-Way Street

Most managers understand that there are points they need to convey to their staff. Fewer, however, comprehend that communications from the lower echelons upward to the management team are of equal importance to the organization's health. It all comes down to control and comfort.
People are happiest when they feel they have some control over their lives. It's why we fight with our spouses for the remote. Studies consistently show that lack of control over our environment creates emotional stress and we all know only too well too much stress can even kill over time. As an employer, therefore, it is incumbent on you to deal with the insecurities of your workforce to relieve as

What do you want from me?

So, just what are the burning questions employees need to know to feel a semblance of control in their work lives? What kinds of information do you have that is so important to them that it affects their mental health? The answer is "Lots!"

What am I doing here?

This is a crucial question and not as obvious as many bosses believe. Your human assets aren't born with the knowledge of what is in their job purview. Knowing exactly what expectations the company has for each member of their workforce is a large facet of the control employees seek in their work life. The best way to do this is to have a detailed job description, including duties and standards to achieve, for every position. Additionally, these job descriptions should be updated frequently to reflect any changes that occur.

How do you like me so far?

Employees need constant feedback on the quality of their work. Very few will excel at their jobs without positive reinforcement. The idea that someone should be self-satisfied with a job well done ignores human nature. We need the feedback to enhance that feeling of being in control. After all, how well our tasks are completed is one of the few areas in a worker's life they control. This doesn't mean regularly scheduled performance reviews aren't necessary; it just means ongoing feedback is also important.

What am I worth to you?

Some bosses leave all the pay details to their HR people even when there's a problem. The fact remains, however, these aren't the HR department's employees, as The Boss, they are yours. If a crisis is looming and a pay freeze is required, the announcement should come from management, not from HR. People will want to know what the problem is, how they will be affected and if their job is still secure. Again, it harkens back to the control issue. In times of change, employees feel the stress of the loss of control that won't be eliminated until their questions are answered to their satisfaction.

The I in 'Team'

People often say there is no 'I' in the word 'team' but the reality is that all teams are made up of many I's. Not only do these I's want to know how they are doing as individuals; they need to know how their team, or wok unit is performing. Knowing the team is meeting success increases an individual's feeling of control and leads to far greater job satisfaction and productivity. Bosses who ignore this reality may not be the sharpest shovel in the shed. There may not be any I's in 'team' but there are two of them in 'idiot'.

Are we okay?

Another control aspect that must be answered honestly by management is an accurate appraisal of how well the company is doing. It is imperative for your employees to know that the company is healthy and solvent and their jobs will be around next week and the week after. Job security plays a huge role in an employee's mental health. If there are problems with the company, however, there is no use lying to your employees about it. They aren't stupid. They will figure it out.

If you've always been honest and open with your employees, however, and have earned their trust, even relaying bad news about the company helps them feel they are still in control. The bad news won't become a vicious cycle of lack of productivity creating stress creating even less productivity.

How can I help?

To circle the control square for your employees, it is vital for them to be told how their contribution helps the bottom line and adds to the general health of the company. They need to feel a part of the whole and to know exactly how their efforts support their company's goal of making money. It is not always clear to staff how doing a certain job contributes to the whole. As The Boss, it is crucial that you connect the dots for them.

We are all control freaks.

Well, maybe not freaks but we all need to feel we have it and some need it more than others. If you want a happy, healthy, workforce, making sure the lines of communication are kept open. This is the surest way to provide the modicum of control your employees need to make your business a success. And whatever you do, do NOT erode that sop of control they need by micro-managing. Over-communicating can often be even worse than saying nothing at all.


Author: Chris McKerracher

Chris McKerracher is a Social Media Marketer and Professional Writer for Industrial NetMedia. Chris has worked as a journalist, editorialist and humourist for a number of Alberta newspapers since 1995. He has also written eight theatrical plays which have been produced with the ninth to be staged in May of 2016.

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