There are as many different communication styles as there are employees. These styles are observed in both the way we communicate and in the ways we desire to be communicated to. Some employees may be very direct and straightforward in their communication style and others might be more respectful and diplomatic. Whatever means of communication you use needs to match the other person’s preferred style for your messages to have maximum impact.
Gallup reports that half of employees who quit their job cite their direct manager as the reason, while more than half of employees say they would turn down a pay increase to stay with a boss they like.
Some of your employees like to use their written communication skills and others like to meet face-to-face or even pick up the phone. We’ll dissect these approaches in an upcoming blog.
The majority of managers we work with use a very direct and straightforward tone. I would estimate that the majority of your employees naturally or with some effort work to match their manager’s behavior. After all, everyone is there to make the company successful.
Let’s look at the range of how people want to receive communication. On one end of the scale you have those who like things told to them in a very clear, direct and forthright manner. Although these employees may be getting their assigned work accomplished, this approach can hinder the flow of new ideas. If they’re always waiting on instructions from the boss, the company is only getting one-dimensional output; there’s no thinking outside the box.
These are the employees who say: “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Oh, by the way, I’m coming in at 8 and leaving at 5 on the dot. There’s limited engagement with these employees, so the performance of the company can suffer. What’s the best way to work with this group? Give them what they want with respect and appreciation, yet slowly add some challenging conversation as to what needs to be accomplished and ask for their input. In many cases this starts the flow of a more creative workforce.
On the other end of the spectrum we have those employees who want to be spoken to in a filtered, personal manner. These individuals can have more of a need to feel respect and appreciation. However, this can be interpreted as coddling, and it can get in the way of their performance. This type is always looking to be praised for their work even when it’s no better than that of their peers.
We were working with a new hire, someone with great potential within that company and we were able to identify her as one who needed to be shown constant appreciation for her work. When the boss wasn’t showing her the praise she desired, she shut down. She went from being a high-potential hard worker, and very engaged, to becoming a non-contributor and almost a “clog” to the organization.
These individuals will do almost anything to get their desired level of attention, sometimes even having little to do with their job productivity. How do you work with employees who need an excessive amount of praise and compliments? You don’t overly praise activity; you heavily praise goal accomplishment.
Then there is the middle group. They don’t want to be told exactly what to do, yet they don’t need to be given excessive freedoms. You’ve probably noticed that these employees are your “A” players. If you want more “A” players, here’s what you need to do: This group wants to share their ideas about how things could maybe be done better, faster or cheaper. They want to be heard—and if you don’t think their ideas will be better, faster, or cheaper, you need to explain to them why.
We’ve worked a lot with this type of individual. If they get the respect they need, they become top producers because their boss listens and implements their ideas where and when appropriate. But if this type runs into the boss who won’t listen and explain, they normally leave the company in search of that manager who will listen and collaborate.
How do you identify the communication style your employees desire? There are a few ways to identify these characteristics. One way is to simply ask the employee. Another way to identify these traits is to have him or her take an assessment—a tool that can help identity their desired communication style and intensity. One more approach is generally the hardest (but a lot of managers try this): simply observe this person’s behavior! Does the employee ask about her responsibilities or work assignments in a frank, matter-of-fact manner? Does he contribute only when asked, or offer very little of his own thoughts? These individuals are asking to be treated respectfully yet in a very direct fashion. On the other hand, if the employee is always offering the next best idea, and wants to always explain and justify his views, he’s displaying signs that he needs to be shown a high level of respect and to be allowed to contribute his original ideas. In the middle is the more balanced group: they want you to show a frankness and openness to them, but not too much. This group generally is more focused on the tasks and will contribute if they think they have a better way… or they may even experiment with their better way without asking.
Employees need consistent, constructive feedback—both positive and negative. We all perform better when we’re communicated to in a way that we appreciate, and we have a boss who shows us the respect we believe we deserve. Good managers know how to meet the employees’ needs and turn them into top contributors.