Manager’s Checkup: Learn what employees really think

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

There's a lot we can learn from our employees, and the best way is often simply to ask them. To make sure you get the information you need, however, you need to ask questions that give employees a chance to tell you what they really think — as opposed to what they think you want to hear.

Look at the questions below and see which ones you think are most useful for finding out what your employees really think. Then check what the experts said below:

1. Don't you think you'd enjoy learning some new skills?

2. Is everything okay?

3. What can I do to help you meet your quota of sales calls this coming quarter?

4. Why don't you make as many sales calls as our more successful sales representatives?

5. Don't you think you should try to be on time?

6. How would you feel about changing your shift times?

What do your choices mean?

Here's what our experts said:

1. Don't you think you'd enjoy learning some new skills? This question limits the employee's answer to "yes" or "no." And given the way the supervisor has telegraphed the answer, the employee had better say "yes" if he knows what's good for him. This kind of question can make an employee feel pushed around or manipulated — and less likely to volunteer his opinions in the future. Try "What new skills do you think you might enjoy learning?"

2. Is everything okay? Although this is a significant question, even a troubled employee is likely to mumble "yes" instead of "bothering" you with a problem. Ask instead for a more detailed answer: "You looked frustrated. Have you run into some kind of problem?" You still may not get complete openness, but you've got a better shot.

3. What can I do to help you meet your quota this coming quarter? This is a a good question. The manager who asks it, if she is willing to listen and probe, will probably get some good information. Even if it's obvious that the employee isn't performing, the question contains no touch of accusation.

4. Why don't you make as many calls as our more successful reps? This is an open-ended question, but it's also loaded; the employee may want to argue with the assumption that he's not making as many calls or that he's not as successful as others. Consider a variation on No. 3 instead: "What can I do to help you make more calls and increase your success with those contacts?"

5. Don't you think you should try to be on time? This question will definitely get the employee's back up. Perhaps she really does have a problem with lateness. But the question suggests that she may not even be trying. Try something like, "Can you help me understand what conditions are making it difficult for you to get here on time?"

6. How would you feel about changing your shift times? This is another good question. You'll probably get an honest response, and the employee will not feel obligated to say what you want to hear.

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