Employee-Manager Communication: How to Do it Right

By An Le

June 19, 2017

Company leaders talk a lot about how to communicate with their employees. After all, teams that are “in the know” are likely to be more motivated and productive than those who are left in the dark.

It’s relatively easy to send a mass email to every employee or to implement an company communication software solution, but these tactics don’t work unless team members have guidance and support from their managers.

It’s clear that managers can make or break a job. A Gallup study revealed that one in two Americans left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.

If managers aren’t informing direct reports, then your organization is set up for a communication break down. That’s why it’s essential that you focus on employee-manager communication.

Here’s how you can level up employee-manager communication:

Understand the principles of good communication

Whether you’re communicating with a direct report, manager, colleague, or even your spouse, it’s important to communicate in a way that ensures the person understands what you’re saying.

Mel Schwartz, a licensed psychotherapist and writer for PsychologyToday, says that there are five principles for effective communication. If you want managers within your organization to become better at communicating, they need to embrace these principles:

  • Surrender the need to be right. When people enter a conversation, they often want to be right, or “have the last word.” In order to effectively communicate, team members need to surrender this desire and come into the conversation with an open mind.
  • Find something you can agree with. Even if you disagree with someone, they have a point. So find a small amount of what they’re saying that you agree with, and repeat that back to them. Work from this shared point to create a dialogue.
  • Make sure your words mean the same thing to the other person. When we use certain words and expressions we assume they mean the same thing to all of us. They don’t. And this contributes to misunderstandings and fractured communication.
  • Embrace true back-and-forth communication.
  • Practice listening.

These principles are essential in one-on-one conversations, but it’s also essential that you communicate your organization’s values, baking them into how your managers communicate with their reports.

Offer communications training

Once you understand what good communication looks like, you can then host trainings to help managers in your organization improve their skills.

You can run these trainings yourself or hire an agency or coach to run the trainings for you. You can also encourage managers to take online communications courses.

Here are a few examples of online communication courses you can offer to employees:

Have your employees take communications assessments

Everyone has a different style of communication, and by understanding what makes your colleagues tick, you can communicate with them more effectively. That’s why it’s a good idea to have your managers, as well as their reports, take communications assessments.

One of the most popular tools for businesses that want to enhance communications is the DiSC assessment. This particular assessment is built for workplaces and groups team members based on their communication style.

The results can be used to help people understand how they best communicate, and how they can communicate with each other.

Put systems in place specifically for managers

The best intentions won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have specific systems in place for improving employee-manager communications. You can create systems by:

  • Requiring employees and managers to meet on a regular basis to discuss overall career goals
  • Developing a specific onboarding process for new employees that managers guide them through
  • Host seminars and workshops specifically for managers on improving communication with employees
  • Implement software solutions that encourage easy performance reviews and feedback

Give employees at all levels the opportunity to give feedback

Communication goes two ways, and it’s not enough for a manager to give feedback and listen to their employees. It’s also essential that direct reports feel they can talk openly and honestly with their managers.

Employees at all levels should have systems in place for providing feedback on how their manager is communicating. Just remember that one size does not fit all– some might be comfortable giving feedback anonymously, and less comfortable talking one-on-one with their manager about issues with communication.

Final thoughts on employee-manager communication

Communication is important in all areas of an organization, whether you’re communicating with someone you manage, someone who manages you, or a paying customer. However, if employees feel there is a communication breakdown between themselves and their manager, they won’t be able to excel in communicating elsewhere.

Post Author

An Le
An Le
An Le is the GM of Mid-Market at Dynamic Signal. Formerly the VP of BD at Yammer and Director of BD at New Relic, she has a history of successfully building fast growing start ups by helping to bring products people love to market.