The ability to ask shrewd questions is a manager’s secret weapon. By posing carefully worded inquiries in a neutral tone, you increase your odds of getting more revealing answers.
Many managers sabotage themselves when interrogating employees. Instead of digging to gather information, sloppy supervisors ask leading questions (“You didn’t steal that camera, did you?”) or simply talk too much.
If you suspect an employee of wrongdoing from the outset, your foregone conclusion can cut off true communication. You may overlook evidence or comments that do not fit with your preconceived notions.
Say you catch an employee rifling through confidential personnel files. You ask, “What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for my medical file because my doctor needs it,” the employee replies.
Even though that’s a reasonable, easy-to-verify explanation, you may rush to stamp the person as guilty.
“It’s important to resist judgment,” says Gregory Hartley, president of Mind at War, a consulting firm in Atlanta. “Whether you initially believe or don’t believe someone, you have to turn it off and focus on learning what you can.”
After you ask a question, wait for an answer. Even if you’re greeted with five seconds of silence, remain quiet. Your silence indicates you will not let the respondent off the hook.