7 Signs You Aren't Listening to Your Employees
Office Meeting

7 Signs You Aren't Listening to Your Employees

The employer-employee relationship has many opportunities to become frayed. For example, inadequate compensation can lead employees to feel underappreciated, but did you ever consider how lack of follow through on your part could have the same impact?

It’s safe to say that employees excitedly jump at the opportunity to show initiative and offer their two-cents on any question posed by their employers. The eagerness doesn’t fade when it comes to employees who are tasked with researching new ways to solve an old problem. The one detail that could make employees feel unappreciated (or outright ignored) in these situations is if their employer fails to act on their suggestions.

The situation can be especially worrisome for an employee if they begin to see this as a never-ending cycle of being asked to deliver and then never seeing follow through. As the leader of a company you want to make sure that you’re listening (and keeping your eyes wide open) to what your employees are saying or doing.

Here are some techniques to change your follow-through strategy, or lack thereof:

1.) Opportunity:

When you ask your employee’s opinion on something, whether as simple as where to plan the next team lunch or as complex as the strategy for growing widget sales, do you intently listen? Do you specifically heed their advice or opinion?

Optimal Response: This is an opportunity to take an action step or initiate an implementation based on the opinion or ideas you solicited from an employee or an employee and their teammates. Failing to do this (or at the very least, to acknowledge the work done) could lead your employee to think that the task at hand was just meant as busy work, or that you do not value their opinion as a whole.

2.) Opportunity:

When an employee has proven success through a newly created reporting system or a method of communicating with prospects or a different way to inventory products, do you just smile, nod and move on, or do you take their actions more seriously?

Optimal Response: This is an opportunity to provide the employee a platform to train others in the company to learn their system and implement it across the enterprise. It also is an opportunity to give enterprise-wide credit to the employee for their thought leadership. It can be a missed opportunity if you fail to act on it and could potentially lead to your employee feeling dismissed.

3.) Opportunity:

When you specifically have assigned an employee to research and develop a new initiative such as gathering vendor solutions for particular software or training technology, do you act on the research? Or, do the employee’s results sit, untended, a potentially missed opportunity to show that you value the employee’s efforts and insights?

Optimal Response: Rather than scrapping the research or development that you had assigned an employee’s intellectual and physical effort and time to (and risk potentially demoralizing the employee), consider how you can apply their research immediately or within the confines of a specific future project plan. As an alternative, communicate with your employee if there is a specific reason why you’re holding the intel for a later date — transparency can go a long way.

4.) Opportunity:

Do you intuitively hear your employee’s great ideas and then conveniently forget from where the ideas came when you roll out a new initiative, claiming the idea as your own?

Optimal Response: By making more than a mental note of the employee who sparked a new idea or planted the seed for a new project, and actually sharing credit where credit is due, you can prevent possible resentments later, while also building good will with that employee.

5.) Opportunity:

When you give an employee more of a leadership role or greater responsibility over a project, do you consistently speak over them or do you allow them to voice their opinions without public opposition?

Optimal Response: Be conscious of how you’re responding to your employee’s leadership tactics because even while a comment or suggestion may seem small on your part, it could potentially have impactful undermining effects among junior employees. Make note of the changes you’d like to suggest to your leader, but instead of making a public comment, schedule a private window of time to discuss.

6.) Opportunity:

Are you dismissing solutions that your employees suggested during a team meeting and then complaining about how no solutions have been reached on a specific problem?

Optimal Response: Employees can view persistent wallowing over a company-wide problem that they’ve already offered a myriad of solutions for as a total dismissal of their input and lack of appreciation for their opinions. Instead of ignoring how valuable your employees’ solutions may be, choose to brainstorm around how to improve or enact them.

7.) Opportunity:

If you’re welcoming one-on-ones with your employees then you’re prioritizing the employer-employee relationship in a great way. The only way that this could have potential downfalls is if you choose to see the 15-minute meeting as the beginning and end of the conversation.

Optimal Response: Listen to what your employees have to say during their one-on-ones, especially when it comes to the actionable changes they’d like to see in their day-to-day. Are they asking for a promotion? More work perks? An introduction to someone you’re professionally linked to? While bigger asks, like promotions, may take time, don’t underestimate how impactful following through on smaller asks can be for your employees.

As with any important relationship, communication is key to preserving a healthy, invested employer-employee collaboration. Don’t limit your interactions with your employees to one-sided conversations and a string of asks. Remember that an employee who feels valued is more likely to view their time at the company as a larger investment and as the needle that moves instrumental projects forward.

Most times a meaningful exchange can be as simple as remembering that they love the baseball team that’s leading this spring and making note of the winning streak, or as momentous as following through on a promotion offer.