It’s YOU not THEM: 5 Common Mistakes in Employee Communication

May 20, 2024  | 

Having or managing employees is not easy. Staff management is reported as being one of the most stressful parts of owning a business. So, it would be easy to blame any struggles with performance or communication on the employee.

BUT (sorry to be the bearer of bad news) chances are, you are the reason you’re going in circles & hitting your head against the wall when it comes to managing employees.

Let’s see if you’ve experienced:

  • Losing sleep and feeling uncomfortable about a difficult conversation you need to have
  • Explaining something to an employee multiple times & seeing no changes
  • Getting poor feedback from clients or customers about one of your employees’ behavior
  • Feeling like you don’t really know the people who are working for you
  • Dealing with employee drama that you think they can solve themselves

Sound familiar?

Now the good news. You can greatly minimize the circling and head-banging through something that’s been right in front of you the whole time…communication. I know it sounds boring & simplified, but stick with me; it’s actually really exciting!

Mistake #1: De-Prioritizing Employee Connection

Without a connection with your employees, it’s tough if not impossible to build trust. Want to know why that’s important? Trust creates a psychologically safe place for your employees to be open and honest about work challenges, career development, or even interpersonal struggles. Trust also motivates you and your employees to push through the tough times and not just give up.

What impact would it have on you as a business owner to be able to walk away for a few hours, a day, or even a week, knowing that your employees can be trusted to manage the business in the same way you would? That sounds awesome. How about the impact it would have on your employees knowing that they can have an honest conversation about the next step in their career path without worrying about being penalized? Huge positive impact. Just by prioritizing connection, you add time freedom to your life and build loyalty in your employees, adding revenue by avoiding turnover costs.

Mistake #2: Micromanaging vs Empowering

Especially as a business owner, I get the urge to be a control freak…no one will ever do things exactly like you would. But please read this carefully – micromanagement is the death of employee engagement. Micromanagement makes your employee feel incompetent, confused, resentful and eventually disengaged. Would you enjoy having someone ask what you’re doing every hour of the day, or tell you to do something then do it themselves? How would you feel having your leader say “Well, this is how I would do it” about every little thing you work on? Not good.

Instead of micromanaging, empower your team to do their best work. Give them parameters to work within and allow them to use their knowledge, experience, and creativity to create an end result. Delegate things to your employees instead of feeling like you have to do everything yourself. Even if the process is not exactly how you would do it, you’d be surprised at what you can learn & be impressed by when you give your employees the freedom to use their own genius.

Mistake #3: Missing the Why

Imagine if we told our children “Don’t touch the stove when it’s hot” but we never told them why. Guarantee there would be a burned little hand. What if your spouse walked up and said “I want a divorce” and then walked away without any explanation? You would be left standing there shocked and confused. These might be extreme examples, but the concept is the same when communicating with employees.

If you tell an employee that it’s imperative that he show up on time to work every day, he will probably show up on time most days. If you tell an employee that he must be on time because when he’s late it risks patients’ lives, he will show up on time every day. Tell an employee to add another task to her already long list of tasks and she will feel annoyed or taken advantage of. Tell her that adding this new task to her already long list of tasks brings her one step closer to the promotion she wants, and she will make sure that the task is done and done right.

Are you seeing the difference? Just telling or asking an employee to do something without any clarity around the why, leaves them to make up their own stories or decide how important they think it is. When both sides know the why, there is alignment and motivation to do what’s being asked, which benefits both sides.

Mistake #4: Focusing on Your Needs Not Theirs

When you are asked to do something, it is basic human instinct for your first thought to be “What’s in it for me?”. Whether you consider the ask or even listen to the ask, hinges on what you see as the return on investment for yourself. Now, let’s clarify…this doesn’t mean feeling obligated to reward your employees for every little part of their job that they’re expected to do. This is more about preparing for conversations with employees by proactively thinking about what they’ll perceive as the benefit to themselves for listening and following through.

Imagine you have to give difficult feedback to an employee about her recent performance. If you go into the conversation on instinct and only focus on what you need to say, and how you want her to react, and what you need her to get out of the conversation there is a chance she will feel defensive & possibly get upset. But imagine instead that you approach the conversation from a place of “My job as your leader is to make sure you are successful, even if it means giving tough feedback. I know you are more than capable & have so much potential which is why I set a high bar for you” and then you go into the recent performance issues. You have explained why you’re having the conversation and that you are focused on her needs and making her successful. Chances are that she will feel more receptive to the feedback and you will be able to have a productive conversation.

Mistake #5: Being a Friend and Not a Leader

This is a tricky gray area that you want to be very intentional about. How many times have you heard a parent say “I’m your mom (or dad), not your friend”? And the reasoning behind that? Their job is to do the hard stuff – keep you safe, keep you healthy, teach you right and wrong – even if they know it might upset you.

It’s a very similar concept with leaders, or business owners, and employees. Your job is to lead them, guide them, inspire them, and develop them; not to make them like you. How easy do you think it’ll be to have a tough performance conversation with the employee you have drinks with every Friday night? How serious will an employee take you when you gossip & vent about other employees and then tell that employee they have to find a way to work with someone they don’t like?

I’m not telling you to be a robot. Remember the importance of trust and connection? Be compassionate, be approachable, and be human. Just stay on the right side of the line between leader and friend.

See? I told you this stuff was exciting! You now have 5 ways to improve communication with your employees, which means better relationships, results, and revenue for your business. Totally worth it, right?

This is a contributed blog post by Dr. Amber Cerone, a dynamic force and a breath of fresh air in the world of business psychology, teaching entrepreneurs & business leaders the power of employee engagement & its impact on their business.

As the Founder & CEO of StrengthPoint Consulting, Dr. Cerone pioneers the way for entrepreneurs and business leaders to experience transformational “aha” moments that lead to career clarity, business decision clarity, and even relationship clarity.

With over 15 years as an entrepreneur and a corporate executive, Dr. Cerone has evolved from a curious learner to a studied expert. As a result, her story and expertise has been shared on podcasts, through speaking panels, and in industry blog articles. And this is in addition to the most important aspect of her work – the many clients who have experienced transformation in their businesses and in their lives.

You can reach Dr. Cerone on LinkedIn, or via email, or through her website.

If you’re interested in contributing a guest blog, please fill out our contact form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top