If you spend most of your day listening to your employees, you’ve probably found that what they say does not always correspond to what they feel. That’s why it’s risky to accept their words at face value.
When workers complain, the source of their frustration may seem trivial (a broken coffee maker, an annoying customer call). That’s a signal to dig deeper. Rather than nod, smile sympathetically and walk away, ask, “Apart from that, how are you doing?”
Posing open-ended questions in a supportive tone enables you to learn whether individuals are hiding their true feelings. An employee who’s upset over a slow computer may actually be feeling anxious and stressed by overwork.
Observe the person’s body language as well. If a staffer admits he’s ticked about something minor while he looks crestfallen, probe for his underlying feelings. He may be suppressing more serious emotions. It’s fine to say, “You look like there’s something else on your mind,” and wait to learn more.