10 tips on how to break down manager-employee barriers How to better connect and communicate with your employees.


Clear internal communication is absolutely essential for a business to function. It prevents confusion about tasks and goals. It also contributes significantly to positive employee engagement with the company and with each other, therefore making for a more productive team.

The biggest obstacle to great communication is the manager/employee barrier, where managers are worried about becoming too friendly with people they are in charge of, and employees find it difficult to relate to those they perceive to possess more authority than they do. To break down this barrier, try implementing these ten tips.

Hold regular one-on-one meetings

Build individual relationships with your team, free from distractions. That includes closing your office door, putting the computer to sleep and keeping mobiles on silent. Encourage your employees to speak freely with you away from the rest of the team. You will probably find them opening up more than they might within the group, and it will allow you to learn what they think of their work as well.

Make time for a chat

It can be difficult to have a non-work conversation at work.Try and make time to chat with your staff. One way to do this is to have a 15-minute team huddle at the beginning of the day to see how everyone's doing. This allows you to relate to your team as people, rather than simply as employees.

Talk face-to-face

Email may have become the default method of workplace communication, but it also creates an unexpected barrier because you are no longer communicating face-to-face. It may be fast, convenient and mean that communications are in writing and easily surfaced if required, but nothing builds relationships like in-person interaction.

Email can also be easily misconstrued quite. As Inc. put it: “words on a page or screen lack the context, tone and nonverbal cues that help people understand your meaning in person. When in doubt, talk face-to-face.”

Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions provide an opportunity for you to hear everything someone has to say, rather than just zeroing in on what you want to know. They're also an invitation for the other person to talk.

Be sure to listen to the response. Don't finish other people's sentences or second guess what they're going to say. You just might learn something.

Be open with your employees

Trust is quickly rewarded. Be open with your employees about what's going on in the company. It will help break down any 'us vs. them' mentality and make employees feel more included in the organization as a whole, as well as more valued by you for placing your trust in them.

Meet fears head-on

The biggest barrier to effective communication is fear. Let your employees know how important their feedback and ideas are, and assure them that a wrong word won't result in loss of confidence, or worse, disciplinary action. Address any concerns they have with the organization or their jobs in an honest, straightforward manner.

Create formal feedback processes

Suggestion boxes may seem hackneyed, but implementing a process where employees can offer feedback gives a clear signal that critical input is welcome. Offering anonymity may be necessary to remove the fear of repercussions for saying the wrong thing, especially in the early stages.

Reward successful input

Actively reward successful input. This can be as little as taking the time to thank employees for contributions, or could be more formalized, like awarding an employee a trophy when their input solves a problem. Public recognition can encourage others to put ideas forward.

Take feedback seriously

Even if you disagree, be sure to take all feedback seriously. You want to create a culture of openness where your employees feel comfortable expressing themselves. There's no quicker way of destroying that culture than dismissing valid, sensible input when it comes.

Develop a coaching culture

There are innumerable benefits to developing a coaching culture, not least of which is fostering a more collaborative approach to problem solving. Matt Driscoll of Thales Learning & Development says: “If people come to their managers with problems, those managers should always be asking questions – 'Why?' 'How can we resolve this?'” A coaching approach makes employees feel more like they're working with you rather than for you.

Source: The Ladders


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