Not all employees feel comfortable telling you when they’re having problems with their jobs.
But you still need to know when trouble is brewing, so you can settle difficulties before they spin out of control.
How can you detect and solve problems being experienced by employees who don’t speak up? Try this approach:
• Be alert to the causes. Work-related changes, such as a new co-worker or a new vacation policy, can trigger unhappiness about aspects of the job that may have gone unnoticed previously. Stay in especially close touch with workers who are changing assignments.
Look for discontent to spring up during major personal changes, too. Any event, from a wedding to an illness in the family, can change a worker’s approach to her job.
• Authorize dissent. Workers will be more willing to speak up sooner about problems if they feel confident of your ability to talk about trouble calmly and productively. Make sure they know you’re there as a resource to help them overcome whatever difficulties they may be facing. Be ready to discuss issues that are making employees unhappy.
For example, taking time to explain the rationale for policies with which they disagree shows workers that, even if their concerns can’t be completely met, at least you take them completely seriously.
• Take trouble in stride. Thank workers who do come to you with problems for sharing their concerns with you. Ask them what they think would restore their satisfaction.
Explore possible remedies, or at least commit to getting back to the worker once you’ve had a chance to study the situation. Ask her to keep you posted. The key is to make sure workers know you care about their situations, and are trying to help resolve their problems.
Another red flag: Be on the lookout for little slip-ups from usually reliable workers. Such mistakes may indicate that employees have exhausted their own ability to deal with a problem but are hesitant to bring it to your attention. Approach these employees to offer your help in getting to the root of their problems.