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By: Jay Mittelman
Product and service ideas can begin inside your employees’ heads. What happens, though, when employees say what’s on their minds to their managers and supervisors? Often, no one is listening.
When employees talk, smart bosses pay attention. For example:
Listen to employees’ ideas. Here’s an example. After many nights of testing, an employee in a ceramics plant learned how to lower the incidence of cracked glazes in fired dishes. When she told her supervisor of the novel idea, he pooh-poohed it. He didn’t think an employee could know more about firing plates and bowls than the engineer who designed the process. The supervisor not only missed a chance to improve quality, he caused a valued employee to grow disheartened about her work. Even if the idea wasn’t feasible, a good supervisor would listen and discuss it and explain why. More importantly, the supervisor would express an eagerness to listen to other ideas for improvement.
Listen when you tell employees about a new process. For example, don’t just tell employees that in the future trucks will be off-loaded at the side ramp, not the back ramp. Listen for their reaction. If they resist, is it simply because they don’t like change? Or are their concerns valid? Have they a better way to facilitate the movement of freight through your warehouse?
Listen when a top notch worker grows sullen. Take the worker aside. Ask about the change in attitude. Chances are it’s a work problem.
Example: Joe complains that he’s worked three Saturdays of overtime when less senior workers spent the days fishing. Addressing these problems is a chance for you to earn the employee’s respect.
Listen to complaints about co-workers. Give employees plenty of time to air complaints about those they work with. If the employee can solve the problem, encourage him or her to speak to the person. The next day, ask the employee how the discussion went. Then listen some more. Intervene only when the employee has done all he or she can do to remedy the problem but it still persists — unless it involves a dangerous or legal issue.